Yana Titova is known to the Bulgarian audience thanks to her participation in such films as "Hunting for small predators" and "Steps in the sand", as well as on the stage at the National Theater – "Flying over the cuckoo's nest", "August in Oklahoma". He receives "Asker" for the role of Irina in "Three Sisters" by Kirkor Azarian, but he does not hesitate to move to London to have the actor Alexander Alexander with whom he has two children. In 2014, she appeared as the director of her first short film, and five years later, on November 8, cinemas across the country will debut in the feature film Dose of Happiness.
The film is based on the autobiographical book "Fall and Salvation: Confession of a heroin addict" by longtime producer and journalists Vesela Toteva, who died suddenly this year at the age of 45. Toteva's daughter – Valentina Karolova – enters her image. The main male role was entrusted to the young actor Dimitar Nikolov, and the cast includes such names as Irmen Chichikova, Ivan Burnev, Asen Blatechki and Silvia Lulcheva. Alexander Alexiev not only played in the film, but also played the role of producer.
"Dnevnik" talks with Yana Titova about how the actor becomes a screenwriter and director, how important the topic of addiction is, as well as about "a dose of happiness" – the film about the search for happiness.
How did the Vesela Toteva book that caused the movie to fall into your hands? Did you have anything to do with your stay in London?
– We stayed with Vesela's daughter – Valya (warning – Valentina Caravel). That's why I knew about her history, but rather schematically, almost without details. Valya never told her mother's story as a serious drama. She mentioned that she had a problem with addiction. But the book forced me to experience so many emotions, despite the modest volume of only 120 pages. I read it in the air during the flight and couldn't wait to get off the plane to call Veseli. I suggested we make a movie. She asked me if she was bored. I assured her that this would not be the case. It was in January 2017. We were shooting in October.
Toteva is not a screenwriter, but how is she involved in working on the future film?
"It's her life, so I've always consulted her. She read and said when something might change or something is wrong. But I had great freedom. From the beginning, we knew that this movie and some things had to be true from a purely artistic point of view, even if it differed from the true story. But as far as her image is concerned, history has 98%.
You start your film career as an actor. How did you debut as a director?
– Directed, I wrote scripts for films that I would like to play. The plan was to offer them to directors and play a major role. It never worked, but I started writing stories inspired by the stories of friends. It got to the point that I wanted one of them to see white light. There was nothing to lose and I was behind the camera. It turned out that I felt so good there that I did not leave before her – I played one of the roles. It was fascinating to be able to control the whole process and what made you come alive and reach the audience.
After a few short films and one short film, it was more than clear that he would be here. At some point, it's time to tell a more complete story. However, I think short films are more complicated. It is easier to feel the rhythm of the feature film and get rid of the scenes that you initially considered important. In short films, everything needs to be calculated exactly, because then there is no material to compensate for it.
What is your knowledge as a screenwriter?
– None, but I don't have the ambition to be a professional screenwriter. I rely on intuition. Recently, my second script was chosen to take part in Script East – a scriptwriting workshop. There I contacted professionals from around the world and for the first time someone told me about structures – I was like Alice in Wonderland. But they were also very surprised, because to get there you have to go through a brutal strait. We've found that there are structural elements in my script. Of course it turned out internally. But now I will have the opportunity to use specific knowledge if I encounter difficulties with my story and do not know how to continue it. It took me a long time to get out of these situations. On the other hand, writing everything with the same structure would kill all creativity.
Why is the topic of addiction important not only in the 90s, when the film develops, but every time?
– Action in Dose of Happiness developed in the 90s, but this is only because of the lack of technology. The movie is devoid of any kind of bitism – I kept it a lot. The topic of addiction is the most important for families, and now – according to statistics, every second family suffers from some type of dependence or is fighting addiction at home. Whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling or even violence – it's also a problem. It has always been our idea to watch the film of the young generation. This was the reason for Vesela and her foundation "On the Other Side" – the opportunity to help children. She did not regret that she went this way, because of her experience she could be useful to others.
The film starts quite lightly with a rebellious girl seeking happiness around her. He lives on it, but falls into an environment where he makes bad choices because of a lack of awareness. This predetermines the years of her life. Although we live in the age of the Internet, the situation is almost the same. Most dangerously, this information is lacking in schools and at home. Together with the film crew, we wish children a clearer idea of what could happen to them. And if someone offers him something to think about before making a choice, it can be fatal. Not to mention that in the 90s it was mainly heroin, and now there are many synthetic drugs that are extremely cheap. They are so accessible to children that the situation is really difficult. An open and appropriate debate on this subject would benefit our society.
Do you organize discussions with Dose of Happiness shows?
"Even before we made the movie, we talked about it with Vesela, who already went to school and talked to the children. This is a movie enriched with a cause. From next month we will organize meetings in 5 schools. We will be touring with him and some actors who can share their personal experiences and stories around us with their children. This is the reason why we stay in Bulgaria with Alec (warning – Alexander Alexiev). We lived in England but stayed in Bulgaria to make a movie. We encountered great difficulties, but here – more and more teachers are calling and inviting us.
Would you qualify "Dozę happiness" as a "festival" movie?
"It's on the edge. We would like to have a nice festival fate, but it was more important to us as soon as he was ready to go to the Bulgarian cinemas. We applied for the biggest festivals, but the chance is almost zero. For the first time I am a director and our production company (warning – NO BLINK Studio) is very small. I think Dose of Happiness will find its place at smaller festivals, because the story is universal. Deprivation of Bytovism also helped, and the cinematographer Martin Balkanski made the film in a really amazing way – it has artistic values and is not local.
Is the film a private production and what is the role of "you"?
– TV Studios is a distribution and media partner. But the film was made with the help of many partners, followers and friends. We're still raising funds. The movie may end, but so to speak, some things are put off. I don't know how we survived this adventure, but two years have passed. There could be even more. It can be beautiful, but when you try to make a movie from private funds without product placement, it is really difficult.
Why did you give up positioning the product??
– On the one hand, because we are in a specific era. But this is also not a movie suitable for product placement – I can't change the hundredth part of the script. On the other hand, all the companies that supported us without positioning the product recognized the reason as their own. It indicates that, despite all obstacles, there is hope. The film was made of private money, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. Its actual value is around BGN 2 million. But we have many partners – Dream Team Production, New Boyana Film and many others.
How is contemporary Bulgarian cinema spreading?
– It depends on the cinemas and the audience. We will be distributed on over 50 screens. But things also depend on the authors themselves. Many movies remain in the shadows, but they do not make great efforts in this regard. It's like they don't believe it is about that. And in my opinion there is always one. I often hear: "This is not a movie for viewers." But for me, every thing has its recipients. Ours is personal, real and created for everyone.
Maybe if the movie is not a "viewer", it can expand new audiences …
– This is extremely important. A dose of happiness can do something about it, because it is a very aesthetic and emotional film. Viewers may not have a lot of aesthetics, but the emotions associated with their capture. And look for other similar movies in the future.
What were the reactions of real people behind the characters from the movie?
"I'm not sure what to say, but it didn't really matter to them how they react. This is a movie from the mission and it was important that she had it, so all personal dissatisfaction in her opinion remained in the background. As far as I know, her parents were not so much inspired by the book. The movie can be the same. Although Vesia has disappeared and they probably look at it differently.
Working with the lives of so many people was a huge challenge for me. Sometimes I had to make them comfortable for my purposes. For example, the image of the sister is almost completely changed. Bistra, a real sister, knows this. I say it when I have the chance. But we kept the main function of this character – that she was always dependent on Merry. Maybe some characters may have been more developed, but we didn't have time on the screen.
How is the cast formed? Do you take the opportunity to write a role specifically for someone?
– As I wrote, I was still imagining Dimitar Nikolov. I didn't know him, but I saw him in films and theater productions. And for a moment I could not imagine what would happen if he refused for one reason or another. Or if the filming process corresponds to his commitment. For me there was no such option. And thank God I didn't have to think about it. Dimitar and Valentina managed to establish wonderful relationships among themselves – this can be seen on the screen. They make the movie the way it is. During all the fun we imagined Assen Blachki in the role of Ivan. Like Sylvia Lulcheva and Vasil Binev as her parents, Irma Chichikova was in my head all the time. Then the next part of the cast was chosen – as Ivan Burniew.
In the pictures we had so much fun that we can say that we are doing a comedy. Now, looking at the recording of the filming process, I tell myself that we did not realize what we're getting into. But it's for good, because otherwise we would probably not get involved and the movie would not have.