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“One day during filming there were more directors on set than actors”

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Petar Valchanov, Kristina Grozeva • Directors

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- LOCARNO 2016: Cineuropa talks with Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva, the Bulgarian director duo behind Glory, a gripping social drama that shows just how divided Bulgarian society is

Petar Valchanov, Kristina Grozeva • Directors
(© Festival del film Locarno / Massimo Pedrazzini)

Two years after the acclaimed The Lesson [+see also:
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trailer
film focus
interview: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Val…
interview: Margita Gosheva
film profile
]
, which won dozens of awards at festivals around the world, screenwriters and directors Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva are competing at the Locarno International Film Festival with Glory [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Petar Valchanov, Kristina G…
film profile
]
, the story of a poor lineman who is thrown into the midst of those hungry for power. The two directors share their thoughts on the challenges of their second feature, telling Cineuropa how their worthy social drama shaped up. 

(The article continues below - Commercial information)Cine Iberoamericano Int

Cineuropa: It is often said that a second feature is even more difficult to make than a first. Is this true?
Petar Valchanov: Our second feature was more difficult from a structural point of view. Whereas in The Lesson we follow the story of one single protagonist, in Glory we have two main characters, and it was a challenge for us to intertwine their stories in a way that felt organic. This is one of the reasons why we approached our co-writer, Decho Taralezhkov - to help achieve this much-needed balance. We also shot the film on the hottest days of the year and it was almost unbearable. We had spent our entire catering budget on water by the end of the first week of principal photography! 

How did your experience with The Lesson help you to tweak your directing partnership for Glory?
Kristina Grozeva: There aren’t any major differences between the way we directed the former and the way we directed the latter. What we tried first with The Lesson and then repeated with Glory was to mix professional and amateur actors. What we also found, while shooting Glory, is that directors are very good at acting. There was one particular day during filming when there were more directors on set than actors: Milko Lazarov (Alienation [+see also:
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interview: Milko Lazarov
festival scope
film profile
]
) in the role of an investigative journalist, Ralitza Petrova (Godless [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ralitza Petrova
film profile
]
) and Nikolay Todorov (Three Days in Sarajevo) as police officers, Dimitar Sardjev (short film Portrait of a Family) as a cameraman from the PR department, and Pavel Vesnakov (short film Pride) as a jailbird. With the two of us, that made exactly seven directors on set; it was quite funny. We want to thank our director colleagues for supporting us not only with valuable directing tips, but also with their performances, which turned out to be formidable.

Your film is inspired by a case covered in the Bulgarian press. How much truth and how much fiction is in the story?
PV: As is the case with The Lesson, the film starts where the news story ends. We read this story about a lineman who found а huge pile of cash on the railway, gave it to the police and was later given this quasi-award for valor, and we thought it was a very fertile premise for a broader and more revealing plot. 

Stefan Denolyubov, who played a villain in The Lesson, is now playing the hero, while Margita Gosheva, the heroine of your first film, is now the villain. When and how did you decide on this change of sides?
KG: In the first draft of the script, the head of PR was a man and the idea was for Stefan to play him, but then we didn’t have anyone in mind for the lineman. One evening we even considered having him play both parts. But night is the mother of counsel, and in the morning we woke up and decided that the head of PR had to be a woman, and that Margita should play her. All the pieces fell into place, but we had to make quite a lot of changes to the script, and we’re grateful to our co-writer, Decho Taralezhkov, for the patience and professionalism he brought to the team (he also features in the film, playing one of Margita’s PR people).

The Lesson and Glory have raised expectations for the final chapter in your newspaper clippings trilogy. Can you tell Cineuropa what the final film will be about?
PV: We’re working on a couple of ideas at the moment and still wondering which one to do first. One is a sensational story from 20 years ago, the dawn of democracy, but one that people still remember. It will be considerably more expensive to shoot because it’s a period piece and will be large-scale production.
KG: The other idea is based on a fresh and topical event. But we want to give ourselves a little more time with that one and hopefully do another project first, the script for which is ready now and is already securing funding.

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