Bulgarian Iva Gocheva interrogates the more-potent-than-ever challenges of immigration in Sunday, which I reviewed previously as a sorely touching depiction. On this subject, and given her credible position from which to speak, I wanted to hear more from the young and eloquent director (and actress). More than this, Iva muses about the creative life she has chosen for herself.
What brought you to New York, Iva? Are filmmaking opportunities more accessible here than in Bulgaria?
I came to study acting of all things! I still have this vivid memory walking through Midtown the morning after I had landed in from Sofia in the late evening. I couldn’t even comprehend how it is possible to have so many buildings and people on one street.
Bulgaria has such a beautiful community of filmmakers. It’s much smaller of course, but the whole country is only 7 million people, so I guess that may answer your question in a way! I think making a small indie film is a long process. I don’t like to use the word hard because I feel it makes you want to stop trying. But let us say it is a long, laborious process, and how you get to the desired destination is a bit different for everyone.
How long have you been interested in film and filmmaking? Have you got an earliest memory?
Since I remember myself I have been interested in telling a story in some form. When I was a kid I used to draw a lot. I remember we had this one practice in drawing class when the teacher would read us a story and then we had to draw whatever we thought of it. Even if it was just a feeling. What may that feeling look like? What color is it?
The first play I directed (kind of) was at the playground under a plum tree with a couple of friends of mine at the time. We were around 10 years old. The first time I saw a movie that brought me to a place I didn’t think existed was when I saw “Never Ending Story”. Oh, Falkor the Luck Dragon, the furry dragon dog! I still think of him!
How did Sunday get off the ground? Was it long in the making?
To answer simply, yes, it took a long time, but I could say I got really lucky with Sunday. I met Brian Devine from Gigantic Pictures as I and Micki Davis had been working on the story for some time already. Brian was really the one who made this possible. He was the one that gave us a green light on starting production and put his company behind it. For a small film like that, that was a tremendous help.
The cinematographer of the film, Trevor Tweeten, was a big part of the making of this film. Without him, I would have never even thought of making this actually happen. Trevor has put endless hours into several of my projects and I am so grateful for his constant passion and inspiration!
I wonder if Sunday semi-autobiographical; did you have a similarly jarring experience with Visa restrictions in your time in the US, which inspired the short? Its theme is unnervingly relevant, with immigration being so absurdly contentious at the moment.
Most of the story comes from my own and Eleonora’s (Ivanova, the lead actress) experience being here and dealing with immigration but also trying to make a home of this place. It really is quite a balanced mix between my and her perspective on this process.
I think everyone’s immigration struggle is different in a way. It has its own set of challenges depending on where you are coming from and what your reasons were to leave your home country. How financially secure you are, if you have any family here or not and what type of conditioning you have as a person. But I do think there is a unifying feeling that comes when one has fled their home to look for a better life, this constant search for home and identity. It is very upsetting and sad that in the time of the current refugee crises most western politics are moving so far right.
Did both you and Micki Davis work on the script? For how long do you work on a feature independently before getting others involved?
Yes, Micki is a big part of how this story has been shaped and the way it is told. She comes more from a fine art filmmaking background and that really helped break some of the more traditional ideas of how to think about this experience. She translated that into something coherent for other people in a short form.
The way I have often start my process is that I would have a theme, feeling and a character in mind and then I will look for someone to collaborate with. I come from an acting background and I feel more in my element in a collaborative environment. That said I am writing my first long-form script at the moment to try and see how that feels.
How would you personally describe or define ‘home’?
It is that feeling of unconditional love that I think makes the home feel like that safe place we usually think of. For most people, I find that it is connected to their mother (or father, or both), or at least for me it is. Of course, then you make your own home, with or without a partner, and you can find that unconditional love in yourself or together.
Did you face any obstacles or challenges in the process of making Sunday? What would you identify as the most challenging part of making a movie? And vice versa, what is the most rewarding bit?
There are always plenty of obstacles. As I said earlier I got lucky to have Brian and Gigantic behind this project. That eliminated most of the challenges in terms of supporting the film.
I personally find the editing process most challenging. You make your film 3 times; once when you write it, once when you shoot it and for the final time when you edit. It can make a great deal of difference how you edit a film.
The most rewarding bit for me is the process and collaborating with people. Forgetting yourself and getting transported to a creative place with all of these people around you is magical. I always forget about time and life when I am on set, writing, and editing. It makes me feel so present and feels a bit like a meditation.
You’ve made another aesthetically sublime short film, I Wish I Were A Hay. The artistry of your films is just stunning. Did you draw inspiration from your own life, and perhaps childhood, for this one? Can you explain its meaning to you, for us?
Thank you for the kind words! A lot has happened since I made this. I know that I wanted to talk about a place where you felt happy as a child but when you return again as a grown-up it feels different.
Do you find yourself leaning towards acting or being behind the camera lately? Your performance in Embers looks captivating.
I am mostly behind the camera lately. The past several years I ended up being in a pretty introverted place due to some real-life challenges and hustling as an actor did not really fit that reality.
Have you any advice for aspiring directors/screenwriters, or anyone wishing to work creatively behind the camera?
I think everyone should push to keep their dreams alive. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s good to know what your strengths are and then work hard on the rest! I believe if you approach life and your craft with love and patience and you keep in tune with the world, something will happen.
Do you have any future or current projects in development?
I am editing and wrapping up a short film I directed and co-wrote with a dear friend of mine, Julia-Joyce Barry. She is also one of the actors in it and there is a spaceship! I am also writing my first feature script at the moment and I hope I can bring that story to life one day.