I’m a huge believer in serendipity. I’ve always loved coming across random opportunities and taken them whenever they made sense. This was one of my absolute favorites (close second to the miracle of getting accepted into college, actually).
My experience as an actress isn’t as extensive as you imagine. Besides reading the newscast in college, reporting on local news in Bulgaria and being “the girl” in a few music videos, my biggest acting accomplishment to date was snagging the role of a tree in the 11th grade school play, which I played with a ton of dignity and mink coat. This opportunity came by as a pure product of my deciding to be friendly
for once and staying in touch with old friends. My friend Em, who I used to work with at that sales company, which turned out to be a scam, was in the same sorority as the casting director for an indie film which happened to be looking particularly for me a Bulgarian girl for the role of a “dashing young woman” serving as an objective observer of a deep societal division in modern-day Baltimore. Em hit me up on Snapchat a day after I had quit my 9 to 5 job asking if I had any interest. Boom – networking in all of its glory. My initial instinct was this sounds too good to be true. Me in a movie? No waaaay. Three seconds after I quieted down the safety net instinct, I messaged her back with my info to have the casting director reach out to me. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
After speaking to Em’s friend and consequently the director of the film, not only did I realize that this was a legitimate gig, but that it would be an incredibly cool project to add to my portfolio of
jobs life. The movie would be shot in Baltimore in mid-April, barely catching me before I fly off to Bali. I’d be acting alongside another Bulgarian girl, (a legitimate actress!) and I’d be flown down to Maryland for a total of 5 days with everything included. Oh, and I’d get paid on top of that. My thought: F*ck yeah, I’m special. This was actually the first time someone had cared to spend serious money (that wasn’t related to school) on me and even transport me to a different point of the country. I was so sold on the idea and the enticement of the limelight, that I would have quit my part-time job and gone for it, even if it didn’t pay a dime. After a few days of “pure savagery,” as I called my routine of running 6 kilometers per day to make sure I looked toned on camera, Thursday came and my red heels happily click-clacked through two airports and on to the streets of the crab cake haven.
Much to my pleasure, I was greeted and picked up by the casting director, Laura, followed by Josh, the movie director who was eagerly waiting in the lobby of the downtown Hampton Inn, gift bag in hand, waiting to see what
creature actress he quasi-blindly invested in. ( I got massively hooked-up by the way, with a sweet room on the top floor because Josh has got all the connections in town.) Our first meeting was followed by a great and very intellectually-stimulating conversation during happy hour at a nearby restaurant, where I got quite Aristotelian after 2 glasses of bubbly (or maybe the glass in my hand was just an excuse to blab about societal values and art). We talked wardrobe and to my surprise, instead of going for the neutral black pants and conservative shirt I had picked out for the role, Josh seemed to really dig my “stylishly comfortable flyer” outfit, consisting of a former frat dress (black, cut off back and front, ankle length), leather jacket and red business heels. Holy sh*t, not only am I going to be in a movie, but I get style credit!
The three days of filming began bright and early. I get cranky and restless when I don’t move in the morning, so sometimes I
go to extremes wake up at 5 in the morning to go jogging, drink coffee and watch US politics go to shit on CNN bask in the glory of the morning. (I’m a TOTAL morning person, if you couldn’t tell. Really, everything goes downhill after 1 pm). The first day was entirely indoors. I met the cast and we all had breakfast on set. (“on set,” I love saying that, ha). Jasmen, the makeup artist who prepped us for shooting turned out to be the Buddha or hair and makeup, completely nailing the balance between the coveted natural, fresh face and that cinematic “oomph,” which makes your best features pop. (hellooo, cheekbones!)
A charming ball of energy, who somehow manages to film 2 productions at once, while working on the side to save up for her big move to LA soon, the Bulgarian beauty is someone you can talk to for hours about politics, society, creativity, passion and oh, FOOD. Switching back and forth between English and Bulgaria, the two of us bonded immediately not only over national recipes like drobcheta (livers in butter), but also discovered that we share a deep disillusionment with the 9 to 5 world, don’t care for material objects and love a good international trip. Having lived in the US for over 4 years now, Gabby started off as a dancer in Bulgaria and eventually transitioned to acting. “It was quite the natural progression,” she tells me, goofily grinning at the camera as her scene at the dentist’s office is about to begin. With a sincerely expressive face and the figure of an athlete, Gabby gets down on the floor and gives us 200 push ups without a moment’s hesitation, right after sharing her big upcoming project – the thought-provoking movie Unleashed she wrote and will direct in Bulgaria over the summer, telling the story of the country’s 500 year long Ottoman slavery, outlining the bravery of national heroes whose death was not dignified. She’s an absolute rock star and I’ve already began planning a trip to LA to visit her in the next few years.
Over the three days of filming, Gabby and I found ourselves in all kinds of hilariously ridiculous situations. From being tortured by a psychotic dentist (the actor being a real dentist who plays in a rock band in his free time SO COOL), to smashing a douchebag’s windshield and running away like street hooligans. That was actually my favorite scene of all, as well as the toughest to execute. Pretending to be weighed down by the monumental weight of a fake cinderblock which I’d lift over my head and toss with all my
pretend might through glass isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it’s just as much fun.
Josh Slates was a dream of a director in many ways. Not only is he good at what he does, having received the Programmers Award at the Sidewalk Film Festival for his debut movie Small Pond in 2011 and gaining recognition at the 59th Cannes Film Festival for Ponkutsu Park, but he is also an incredibly easy-going, energetic and positive person. He may work 20 hours a day, but he’ll never show up cranky or give you any attitude. (Leave that to us! Just kidding.) What really surprised me about Josh was how open to suggestions and improv he was. He completely put his trust in Gabriela and I to freestyle dialogue and gestures in pivotal scenes. He made sure we never lacked anything, from rides to refreshments and anything else we could possibly ask for (puppies?).
The crew was a direct reflection of Josh – energetic, skilled, fun. I wasn’t too much of a diva at all, besides my
demands requests for trail mix in the snack bin.But hey, it could be worse. (read: Mariah Carey asks for a room full of white roses and 20 humidifiers…eye roll). Huge shoutout to Marco, Jordan, Corey, Katy, Katie, Steven, Trey, Mike, Devin, Don, Jasmen – if I’m forgetting someone it’s because of my memory, not because I didn’t appreciate your work. In fact, these guys are so good, they’ve worked on hugely popular productions like House of Cards and Veep (both of which I’m obsessed with.)
Out of the 5 days I was in Baltimore, I had one that was completely free for me to do whatever my little heart pleased. To be honest, I missed being on set that day, but had a great time exploring the city. I ran through the inner harbor and Federal Hill, catching a nice tan and making Jas’ work that much harder, having to mask my tan lines with ample amounts of foundation and powder. I ventured out to Vernon to take some shots of the cobblestone streets and old statues; I got my zen on by the pagoda at Patterson Park. Talk about work and pleasure, how lucky am I, seriously.
On the phone: me: "I'm chillin at a pagoda." Mom: "Wait, I thought you don't leave for Southeast Asia for another 4 weeks!" ⛩ •www.deeaxthesea.com • #adventure #usa #travel #travelblogger #writer #bbg #fittravel #fitness #healthy #outdoorliving #history #philosophy #photography #photo #cannon #wanderlust #viajar #vscotravel #discoveryourworld #timeoutsociety #letsgoeverywhere #travelstoke #meditation #baltimore #instagood #maryland #sunset #explore #liveintrepid #lonelyplanet
Wrapping up mine and Gabriela’s scenes on Monday evening, this girl landed a brand new role in the same day. Total rock star. I, on the other hand, felt the post-wrap blues first-hand. “Can we shoot some more?” I asked Josh as we finished the “martini” shot on board of an old train at the Railroad Museum, but alas, our work there was done. I’m very excited to see the finished product. Without giving away much, I can tell you that this quirky, insightful film delves into the societal discrepancy of modern-day Baltimore, juxtaposing the entitled and the working class in a seemingly calm city, offering a plot twist in the end. Laden with humor, the movie is very sophisticated in its manner of communication with the viewer through refined speech, yet down to earth, inviting into scenes of everyday life that are all too familiar. Relationships, disillusion, sexual tension, failure, comedy, foreigners – it’s all in there. Stay tuned for the premiere.