He prefers to listen, to be invisible, to sit in the background and speak only when necessary – the ideal prerequisites for a director, cameraman and editor, which is what he is, along with being a member of the snowboard team Ninja Squad and the skate crew Stinky Socks.
He worked closely on developing the popular sock brand with its founder, his brother Hristo Petkov. The two also run the production company Kamak Films and have over ten years of experience producing online videos, documentaries, short films, commercials and web series. In 2015 and 2016, Dimo completed the documentaries Reach Your Limits and 109 Hoursfor Kiril Nikolov–Dizela, which brought him awards from a number of international film festivals for sports and adventure films. In the meantime, he is collaborating on various video projects for Red Bull and Jack Daniels, for which he continues to fly, drive, swim, sail, drift with the wind and cross all kinds of terrain.
We find him in his office on wheels – a bus that he converted into his work space and also a temporary home when he needs to escape from the city.
When did you realize that you had a talent for shooting? What were your first attempts and what does it give you that riding cannot?
It is difficult for me to think of it as my strength. I try to do many different things in my daily life and they motivate and inspire each other. I don't have anything special to pay more attention to. Shooting is just one of them. I started shooting a lot at the age of fourteen. My brother Hristo had brought a minidisc camera from America. That thing looked like a flying saucer to me. We skated and snowboarded a lot at the time, and generally our lives revolved around being out with friends. Shooting and making videos and movies came very naturally, maybe because back then we were super excited every time we got a new VHS tape or a disc with a snowboard film. We got together and watched it dozens of times until we got bored. Which never really happened. Shooting and riding are two things that complement each other for me. If you want to progress in riding, you have to take pictures so you can see your mistakes from the side. If you want to learn how to shoot, you have to do it as much as possible. And because most of what we did was skating and snowboarding, that was how and when I learned to shoot.
The films you make are about different sports, which means that you have to be ready for anything – how do you stay fit?
As a child and later, when I was at university, I was super focused on being very physically active and playing sports. I think I was so obsessed back then that until recently my body was still using up strength that I built up back then. I'm currently trying to get back into swimming because it helps me the most.
Skateboarding, snowboarding, fly fishing, hiking, motorcycles – what brings you the greatest adrenaline rush and what calms you down?
Each of these things can bring you adrenaline or peace of mind. You feel the adrenaline in the beginning when you start something new. Then, with time and practice, it starts to make you calmer. I currently practice these things because they soothe me. For me, the experience is perhaps the most important thing – to advance and build on what you've done before in a reasonable and different way. To be in constant motion and do the things you love, in different places and under different circumstances. Variety is the best teacher.
Your work introduces you to many inspiring people and takes you to many different places. How have they changed you over time?
I have always believed that the little things in life have the greatest impact on our development. The last projects I worked on focused on social problems facing people in Lesotho, Burkina Faso, the Solomon Islands and Lapland. These places are separated by great distances but people there encounter similar problems. Discrimination, trampling of their identity, imprisonment, and poverty are just some of the obstacles to people living free and full lives. I met musicians and writers who write lyrics about global warming and freedom of speech. Rappers who cultivate vegetable gardens themselves, because in their country a large part of the food supply is GMO. I met dancers who danced to sound the alarm over entire islands being flooded by rising sea levels. I met farmers who collect seeds from plants thrown out on the street in order to save endangered species. I met artists who collect garbage from the streets and dumps and use it to make jewelry. All these people are directing their art to turn something negative into something positive. Spending time with these people reinforced my sense that small things at the local level can have a strong impact on the environment in which we live.
Tell us about your mobile "office" – your bus. How did you find it and how did you modify it to suit your way of life? What are the advantages and challenges of using it?
In my opinion, it all started in primary school. I was in an arts program and my teacher was Rumen Trifonov, I probably owe my ideas about how to live and especially travel to his influence. He organized plein airs all over Bulgaria for us for seven years. We went to a different place almost every month. We traveled and painted. Then came skateboarding and snowboarding, thanks to which all my friends and I kept moving around. Over the years, the opportunities for travel increased and I got to the point where I had the idea and the chance to build my bus. At first I had no intention of remodeling it, but exactly two months after I bought it, I realized how superfluous, ugly and dysfunctional all the plastic inside was. This is why I don't like campervans that come straight from the factory. It's easiest to buy something ready-made and say, "It's mine and I own it." It is important for me to make an effort and dedicate myself to something in order to give it my own spirit. It doesn't matter if it's beautiful, well done or amazing. The important thing is for it to give you the feeling you are looking for. I've always loved making useful things with my own hands. I like the feeling of the materials I work with. I spent most of my childhood in a rural setting in the mountains, and wood has always been a part of my life in one way or another. So I decided to make the interior out of wood. I made a very basic plan for what I would need and I got started. I wanted it to be as simple and functional as possible. I knew that in order to be able to travel, I would have to work, so I installed a solar panel with a battery so that I could work while traveling. And in the end, after two years of slow work, I created the tool that gives me the freedom I need.
What advice would you give someone who dreams of having this kind of home on wheels –it looks perfect and beautiful in pictures, but what are the hidden "pitfalls"?
"It is very easy. Just buy a bus!” That's what I tell everyone. Many people want to do it, but something stops them. Nowadays, everything has to be big, large-scale and expensive, and it seems that this is one of the reasons why people are afraid to start such a project. No need to think too much. After all, you are buying a car and no one can guarantee that it will be perfect and there will be no costs. On the contrary, we all know that the car is more of a cost and a necessity than a pleasure. But if you're not ready to invest in something like that, maybe it's not what you're looking for. Personally, I see only pros in such an investment. No matter how many flaws there are, positive things make up for it. For example, I have been a fan of cars since 2000, but the main problem now is that they can no longer be used in most major cities in Europe. That's not a problem for me, because my goal is to stay away from cities, but everyone has their own preferences and the regulations regarding old cars must be taken into account.
You say that the goal of your films is not to be burdened with information, but to feel their emotion. How is this achieved?
There is currently a boom in vlogs and videos in which a person stands in front of a camera at home and talks for hours. I have nothing against vloggers, but I think this kills to a large extent the expectations and requirements of the modern viewer to receive something other than raw information. This style also enters the documentary cinema, where we see a rotation of interviews of different people in a static position. It seems that more importance is given to who gives you the information than what the information itself is. The style of our production company Kamak films is to give you something more. To go into the details and little things that distinguish each character. To see the characters and habits of people. To enter their everyday life and through the film feel closer to them or to recognize yourself in some way. For me, this can be achieved not just with shots that have great technique. Shaky shots, out of focus shots, shots that are too dark or too light, all contribute to the story. As long as these shots hit the right notes and capture the characters. Another very important factor in telling a story is editing. In general, everyone prefers shooting and very few people find editing interesting. I'm not even sure that people know exactly what the function of the editor is. But for me it is 70% of the whole process. This is where the story actually gets told. If you have a three-second frame, it actually contains three different one-second frames. Editing is the moment when you decide which second adds the most accurate feeling and information about the story.
What kind of Bulgarian documentaries would you like to see get made?
There are a lot of people here who find interesting topics and make good movies. But, as I mentioned, I want to watch something more dynamic and emotional. Unfortunately, people here are still not open enough and the task of the filmmaker is hellishly difficult, because how can you tell a story about a person if he does not tell it himself. Most of the documentaries I have made have been abroad – Africa, America, Scandinavia and Polynesia. People there understand and appreciate that you are there to tell their story and they are ready for anything. They invite you into their houses, they cook for you, they sing to you and this contributes a great deal to the content that you get out of the shoot. I want people here to accept us not as a threat that their time will be wasted, but to relax and not play the part of who they would like to be, just to be themselves. Only then can they be different. This would give us more opportunities to experiment and the end product would be more interesting.
You also work on the Stinky Socks brand with your brother Hristo. How would you describe a typical member of your global "sock" family?
Hristo and I have always been very close and we usually do everything together. I think that growing up together we have developed a habit of always thinking about the other before we think about ourselves. This also affects our relationships with friends and the people around us. That's why we call it the Stinky Family. We do not have exact criteria by which to select people, and it is not necessary. People can feel it, even if they are thousands of kilometers away. All we know is that if a person can sacrifice a little without expecting to get more in return, we will stand behind them 100%. We are all here to make each other's lives better and to make ourselves better. This is something that I personally miss seeing in everyday life.
It is interesting that you are releasing a movie on a VHS tape. Why did you choose this medium, and how does today's generation, which has never seen a VCR, respond to it?
We grew up at a time when videotapes were like today's cellphones. That was our entire life. I don't want to sound like an old person, but the nostalgia for going to the video store, returning one tape and taking another is very strong. The very fact that humanity lived through this period sounds ridiculous nowadays. These were also the years when you had to make an effort to get the smallest things. In 2018, we made the Stinky movieand Hristo came up with the idea to release it on VHS tapes. It was the coolest idea I'd ever heard. I do not know how today's generation perceives it, but the fact is that no one does that kind of thing anymore. This may be a sign that it is not well received, but so what. We did it.
Is there something you'd like to shoot that's different from everything you've done so far?
I love documentary filmmaking because I find it meaningful and it makes me feel useful. But lately I really want to make feature films, especially sci-fi. My favorite movies are sci-fi and I find in them the exact feeling I'm looking for.
When is it easiest for you to follow yourself, and when is it most difficult?
I learned how I could follow myself thanks to snowboarding. For many years, I watched a lot and absorbed what others did. But there came a moment when I realized that I had reached a certain level that allowed me to see things my own way. This also applies to the way I live. I don't watch or listen. I try to learn through practice. This is the easiest way for me to follow myself. It's hardest when I start thinking too much.
This interview is part of the #followmyself series, which is supported by Fashion Days.
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