“I love monsters,” says Radi Nikolov. “In all different forms of the definition, really. It doesn’t matter where you come from, each nation has fables and folk and it usually boils down to a monster that we are afraid of. And usually, that’s something that’s out there into the unknown.”
Radi’s love of monsters is not a surprise. His film Caught On Tape, which was part of the South West Filmathon: The Sequel, sees a monster unearthed in a lockdown situation through some techno dabbling.
But it’s not just effective jump scares, there’s more behind Radi’s thinking, as his energic enthusiasm reveals.
“Everybody knows horror and everybody understands monsters, and we all have this common language. We all feel it, and we all understand it, which is why I love horror and why I love monsters and why I love telling these stories that skirt in these borders,” he says.
Using science to reveal something more primaeval is something that feels like second nature for Radi, who says he had a strange path into filmmaking.
“I am a third generation of engineers,” Radi Nikolov says. Growing up there was an expectation that he’d go into electrical engineering with some robotics thrown in.
“In high school, I had two very close friends, one of them is a novelist, the other one is a short story writer. And I found out that screenwriting is a thing.
“Slowly, but surely, I found my legs in filmmaking, which was a very interesting journey that keeps surprising me with every project that I do,” he says. For a number of years, Radi focused on his cinematography
That background in engineering helped inform his filmmaking – he didn’t know film jargon, but he understood the physics of light and what a camera is (resolution means nothing, he tells us emphatically).
“There is a very interesting philosophy in engineering,” says Radi. “Which is understanding the world – more of the metaphysical stuff the non-real things.” He talks about energy, potential energy, kinetic energy and notions of physics. It’s like finding invisible stuff in the gaps between the physical world, and that’s something that is reflected in the short Caught On Tape. And those philosophical points find their way into Radi’s other films.
The next film Radi and partner Ruby Adams made is a story about “success and self-doubt and the inner monologue that we all have. It’s a complex relationship that has the potential to be disruptive and destructive, but could also be useful in personal development.” Coming out of lockdown, this is due to be a bigger production with a larger cast and crew.
Doubt Buys The Whiskey, has been in his notebook for five or six years, he says, and is in response to an earlier short called I Married My Loneliness, which was about how we are all inevitably lonely and we have to learn to live with our own selves before we are able to have relationships with other people. That in turn was in response to another short called My Conscious Came To Visit. He’s also working on an as-yet-untitled kids adventure feature film.
Just before the global pandemic kicked in they made a short horror-comedy, much like What We Do In The Shadows, about a serial killer who runs an escape room. That short is now getting reworked into a feature idea.
“I like to keep myself busy because I don’t know what else I would do,” says Radi with a wide grin and fizzing with creative energy.
While entertainment is front and centre of Radi’s work, there are other elements he hopes are contained within his films. He says all filmmakers would like to say something and create something that had lasting appeal.
“The older I get, the more I understand my high school literature teachers. Every time we had a new writer that we are studying, we had to learn when they wrote it, and why they wrote it because once we understand what was surrounding these creators we understand why their decisions were the decisions that they took.
“Even though at the moment I’m writing a kids adventure film I’m thinking, maybe there might be a little nugget of drama. So I’d like to think that we teach in entertainment – but you’ve got to entertain first.”
Radi unearthed his visual sensibilities through making films.
“People talk about finding your style,” he says. “It’s very very hard, but after a while, after you’ve done a few things, you can say, ‘Oh yeah, this is me, I have this style’. You start seeing common things – you didn’t think that you have a style and do all of a sudden you go, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I do!'”
For Radi that includes high contrast and sharp shadows.
“There’s always a character in a shadow coming in and out,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the golden years of Hollywood, the heavy backlight, the heavy filtration.” He’s also drawn to unusual composition and depth.
Having lived in Texas, the Bournemouth-based filmmaker isn’t put off what some would consider a long commute. He and Ruby made it the 2021 Filmathon screening in Exeter.
“We were met with such like warm hugs and just open arms and I thought ‘this is this is brilliant’,” he says.
Submerged in his work, Radi can be found on any social media outlet ready to interact and discuss ideas and movie-making techniques. The most current project Doubt Buys the Whiskey is being premiered at the B-Reel Movie Meet Up and Short Film Screenings networking and screening event in Bournemouth.
Top image: Radi Nikolov and Doug Cockle on set of Doubt Buys the Whiskey
- Ben Kernow | It is alright for a project to scare you a little - August 11, 2022
- Long Way Back | intelligent and unique road movie - August 2, 2022
- Exeter Cinema Heritage | what cinema means projection - July 25, 2022