17 Jun Scriptwriter of the Month: Decho Taralezhkov
Decho Taralezhkov is an award-winning scriptwriter from Bulgaria, who has been involved in different types of projects ranging from short and feature films, to TV series and video games. To find out a bit more about what he’s working on, check out his MTSW profile here.
And to find out a bit more about how he thinks, read his answers to our favorite eight questions.
• What makes the 5 films on your Top 5 list so special?
THERE WILL BE BLOOD by Paul Thomas Anderson blows me away with the sheer scope of its every element – narrative, thematic, cinematic, performative (Daniel Day-Lewis is a godly presence), and emotional. It is a behemoth of a film, but what captures me most is how PTA, with some precious help from Jonny Greenwood, from all the dust and the slurry and the filth manages to shoot us right into that higher orbit where the heroes of myth linger in contemplation of their own tragic fates. It’s purgatory.
STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Stanley Kubrick is a titanic satire that never seems to lose its power and topicality, even though the film is technically quite dated. The theatrical stylization and the joviality of its approach to the topic, however, is what makes it timeless. For someone suffering from a crippling fear of nuclear holocaust, Kubrick did a remarkable job of helping himself and others, myself included, grasp the endearing pettiness and futility of human endeavors. The film has been such an influence on me that I even named one of my former bands Lovers of the Bomb.
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE by Steven Spielberg is the first Indiana Jones movie I ever watched as a very small kid, which inevitably adds a sentimental angle to this pick. Nevertheless, I still think it’s the best one in the franchise, not only for its themes (the cost of eternal life) but also for Sean Connery’s turn as Dr. Henry Jones, whose absence in the other films was quite disappointing for the little me. Feels like Indie’s character is only complete in juxtaposition to his father. Anyway, it’s through this film that Mr. Spielberg set for me a standard and taught admiration for the power of a good-spirited, action-packed adventure.
When I first watched KIN-DZA-DZA by Georgiy Daneliya in my twenties, I realized I’d seen this film before. The singular image of the pepelatz flying over the desert and landing with screeching noises threw me back into my early childhood when Soviet cinema was on TV every week. This is one of those singular visuals that leave an imprint into a child’s mind for life. The film itself turned out to be a truly unique tale about the absurdity of “advanced” human societies, a raging, hilarious and yet touching satire that ultimately extracts a very emotional truth about how alone each of us really is in this crazy world, how rare and precious every real human connection is and how it is only through exceptional circumstances that you can overcome prejudice and stereotypes and see a person for what they truly are – the same as you.
ALIEN by Ridley Scott is the best horror film, period. It’s also Scott’s best film as far as I’m concerned, but that’s off-topic. It is, however, not the first film in the franchise that I saw. The first was Cameron’s ALIENS, which I watched accidentally as a 6-7 y.o. a child with my grandmother. It was the second film on a video cassette that we had rented for the first film. I can’t tell you why she didn’t stop it as soon as she saw what it was like, but she didn’t. Thus, the creation of yet another imprint (or rather burning image) in a child’s fragile mind – Sigourney Weaver writhing in pain as something terrible moves around and finally bursts out of her stomach. But seeing ALIEN actually showed me what that universe was all about – not the creature infestation, not the action-packed bravado of machine gun-wielding marines, but rather the true terror of space and its incompatible, insurmountable otherness. Even though the costumes and animatronics are now dated, everything else is for me true perfection of production design, ensemble, direction playing in tune to create a suite of pure existential dread. IMO, Ridley Scott has never again been so meticulous and minimalistic in his film language.
• Why did you decide to go into film?
It was an impulse. Kind of a „why not“ situation. I hadn’t really thought it through, it was at a time when I had just dropped out of a deathly boring sociology major in Munich and returned to Bulgaria to look for a more emotionally satisfying occupation. This gives you a clear idea of why I didn’t become, say, a businessman. Originally, I wanted to apply for the directing major at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia (NATFA), but a then friend of mine who was a film and TV directing graduate from NATFA talked me out of it. Painting a dire picture of the sub-par curriculum in the directing program, he recommended the writing program instead. The truth was, he just hoped to „raise“ me as his personal scriptwriter, which didn’t really work out. Anyhow, having never written anything even vaguely narrative in my life, I applied for the Dramaturgy course and they took me. It turned out I had quite the knack for it, so naturally, I got to love it fairly quickly, even though it would be many years before I’d actually get to make my living doing it.
• Commercial films or art house?
My father, who was a composer, used to say there are only two types of music – good and bad. I think the same goes for every art form. There’s only one either/or question for me – is the film good or bad. I don’t pick what I watch based on the reading of its commercial gauge. I’m far from the idea of making films for a niche audience, as are the people I work with. Though I don’t intentionally strive for it, I’d be very happy if my work would contribute to commercial success. I think that goes for every author who is not pathologically elitist. Truth is, as long as the film is a product, it cannot really avoid being commercial – no one will want to buy or sell it unless they see some commercial potential in it. It’s a forced distinction.
• How and when did you begin writing?
Oh, I already answered that, how convenient! ☺
• Where do you like to write the most?
Wherever I can do it at my own disposal. I’m not one of those writers who follow a strict regimen – I write when I feel like it, no matter the time of day, though it’s usually in the late afternoon-evening. Sometimes at night. When I’m on a tight deadline, I could write throughout my waking hours. Then there would be other days when I manage almost nothing, in which case the feelings of panic and guilt start crawling in, though I’m getting better at keeping them at bay. I only have the freedom to dispose of my own time at home, so I guess that’s the place I like to write the most. Never tried a residence or retreat though, so no idea how those would feel. There was this period in 2018 when I was writing for a kids’ TV show that was shooting at a seaside resort at the same time. I was quartered there along with the entire production for two months. Actually, no one forced me to be there, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We were living in bungalows, I had this small balcony overseeing the production home base, where the whole crew would start and end their shooting day, I would sit in a camping chair on my balcony with the laptop on my, well, lap, and I would write there from early morning until late in the afternoon when the merciless rays of the summer sun would finally make direct contact with my side of the building. People from the crew would constantly run back and forth, the set dressers would labor away at some prop outside the home base, everything was so dynamic and alive… and swarming with insects. And, of course, the seaside air and some find Black Sea brandy. I’ve never felt so connected to my work at that time. I more or less watched it come to life in real-time and that made me realize that contrary to what they say, it’s in fact not solitary work.
• What kind of music do you listen to while writing?
Usually, I don’t because it distracts me. Sometimes I try to think of a piece of music (or an artist) that would resonate well to the mood of the story or scene that I’m writing, and play that, but generally, I prefer silence. Recently I’d been working on a story that takes place in the heart of the mountains, so I tried playing some sound ambiance of a mountain spring. I can’t say if it had any effect, but it certainly didn’t distract me.
• Where do ideas come from?
Everywhere. You can’t pinpoint the source of ideas or their genesis. You better be able to pin them down though. They might later prove to be shit, but at least you won’t regret letting them slip.
• If you could go anywhere in space and time, where would that be?
I would go to another planet that mankind has colonized in the far future. Unfortunately, there’s no way to target that trip, so I guess I have to give it up. On the opposite part of the axis, I’d like to witness the conception, construction, and application of Stonehenge. Yeah, I know – these three stages span a few thousand years, but you bring me there and leave the rest to me.