Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Dena Popova: Whitman student, published author

20091013-01-popova-web“Aren’t you going to ask me about my book?” asked senior Dena Popova, an international student from Bulgaria, at the wrap-up of a conversation concerning her latest film script entry in the NISI MASA International Screenwriting Competition.

Popova has had a busy Whitman career, finding success in screenplay writing on an international level and now publishing her first book, a collection of short stories, poems and photography.

Popova was unsure if she was going to enter a script in the NISI MASA contest this year, even though her script, entitled “At the End, it Rains,” was picked last year as one of the two representing Bulgaria in the larger European competition.

NISI MASA is a collaboration of European organizations representing 19 countries that work together to enrich and further European cinema. Each year, they sponsor the European Script Contest, which allows young people ages 18 to 28 to enter scripts. The scripts are judged in a nationwide contest, after which the winning scripts from each country are evaluated in order to pick an international winner.

“Working on the last script, I really spent a lot of time on it. I even did some research, traveling in the countryside to observe a ritual that was happening in the script. This one was very spontaneous. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write again for the competition. Maybe two days before the deadline I sat down and I wrote it, so it’s super short. I would say it was very, very spontaneous. I just wrote it and luckily on the day of the submission [deadline] I met the people that organize it on the street, so I gave it to them and off it went,” said Popova.

Her script this year is entitled “The Cherry Oedipus,” and differs significantly from her last entry.

“The story is about a boy shooting cherries with his slingshot from the balconies of his building. It pretty much presents all the sounds of the apartments. You get a collage of all the people that live in this building,” said Popova. There is no dialogue in her screenplay and Popova has even begun thinking about how she would like it to be filmed as well.

“I personally see it with animation, very visual. It won’t be a realistic movie at all, it will be very cinematographed. Just a lot of ambient sounds,” said Popova.

Her inspiration came from one image.

“I had this very strong image in my head of a little boy who is shooting some kind of a fruit at white bedsheets of his mother. The whole idea of blood on white sheets. I started the whole story from this image and then placed it in the setting of a backyard,” said Popova. The change of artistic pace paid off.

“Once I got the idea to write it like this, it was so much easier,” said Popova. Script submissions for this year’s contest were due on July 31, and there is no word yet on how Popova’s script fared. If it isn’t as successful as last year’s, Popova said she won’t be fazed.

“Even if I don’t win the contest, I will really try to pursue this script and maybe make the movie next summer or something,” she said.

After winning the Bulgarian portion of the competition last year, Popova was awarded a scholarship to a script-writing workshop held in the suburbs of Paris.

“[The workshop] was one week of constant discussion of cinema and films. It was great just being with people for whom this is their passion and being able to talk with them about it. It was amazing,” said Popova.

The workshop provided an opportunity to exchange ideas with the 24 participants from around the world.

“It was cool to meet and network with people who study cinema. Some of them had actually made some short films. We were in this beautiful old medieval castle. The tutors were all professional filmmakers and script writers.   They helped me a lot,” said Popova. If her script this year reaches the same level as last year’s did, she will be invited back to participate in another workshop.

In addition to awaiting word of her screenplay, Popova is eager to finally hold her latest finished project in her hands: her book, entitled “Girls from Good Families.”

“It’s going to be published at the end of November by a Bulgarian publishing house.   It will be mostly short stories and a couple of poems. I met the publisher at a workshop for a creative writing class last summer,” said Popova, whose experiences studying abroad at Whitman have helped to inform her writing.   Last year, Popova spent a semester Buenos Aires, Argentina and the second in Paris, France.

“I ended up writing almost all of them as new stories, and most are based in Buenos Aires or Paris. It’s stories that I encountered abroad,” said Popova.

“Buenos Aires was amazing because there was a special cinema track. We went to film school and we got to make a movie there. The city’s also just amazing. In Paris, the program wasn’t as good as in Buenos Aires, but Paris is Paris. It was very enjoyable,” said Popova.

Writing a book was in Popova’s plans.

“I’ve always been writing, and my father is a writer as well, so he was always pushing me a bit to do this, as well. I just decided that now is the time to publish my earlier pieces because I want them to be published and I am more content with them now,” said Popova. The book will be published Popova’s native Bulgarian, but she plans to have copies available on the Whitman campus to show the community.

The Whitman community will not only have the chance to view Popova’s artistic achievement, but also that of another Whitman student.

“The photograph on the cover is by a Whitman student, a friend of mine, Sean Bradley, as well. They asked me to propose photographs I wanted for the cover, and as it turned out, they liked that one,” said Popova.

Popova isn’t entirely sure of her plans after graduating in the spring, with innumerable possibilities such as graduate school and working.

“Right now, I’m working on schoolwork and applications for grad school,” she said. “Maybe I’ll go to New York, apply elsewhere in the U.S., or maybe Spain or Buenos Aires. If grad school doesn’t happen, I’m thinking of going to Buenos Aires to help in the production of a movie.”

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