Kiril Dobrev’s Inspiring Journey, Unveiling Worlds Through Film and Music

Inspired by the diverse cultures of the world, Kiril Dobrev's passion for crafting cultural exposés is enhanced through worldly & emotive underscores that combine organic and contemporary genres to elevate his storytelling.

Filmmaker Kiril Dobrev

Filmmaker Kiril Dobrev’s captivating travel films offer a stunning look at different cultures from every corner of the world. Keep reading to learn what keeps the South African filmmaker inspired, his recipe for crafting an unforgettable story, and how uses Musicbed to find the right music for his films.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Kiril Dobrev: My passion for filmmaking and storytelling stems from a fascination with unique places and diverse cultures. The allure of capturing these experiences led me to the medium of film, providing an outlet to translate my journeys into tangible stories. Travel filmmaking, in particular, resonates profoundly with me as it allows me to intertwine my love for exploration and culture within the canvas of film. Initially, this creative journey was a pure hobby. It was something I did in my spare time whilst somewhere new. However, as my dedication deepened, so did my commitment to self-learning. I immersed myself in the works of other filmmakers, steadily honing my craft and defining my unique style. The initial spark, ignited by travel and cultural curiosity, has snowballed into a full-fledged career.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

It’s an ever-increasingly important topic the further I go into this career. For something that started as a passion and evolved into a job, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of what I fell in love with in the first place. To combat this, I prioritize passion projects. This is an annual commitment to a film entirely my own, allowing space for experimentation amid client-centric work. Apart from that, I have always drawn a lot of my inspiration and ideas from both music and travel. They serve as important catalysts for creativity. Therefore, the balance of passion projects and diverse sources of inspiration ensures that, even as my career evolves, the core of my creativity remains anchored in the love for the thing that initiated this journey.

What makes a story visually appealing? What role does music play in storytelling?

Music is foundational in conveying the desired emotion and overall atmosphere of a film, working hand in hand with visuals to deliver the narrative. I tend to rely a lot on the music to dictate the pacing and rhythm of the edit, as well as which story beats should go where.  But in saying so, I recognize that there’s a fine line we need to tread as creatives. On one hand, while music often dictates how an edit is structured, we need to also not let it override the story that we’re trying to tell. I think the key is to maintain a delicate balance and create harmony between the music and the visuals.

Kiril Dobrev standing on mountain overlooking the ocean

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

There are a lot of characteristics that make up a compelling story. For me, as someone who does a lot more visual storytelling pieces (often no narrative travel-centric films), this is something I constantly think about, but there are a few things that I look out for. For starters, I always think in terms of scenes. These are essentially the “micro-stories” that collectively shape the overarching narrative. When in the field, I’m always thinking beyond individual shots and asking myself how each shot contributes to constructing a compelling sequence. With that, I am always on the lookout to have a definitive start and end to a scene. It can be super simple, as long as there’s an element of change. For instance, if I’m filming at a train station, I’d make sure to show someone purchasing a ticket, the anticipation of them waiting, and the eventual journey as they board the train and depart. The accompanying b-roll seamlessly complements and enriches this concise yet captivating storytelling. For me, a compelling story needs to be able to offer a window into a world that the audience wants to be invested in. If I am able to take the audience on a journey and either show them something new or show them something from a different perspective, this is enough to make the viewer care. 

How important is music in your work?

The significance of music cannot be overstated, arguably second only to the narrative itself. Music possesses the power to either elevate a film to new heights or, conversely, diminish its impact. This is why I always advocate for dedicating enough time to finding the right soundtrack. In the realm of filmmaking, where emotions are conveyed not just through visuals but through every nuanced note, finding the right music is a deliberate and essential process. I firmly believe that a well-crafted soundtrack not only complements the story but enhances its emotional resonance. Music is more than a background element; it’s a narrative partner, a silent storyteller. Platforms like Musicbed have been a game-changer for us filmmakers. The fact that we have access to expansive catalogs that cater to diverse styles and moods, gives us a treasure trove of possibilities. 

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators starting their careers?

First and foremost, embrace experimentation. Allow yourself the freedom to explore different styles and techniques. Finding your distinctive voice is a process that demands time and dedication. It’s essential not only for personal fulfillment but also to set yourself apart in a crowded industry. Clients are drawn to filmmakers with unique perspectives, so invest in honing your individual approach; it’s the key to being recognized and sought after. Moreover, when starting out, don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from others. Analyze the works of successful filmmakers, dissecting their storytelling techniques and visual styles. This deep dive into their artistry is full of valuable insights and can serve as a guiding light as you carve out your own style. Recognize that filmmaking is not a solitary endeavor. Networking is a cornerstone of success, particularly as you tackle more substantial projects. Building a community of like-minded individuals in the industry is not just beneficial; it’s imperative. Surround yourself with diverse talents, learn from their experiences, and foster collaborative efforts. As projects grow in scale, the ability to collaborate becomes a catalyst for innovation and elevates the quality of your work. 

How do you find the balance between pushing creative boundaries and meeting client/audience expectations?

Navigating the delicate balance between pushing creative boundaries and meeting the expectations of clients/audiences is a timeless challenge for creatives and something we all deal with. It’s a delicate balance between artistic freedom and adhering to the “parameters” of the brief. Personally, I’ve found that establishing long-term relationships with clients is a strategic approach to overcoming this challenge. It’s an investment in trust-building that pays dividends over time. Through the course of multiple projects, as I am able to demonstrate my ability and deliver results, clients tend to become more receptive to pushing the boundaries. This evolving trust in turn often leads to being granted more freedom by the client. But as you progress in your career, clients will eventually be hiring you for your vision and your style, which ultimately means they’re paying you for creativity. Just like anything, this takes time, hard work, and having your own style.

Kiril Dobrev and friend reacting to something they see

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

Undoubtedly, one of the most challenging aspects of being a filmmaker is the potential for it to be a solitary journey. I’ve come to realize the importance of surrounding myself with individuals who share similar passions. This collaborative approach not only enriches the creative process but also provides a support system in navigating the ups and downs of the industry. Recognizing the necessity of teamwork is another key lesson. Early in one’s career, many filmmakers find themselves wearing multiple hats, being responsible for most aspects of the production. The initial phase of working solo is not uncommon and holds its own merits, allowing for self-discovery and honing individual skills during the whole filmmaking process. However, as one aspires to handle bigger budgets and more substantial projects, the ability to function seamlessly within a team becomes indispensable. It is, indeed, a challenging transition, but the rewards are significant. 

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?

One of the projects that holds a special place in my heart is my most recent personal film, Bali Unveiled – Sacred Rituals & Traditions. Filming this spanned two years, after relocating to Bali just before the onset of lockdown. Living in Bali provided me with a unique opportunity to gain unparalleled access to elements of the local culture that often remain hidden from the broader gaze. The film became a captivating window into the intricate world of the Balinese, showcasing their sacred rituals and time-honored traditions. Early in the production, I turned to Musicbed to find the perfect tracks for my film and I curated a blend of three distinct songs that breathed life into the film.

How do you search for music on Musicbed? Any tips for other filmmakers?

To streamline my search, I typically begin with two fundamental filters: genre and music style. Having a clear vision of the overall tone and vibe I’m aiming for provides a solid place to start. One strategy that has proven invaluable is the creation and utilization of personal playlists. When I stumble upon a track that resonates, even if it’s not an immediate fit, I catalog it into a dedicated playlist. Over time, this compilation becomes a rich backlog of versatile and usable tracks, offering a reservoir of options for future projects. Delving into the discography of artists is another method in my music discovery toolkit. If a particular artist captures my ear, exploring their entire body of work often unveils hidden gems. Another particularly fruitful resource within Musicbed are the filmmaker playlists. This curated space houses an extensive collection of playlists crafted by fellow filmmakers. It’s a treasure trove where I frequently stumble upon hidden gems or discover new artists. 

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

Having been a Musicbed user for years, I appreciate the platform’s emphasis on quality, featuring real artists and musicians. The level of talent consistently showcased on Musicbed aligns with the high standards I seek for my projects, ensuring a seamless integration of music that elevates the overall cinematic experience.

Explore a hand-selected playlist of organic and contemporary music that Kiriv loves to use in his work—available to license on Musicbed.