Meet George. Not his real name, but the one he answers to here at Unbridled. Otherwise, you’ll find him online as George V.K. He’s part of the Unbridled Media team, known collectively for their hip, all-American good looks and brilliant video productions. It’s not until you ask what the “K” stands for that you begin to know who he really is.
“Ko-tel-ni-kov” rolls off his tongue like he stepped straight out of Dr. Zhivago, revealing something so obvious I wonder how in the world I missed even the slightest hint of an accent. I repeat the name back to him, thinking it will be easy after clarifying whether kov has more of a hard f or soft v sound. It turns out to be neither, and I’m not even close. As he pronounces it again for me, I notice that all the consonants sound soft and smashed together, making it clear that his name will never roll off my tongue the way it rolls off his.
Russian. Creative. Positive. Experiential. Present.
Russian is his native tongue, originating from a place both far away and deep within. So much a part of who George Kotelnikov is, in fact, that when we sat down to talk about what it means to “know and be known,” I was completely drawn into that place with him. Deep in the familiarity of a kindred heart. Lost in the foreignness of his beloved homeland. Mesmerized by the lovely language that captures its essence…and his.
What did you want to be when you were a kid, and what do you still dream of doing and being today?
As a kid, I loved architecture. Later, I realized it was design more than building that I loved, so I moved toward graphic design and Web design. I started freelancing around 13 after moving to the U.S. Today, my passion is film narrative and cinematography. My dream is to be director of photography for independent films that impact the world.
Share a life lesson you’ll never forget that will benefit all of us.
My grandpa had a saying I heard repeatedly growing up: “I am here and now.” It was his life philosophy. The idea of being in the moment, fully present and positive. I especially love the phrase in Russian. I have it on my website, and plan to tattoo it on my arm in honor of his influence in my life. He modeled the life I aspire to live, and I can only hope to offer my own children and grandchildren even a fraction of the inspiration and legacy he left me.
Being Russian is a huge part of who I am, and staying connected with my family there is a high priority for me. I remember the “culture shock” when I first arrived here. A spectacle of sights and sounds. The movie version of “the land of opportunity.” I still believe it is, and even though my view of it is more realistic now, I’m very grateful for all the benefits of living in America and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. At the same time, I never want to lose my native tongue or certain Russian customs. Like shaking hands. In Russia, it’s considered rude not to shake hands with all the men in the room. Not as a formality, but more as a gesture of respect and regard. I miss that. Another custom I’d like to hold onto is meeting friends and family inside the airport when they come to visit…with flowers in hand.
What keeps you awake at night (real or imagined fears and anxieties), and who do you tell?
Anticipation of new experiences causes some anxiety for me. Also finances and providing for my family. I tend to internalize things, and don’t naturally ask for advice or help. Have always felt like I had to figure things out for myself. I was taught as a child to keep things to myself. When my mother decided to leave Kazakhstan, I wasn’t allowed to tell my friends, or even say good-bye. I got pretty good at masking my feelings. I’m learning to change that, though…thanks to my girlfriend. She helps me be more observant and less reactive. I had a heart-to-heart with Mike recently, and that was a brand new experience for me. It felt really good to have such open and honest conversation with my boss.
Name one thing we might be surprised to know about you (a secret talent, out-of-the-ordinary experience).
Other than being a Russian immigrant and hip-hop dancer…I guess it would be that I don’t like guacamole. Or avocados. It’s a texture thing. My American friends find it hard to grasp. For those who don’t already know, I emigrated to the U.S. when I was 11…from Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I was a competitive ballroom dancer (two 1st-place medals and a 3rd). Ballroom is still my first love, but these days you’re more likely to find me pop ‘n locking instead.
How do you show the people in your life that you value them?
Through a mutual respect and love for the individuality of each person. There’s something very honoring to me about the creative contributions people make to a collaborative project.
What have you done that you’re most proud of and hope to be remembered for as your legacy?
Making 3 feature-length films since completing my degree in Theater, Film, and TV from CU-Denver. I want to leave a legacy through the art of meaningful film narrative.
When was the last time you reconsidered the possibility that a forgotten dream could still come true?
When Unbridled Media called to offer me this job. It wasn’t forgotten exactly, just pushed aside…and I knew I couldn’t let it slip away. Transitioning from freelance to full-time here reawakened the dream and has opened doors to brand new possibilities.
In your 6 months at Unbridled, what has been one of your most defining moments?
The LPL shoot. It was my first big Unbridled project. Everything about it was defining…collaborating with Joe and others so much older and experienced, wowing the client during the preview of the reel, and the response from the live audience during the event. It was everything that describes my happiest moments in life.
When are you happiest in your life, and why?
When things come together in a perfect, collaborative force. Like on a film set when thoughts and feelings converge. That moment when people, factors, and circumstances click in a way that brings a super-awareness of the harmony and perfection of it all.