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tisdag 30 april 2013

ALESSANDRO SPILIOTOPULOS: "my favorite scenes were all those that involved artificial rain"

Chances are you haven’t heard of Alessandro Spiliotopulos. But now you will. I recently interviewed the director of the featurette film entitled “RAINY DAYS”. The basic plot of the film centers around homelessness and the director talked about what inspired and motivated him to make this movie , he also talked about his experiences working with this exceptional cast and how it feels to be behind camera. Continue reading the Alessandro Spiliotopulos interview and watch the trailer for he's short film below..

- Hello Alessandro! Thanks for doing this interview. To begin with, could you please introduce yourself?

First of all  Ι want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present “Rainy Days – Meres Vrohis”, our movie! To answer your question, I’m Greek-Italian, I was born in Italy, in beautiful Sardinia, and I grew up in Patras, Greece. Since then I have lived in many places and I feel blessed for that. Before getting involved with movies, I was doing B&W photography, ever since I was a kid, actually. Prior to my studies in Directing & Screenwriting I got a university degree in Electrical Engineering & Telecoms. Cinema and arts aren’t my only passion, I like quite many other things, like sports, traveling, meeting people, etc.

- You are directing a featurette film (ed.: “featurette” is called a film that lasts between 20 and 45 mins approx.) called «Rainy Days». Can you tell us what it is about?

Yes, quite right, it’s a featurette film! Although one can not tell the exact length until the editing process is over, we believe it will last between 25 and 30 mins. This film deals with the issue of homelessness. I would say that, for some or for most of the western countries and societies this is not a new problem, but for the Greek society it is indeed a new phenomenon, at least in the extent we see it lately evolving in all Greek big cities. More specifically, in this film we refer, in a subtle and “cinematic” way, to the issue of new-homelessness, the wave of homeless people who just some months or years ago were “ordinary people”, but under the pressure of the financial crisis ended up in the street.

- What inspired you to make this film?

Well, it was a series of reasons that led Simos Ikonomidis, the screenwriter, and me, to make this movie. One was the crisis, which is not only financial, unfortunately, but also a political and social one, that Greece has been facing for quite some years, and our desire to express our feelings about the difficulties many of our fellow countrymen have been experiencing during this period.  Another motivation was the issue of homeless people. When Simos brought it up, in one of our long conversations, I was enthusiastic about the idea to deal with this issue, as I have worked in the past with homeless people as a volunteer and I’m kind of sensitive about it. So I was more than happy when we decided to focus on that aspect!

- How is the shooting going so far? Where did you film and how long is the production process?

Shootings are going very well, and I’m glad about that, although the challenges were, and still are, many. That’s common, of course, in a production, and part of the job description is to always find ways to overcome these difficulties. Especially when you do no-budget films, it is mandatory that you learn to deal and overcome them. The writing phase was quite long, more than 6 months, while the pre-production phase lasted approximately 2 months. The shootings in total will last one month. Of course we don’t shoot for the whole month, every day. Again, when you make a no budget film, you have to be flexible, even about the shooting schedule!

- Do you have any favorite scene?

Well, I won’t say the cliché that all of them are my children, so I like all of them the same! My favorites, in terms of emotions, are probably the two scenes where Panaghiotis Mpougiouris and Zacahrias Rohas cry, which have already been shot. Of course when you are behind the camera, you have to stay a bit detached, but I can tell you I felt everything these two magnificent actors were giving to the camera and to the audience, in their “personal” moments of the movie.
From a technical point of view, my favorite scenes were all those that involved artificial rain, out in the streets, as they were difficult, were planned long ahead and needed a big effort and team work involving many people, all of whom were absolutely fantastic!

- Tell us about your directing method. Do you shoot on the go or do you plan meticulously? 

Well, I think it is something in between these two “extremes”. On one hand I try to plan and predict all what is possible to plan and I like rehearsing with the actors, as in rehearsals you lay the “foundations” for the film. But, on the other hand, I like letting some things “open”, in order to decide them on set. Of course, I have a plan on my mind even for that, ‘cause there’s no “real” improvisation in our business, and if there was, it would be incredibly expensive, but at least I let some things or details “open”, having in mind the possible solutions, and adopting the most suitable at the moment, according to the whole picture, which in my opinion is complete only some moments before you are ready to go for “action”!

- What is your biggest challenge shooting?

Well, I have to say that the word “shooting” itself contains, or rather is, a big, huge challenge, so I would need many-many pages in order to describe all of them! But that’s what we all like in this business, I guess, the adrenaline!

 - How did you go about casting? Was casting a long process?

Well, casting was indeed a relatively long process, as we paid particular attention to it. I was so lucky to have Kostas Kountouris as casting director of the film. With professionals like him everything becomes easier for the director! You explain to him what you want, and not only he comes up with great suggestions, but also with ideas that bring the whole thing further! Of course, this is what movie making is all about? different specialists bring in their talents and skills, in order to achieve the highest possible result, which of course is impossible to be achieved by one person or just a few people dealing with a multitude of tasks.

- So, you worked with four actors, a relatively small number. How is it working with famous actors like Panaghiotis Mpougiouris and Zacharias Rochas?

Well, for a featurette film, I wouldn’t say it is a small cast. Of course, there’s no such thing as a “recipe” for the number of actors, as everything depends on the script, but very often films of that length have fewer main actors. Apart from these four principal roles, we had three more actors involved in the shootings for secondary characters and a few extras as well.
My collaboration with Panaghiotis and Zacharias, as well as with Christine Gerogiannis and Andreas Marianos, who are also great and well known actors, was very good, or better say excellent! Usually people outside the business tend to think that it is harder to work with well known actors, but, although I don’t like to categorize people, as each one of us is special and unique, I can tell you that very often the case is the opposite! They make the director’s life easier, since usually they have great experience and are quicker to follow instructions. What’s more, they come up with their own ideas and suggestions, always of course inside the general “track” and guidance that the director and its vision provides.

 - How do you manage to make films in the middle of the crisis? What was the budget for the film? 

Well, that’s a good question. Funding and sponsorship nowadays has become quite hard, almost impossible, in Greece. That’s sad, but what can you say, when hospitals and schools, to mention only two examples, are suffering tremendous cuts on their budgets? On the other hand, culture, i.m.o., should be third in rank, right behind these vital sectors (health and education), as we know that culture is as well critical for a nation and its mental and psychological welfare. The budget of the movie would be approximately 30K €, but considering that all the people involved in it are working pro bono, we managed to keep it down to something less than. 1K, for equipment, food, transportation etc. In order to cover these expenses, we launched an indiegogo campaign.

- Please tell me more about this Indiegogo campaign and what you think about crowdfunding.

Well, as I said, it is a way for us to cover the expenses of the movie, at least a big part. I must say that I didn’t know much about crowdfunding before this project, this is the first time I use it for a movie of mine. Initially I was skeptical about it, but when my collaborators explained to me what it is about and how it works, I appreciated it and together we decided to make use of it for our movie. One of the things I like the most, is that it gives you the freedom to handle the project as you like. In a way, it’s a very democratic way of doing movies, as you expose your ideas and aims to people and they spontaneously decide either to contribute or not. In all other forms of filmmaking, first you have to estimate and invest in advance and only after the audience is “invited to participate” after the film is completed.
At the moment we reached a critical point, as our campaign has only one week left and our goal is still far away. So, please share the link with your readers, in order to support our campaign and film and spread the word around!
(ed. note:  www.indiegogo.com/projects/rainy-days-a-short-film/x/2713086  )

- What kind of short films do you like?

Well, to me this question is equivalent to “what kind of films do you like”, as to me a short film is not a genre by itself; the length doesn’t, or shouldn’t, determine the content and qualities of a movie. But even the latter question I can’t really answer, as I like too many kinds and genres of films. In few words, if I have to give an answer, I would say that I like films that “have something to tell you”, that touch you emotionally, push you to think or reconsider some aspects of life or society, films that open a window, at least for some minutes or a couple of hours, to other people’s thoughts and lives.

- Two questions related to the film's title: Have you shot some scenes under rain? And how did you decide on the title 'Rainy days'?

It may sound paradoxical, but we didn’t shoot any scene under rain. Moreover, one day that we had externals and it started raining, we paused shooting until the rain was over! There are some technical impediments which make shooting under rain quite hard, especially for a small production like ours. Generally speaking, in moviemaking we try to have everything under control, so we prefer renting a water wagon and being able to plan everything, rather than performing the “rain dance” and hoping it will rain!
About the title, it was the screenwriter’s idea and I immediately liked it, as it sets the whole atmosphere we wanted for the movie and, at the same time, it is not too “revelatory”. Additionally, on a second level, it depicts not only our heroes’ struggles, but in a way also the actual struggles that the whole country is going through. 

- What is very unique in this featurette film and who are the target audience?

Well, each and every film is unique, or at least should be! (loughs) Like people, each film has its own life. So, once we manage to give it its own life, we hope it will be a film for each and every one, as it has no specific target group. This is an interesting point about fiction:  I think that if a fiction film is good, then all people can find reasons and motivations to watch it and appreciate it. 

- What is next for you, what would you like to direct next?

Actually, although I don’t have time to think about anything else creative right now, at the back of my mind I have an excellent theatrical play, which I would like to direct and shoot, as it involves shootings too – in other words, a play that includes a film!

- When and where can we see your featurette film “Rainy Days”? When will it be released? Will it be released online as well?

Once we manage to overcome the last challenges and complete the movie, it should be ready in June 2013 and then we will send it to festivals around the world. As soon as the film is ready, a preview will be available for those whose contribution through Indiegogo entitles them to have the online premiere screenings. For an open online release, I think we will have to wait until the film has completed its tour to festivals, events and live screenings. So, I don’t think it will be open for the public online before 2014.
At this point, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the members of the cast and crew of “Rainy days”, who have worked and are still working so hard, in order for the film to be made! I can’t mention all of them now, as I guess we don’t have so much time, but I’d like to make an exception for our D.O.P. Panos Golfis, whose contribution is a real cornerstone for the realization of the film, both artistically-wise and technically-wise. 
And thank you so much, as well, for this lovely conversation and for giving us the opportunity to present “Rainy Days” to your readers! Our best regards to you and to our fellow Greek community there and all over the world!



Rainy Days - Μέρες Βροχής - Trailer 

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