A troublesome new set of orthodontics is just one of the factors that provoke a midair crisis for the flight attendant in this high-tension tragicomedy by Thanasis Neofotistos.
Hi Thanasis, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
Kalispera! Thank you for having me. All good and busy! Thankfully with positive, exciting news and things to do.
You are no stranger to film festivals with your previous short films premiering at Venice and winning multiple awards at Clermont-Ferrand (2019), do you still get nerves ahead of a festival screening or are you able to just relax now and enjoy the ride?
Yes, I am grateful because I have had my fair share of festival life with my work up until now. All my shorts have had a course that was very rewarding for me. Nonetheless, a festival screening, first of all the premiere of course, is as intense as it was the first time. It is one of the more complex and interesting experience in my life as an artist. It is as you are about to share a very intimate part of yourself with many stranger people. They can embrace it or maltreat it. It is, therefore, stressing, but at the same time it is quite liberating. Because once it is out there, it is almost as the film is not yours. The experience and your work belongs to the audience. It acquires a life by its own.
Congratulations on having Airhostess-737 selected in the Short Cuts Programme at TIFF 2022, what does it mean to you to be back at the festival with your latest short film?
Thank you so much!! Look, I am a creature of habit and I love creating film-festival families. I am really excited to see familiar faces I love! Also, I don't know if it gets any better than being chosen from the most important Northern American festival twice in a row. Who knows, maybe with an award (haha). It's a huge boost for me and apart from rewarding I hope it will create some conditions for me to network in a different continent. It is extremely difficult for European filmmakers.
How important are film festivals in providing a platform and space for short filmmakers to showcase their films?
Given the fact that short films don’t exactly have a great market and someone could not live from directing short films, festivals are even more important for shorts than for feature films. Without the festivals, I don’t know if we would have a platform to show our work and consequently to create them. Festival really gave short films the spotlight they deserved.
Can you tell me how Airhostess-737 came about, what was the inspiration behind your film?
Airhostess is a very intimate and personal film of mine. I have almost seen the entire movie in a dream. I woke up, overwhelmed I wrote down exactly what I have seen and from there to the final script it was a matter of fine tuning details and dialogues.
Airhostess-737 is co-written with your longtime writing collaborator Grigoris Skarakis, what are the secrets to such a long and creative writing partnership?
It is more complex and at the same time more beautiful than that because Grigoris is also my husband. He is a psychiatrist-psychotherapist and it started with me, on my early work, trying to understand more about my heroes, their motives, their feelings. Thats why he is not listed as a screenwriter in my previous films although he was there all the way. For him, it came very natural because his job is dealing with personal stories and listens to how people narrate their lives. As time went by, he really got into it and now he is very passionate about it! So its a win to win situation for both of us. It is a very strong, common ground for us.
Do you allow yourself and your cast much flexibility with your screenplay once you start shooting?
I use to shoot in long take shots so, in order for this to work, we have rehearsed them a lot. So the shooting is quite precise, most of the times. But in rehearsals we tend to revise the script on point, either because we see that something is not working as we have imagined it or because of what a certain actor is bringing on set. We always try to fit the dialogues to feel natural for the actor who is telling them. Lena Papaligoura, in particular, really elevated "Vanina" with things that she brought and were not written in the script.
What would you say has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the films/stories you want to make after filming Airhostess-737?
I knew it, but Airhostess confirmed it. I need for a story to speak to me in a personal level. Not to talk about me, but I need to be able to identify with things in the story because that is where my motive and my inspiration comes from. Also, we have a thing, with Grigoris, to put heroes that we love and feel very tender about them in awkward, emotionally challenging situations. To see how they react and how they manage their emotional world and what leads them to any kind of change. I love a sincere and authentic emotional story!
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Since I was a child. My dad is a cinema lover and inherited this passion to me. I made my first “movie” (like a movie) with dinosaurs when I was 8, after I saw “Jurassic Park”. And then I made a Medieval Period “film” when I was 13, with my friends. Quite ambitious and with zero reality control!
What have been the biggest changes to your filmmaking approach since your debut short film?
The change I can spot is that I am more aware and I think authentic to what I want to say with each story. I do not censor myself. Apart from that I think others are more suitable to answer this question.
How much has your background as an architect helped to inform how you create and make your film projects?
It has had a critical role in my identity as a cinematographer. First of all, being between science and art, architecture taught me how to organise my work and bring an initial inspiration to life. Also it helped me deal with limitations, in order not to be afraid of them but even take advantage of what they have to offer. Finally and maybe even more important, through architecture, I built a really strong relationship with the surrounding space. I feel that space is a character in my movies.
After making Sparkling Candles will you continue to use your platform to explore and sell stories from within the LGBTQ+ community?
Generally speaking my only agenda is to create authentic, artistically and emotionally impactful films. Being a proud member of the LGBTQI+ community, thus, means that of course I will continue exploring stories from within the LGBTQI+ community. It is a great deal of who I am, I have struggled with it in the past and I need to talk about it!
"... my artistic work should be, at all times, more important than my reputation. The reputation is to help me create more films!"
I hear you are working on your debut feature, are you able to tell us a little bit about this, do you have any apprehensions making a debut feature that is a personal coming-of-age story?
Yes and I am extremely excited about it. I’ve been working on my debut for almost seven years. It is called “The Boy with the Light-Blue Eyes”, formerly known as “Peter and the Wolf”. It is a coming of age story about a 16 y.o. boy living in a mountainous, superstitious village where the villagers are extremely afraid of blue eyed men. Unfortunately Peter is born with blue eyes and his mother hides it until his puberty with a piece of cloth around his eyes. When he will reach adolescence and through his friendship with an other boy, Peter will learn the truth and will have to make difficult decisions. As far as apprehensions I don’t have any, primarily because it is a story I need to tell and for me this is an essential criterion and also because I believe that in auteur cinema, all stories are one way or another, deeply personal. I only have apprehensions to make a good movie!
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
That my artistic work should be, at all times, more important than my reputation. The reputation is to help me create more films!
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer someone wanting to get into filmmaking?
That things are far from ideal but you need to ask yourself if you truly love it and if narrating stories feels like a necessity to you. If so, with very hard work and a great amount of luck, producing and sharing your work can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life.
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from Airhostess-737?
That it’s never too late for reconciliation with our loved ones!