by Joseph Proimakis
10/05/2010 - Being the producer of Dogtooth [trailer, film focus] is pretty much all the calling card you need in the film world these days, but Yorgos Tsourgiannis also has a UK degree and an Italian EMAM Masters in Audiovisual Management on his wall. Along with numerous TV commercials and films under his belt, and massive production experience as head of film production in up-and-coming Greek company Boo Productions. Last year was clearly his launching pad for what seems to be a bright career in the film industry, and European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move initiative is going to ensure that by selecting him and his work to be featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: After an exceptional run beyond domestic borders, your work with Dogtooth was acknowledged by the Hellenic Film Academy with five major awards. What does that mean for a Producer on the Move?
Yorgos Tsourgiannis: To have the film also be recognized in Greece by our peers means a lot because these were the first awards given by the newly found HFA. The HFA carries heavy symbolism, as the culmination of ideas of a self-organised people’s movement, in this case the filmmakers of Greece protesting the corrupt State Awards and pressing for a new film law.
How has being the producer of a film as successful abroad as Dogtooth affected your work so far as a producer with an eye for European co-productions?
It certainly has opened up many communication channels and allowed the creation of networks of collaborators. It becomes easier to talk to people and it is easier to have them listen to you. This is particularly important when coming from Greece, which has traditionally low audiovisual output and a not very big co-production culture. It has been a particularly good year for Greek film, with strong titles such as [Panos] Koutras' Strella [trailer], [Filippos] Tsitos' Plato’s Academy [trailer, film focus] (finalist of the LUX Prize 2010 of the European Parliament) and Lanthimos' Dogtooth, which won awards at big festivals and put Greece back on the map. And there is more to come.
You are now a member of the HFA. What would you propose the Academy do to help Greek producers cross borders?
There are many training initiatives going on in Europe. Many co-production markets, script development workshops and active networks and people everywhere use them. The HFA can act as an information hub for Greek producers, as well as a liaison between Greek producers seeking European partners and vice versa. Finally, I believe that it can play a crucial part in pressing the government for a complete reform on film education in Greece. But I think the HFA is on to all of this.
How do you feel the local film industry will be affected by the current toxic economic situation?
I don't like the fact that the Greek economy had to get to that position before we decided to do something. The situation will certainly put a lot of pressure on state funding and inevitably competition for it will become much stronger. But this need not mean doom. Projects will have to be developed more thoroughly as more and more funding will be sought in the private sector, and that could lead to better films being made. It should also encourage co-productions both locally and most importantly internationally. Other countries are in the same position too.
What has your experience been like as a Producer on the Move so far?
I have already received profiles and example work of peers. I am excited about the possibility of being a part of a developing dynamic network with people I share vision and tastes in film. Along with most European producers, I see co-productions as the only viable solution for quality and competitive European films. I am quite looking forward to meeting my peers in Cannes.
What else are you up to?
I‘m developing three feature films by three very different and very particular filmmakers for Boo Productions: the debut feature of Babis Makridis, L, which just received MEDIA funding; the fourth feature of award-winning director Christos Voupouras, entitled Seven Kinds of Rage; as well as the feature debut of Michalis Kostantatos, Luton, which has been selected to participate in Cinelink 2010. All of them are intended as co-productions.