by Joseph Proimakis
- Relatively new to producing but a veteran in the film world, Greece’s Producer on the Move is visiting Cannes with a streak of festival darlings
Having made the transition into the production circuit after a long run as an eclectic festival programmer at the Thessaloniki IFF, Konstantinos Kontovrakis’ short four-year stint in producing has already seen him reach the top of his game by making films that are constantly crossing borders and collecting accolades both abroad and at home. Wasted Youth became an instant international sensation after opening the Rotterdam IFF; Ektoras Lygizos’ debut, Boy Eating the Bird's Food [+see also:
film profile], peaked with a Best Film win at the Hellenic Academy Awards; and Standing Aside, Watching [+see also:
film profile] has been travelling around the globe following its Toronto bow, while making a stop to pick up the HFA’s Best Supporting Actor Award in April.
With three back-to-back films in three years, your producing credit seems to have become a brand with the capacity to open international doors. Does that give you an air of confidence heading into the Producers on the Move pool this year?
The idea of becoming a producer dawned on me in 2009, and I have been actively pursuing it for only four years; things have happened so fast that I often feel my world is moving faster than I can grasp. So, I still get cold feet when it comes to venturing into production, but I definitely don’t have any confidence issues about going to Cannes, if not as a producer, then certainly as a film professional. The first time I went to Cannes was in 2000; I was a very young and aspiring film critic, and I’ve only missed two festivals since, so it’s rather familiar grounds.
Your company is called Heretic, and film producing in Greece could easily have been considered a folly of heretic proportions in the recent past. Is that still the case, or have international co-productions made yours a viable profession in Greece?
International co-production cannot serve as a substitute for the lack of a solid financing system in your own country. Why would others trust you with their money (or other tax-payers’ money) if your own country doesn’t? In that sense, Greece has been - to put it mildly - not such a viable player. However, the Greek Film Center has managed to stay on our side with whatever means available. So, what we need to fight for primarily is not more money, but a steady, regular and trustworthy system, with people who know the international film world and understand its needs.
You are part of a younger generation of film producers who have been proven to be more than capable go-getters in attracting foreign funds to local productions. Do you think the local industry is now ready to capitalise on foreign interest by attracting foreign productions to Greece?
Unfortunately, it takes more than extrovert producers to attract foreign productions. Greece is a country with an abundance of great locations that everyone would love to shoot at. It also depends heavily on tourism. And yet, we still lack the infrastucture to host foreign productions: film offices, regional funds, tax incentives. It’s not magic, others have done it before; the business model is there, and it’s worked miracles. What you need is up-to-date and consistent policy making - but apparently, in Greece, that’s even harder to get than cash...
Although they have become a fixture in international festivals, Greek films are considered a boutique product when it comes to conventional distribution platforms. Do you see more viable options coming up?
It’s not just Greek films but world cinema in general that’s having a hard time entering the traditional distribution channels. The market has shrunk, simple as that, and the existing model is gradually becoming dated because the behaviour of the audience has changed irrevocably. We, as devoted film people, don’t like to admit it, but direct viewing is becoming the norm, online streaming is getting bigger, and we still operate on a system that fantasises about theatrical performance. I don’t claim to have the solution, but I am trying to experiment with alternative distribution models that are aimed straight at the audience. Technology provides us with the means to do it, and there is nothing to lose, so why not?
What are you up to next?
I’m completing the new feature film by Margarita Manda, ForEver, which is turning into a stunning love story, and wrapping the first Heretic international co-production, called The Sky Above Us [+see also:
film profile], a quiet drama about the NATO bombings in Serbia and the impressive debut feature by Marinus Groothof. Both at a festival near you very soon!