Case Study: Patision Avenue Yanni’s mum is on her way to audition for a role as Shakespeare’s Viola, when she discovers that her son has been left home alone.
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Case Study: Patision Avenue

Yanni’s mum is on her way to audition for a role as Shakespeare’s Viola, when she discovers that her son has been left home alone.

Thanasis Neofotistos is a film director from Athens, Greece. Alumnus from Berlinale Talents 2016. He initially studied Architecture (DUTh) and afterwards continued by studying Film Directing (QMU/AMC) and Acting (AKMI). One of his characteristic assets, Scenography, is an influence from his studies. ‘PROSEFHI: Greek School Prayer’, was his dissertation and has already been selected by several important international film festivals (21st Encounters, 26th Sao Paulo, 23rd Raindance IFF, 35th Munich SchoolIFF etc). In Greece it won the 1st prize (Golden Dionysus Award) at the 37th Drama ISFF, as well as other significant distinctions (Best Sound, Golden Odysseus, Nomination at Greek Film Academy). His latest short is a documentary called ‘POGONISKOS’ and won the Best Documentary Award at the 38th Drama ISFF.

“A director needs to be authentic and trust their instincts and feelings, but at the same time they should work on being able to receive constructive criticism.”

13 maart 2019

A road of opportunities

Patision Avenue is one of the main roads of Athens! One day I was walking down the road to go to my film class, when I saw a well known director that I wanted to talk. I said hi, but he didn’t stop and he was walking the other way. I chose to walk next to him, in order to keep talking to him. He still didn’t stop. I walked a while and I missed my filmmaking class! Then I realized that I didn’t gain anything from him and I also missed my appointment.”

“After I saw the final film though, I understood that this film was utterly about my mother, who I felt had other priorities, and I feel like I am the kid on the other line of the phone somehow, trying to call her to get back to me.”

Rehearsing a one-take

“The other screenwriters and I worked on the script for almost 2 years. The project was selected in Nisi Masa ESP 2016 and there with the tutors and professionals we ended up in the final narrations. We wrote 3-4 drafts. Of course when we found the protagonist, Marina, and we started rehearsing at the location, the script got clear influences by her personality.”

“But then we had to practice all the other details. Fortunately the film is a one long take shot, so there was not a shot list or anything. The difficulty was the random events that take place in a crowded area of Athens. Passengers, cars… any random thing that we couldn’t control. That’s why we had to be so well prepared, to diminish the chances of a mistake. I was rehearsing with my protagonist (Marina Symeou) and my Crew and DOP for almost 3 months. Marina eventually new every rock on the pavement of that area in Patision!”

“We were walking and walking repeatedly in this area in Patision, so the time between rehearsals were only a few seconds sometimes. Then my DOP came to rehearse his camera work, which was handheld, and after lot of work, the main actress and DOP had the same pace and rhythm. On the other side of the phone, my AD was talking live with Marina all the time.“

Crowd control

“The production company allowed me to create this film in full trust, and they didn’t interfere in my visual aesthetics. We have created a trustworthy relationship. During the production preparation, it was hard, since we only had 2 days of shooting, and I needed one of the two to make a good final rehearsal with the extras. The extras were around 70 people. But we couldn’t control the random crowd on the streets 100%. That’s why I wanted one day of rehearsals and we made it. In the meantime between the final rehearsal and the last day, with my editor, we studied the material in order to find its flaws. And one week later, we went back to the streets again to shoot the final shot. We only had one opportunity to shoot it, since all we wanted was the film to feel authentic. Also, during the long take we aimed for the sun to change from day to night, so we didn’t have time to go back and shoot again! So one long take shot, shot once!”

Important decisions

“Fun fact: at the end of the script, the protagonists enters the audition; we also shot this part during the production. But after a lot of work in progress screenings, feedback and 2 months of working in edit, we decided to cut the entire interior sequence which was 2 minute long! That was the hardest choice to make. Harder than deciding if it would be a long take shot.”

“One extremely important part was the sound of the film, which was all live sound without any libraries; the other was the art direction, the costume of the protagonist and her back which you have to look at for 10 minutes continuously.”

A rough start at the festivals

“The most anxious moment after that, one year later, was the festival premiere. After it had been rejected from Berlinale and Cannes, I didn’t expect that Venice would choose it. But that happened, and then a domino effect started with Clermont-Ferrand film festival and the winning of 3 awards out of 6 there! Of course a Sales Agent worked on the festival circuit of the film. He saw it in a work in progress screening and he believed in it a lot.”

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