The Greek filmmaker Marianna Economou's childhood dream was to become a shepherd. However, when Marianna was ten, her father acquainted her with a camera. He showed the future director how to take photographs with their old Rolleiflex. She remembers: "Suddenly a new amazing world opened up for me. Since then I have always carried a camera and documented everything happening around me. I realized early on that the camera was a great excuse to get close to people and situations."
When Marianna was a teenager, she came across the National Geographic magazine that could only be received by subscription in Greece. She was mesmerized by the images and articles concerning different cultures, societies and people. Therefore, the director made the decision to study Anthropology at the University College London (UCL), as there was no opportunity to take such a course at a Greek university. Marianna says: "As I became more and more interested in the discourse with regard to visual representations, I also decided to study Photojournalism at the London College of Communication and Video Production at the South Thames College in order to find a practical expression and application of all the things I had learnt in Anthropology."
All three disciplines at three different colleges were extremely interesting, very useful and complementary to one another in Marianna's point of view. She believes that they gave her very important skills and tools for further development. The director comments: "They opened my eyes to the world, satisfied my curiosity and widened my interests. They established a good basis in the field of social sciences and visual representation. It is difficult to tell which one was my favourite. Anthropology widened my horizons and offered me a method of analysis and understanding. Photojournalism taught me how to get closer to events and people and how to tell stories visually. Video production gave me some important technical skills and introduced me to the magic of editing." In general, Marianna spent nine very creative and efficient years in England studying and working as a photojournalist for British magazines. However, after that, she decided to move back to Greece for personal reasons.
Getting the chance to work with documentaries
Marianna used to work as a photojournalist but she always had the desire to be involved in filming as well. She just didn't know how to start. One event gave her that unique opportunity. Marianna says: "I was in Athens and one day my friend mentioned that a British producer was coming to Greece to scout for filmmakers for a European documentary series for the BBC and ARTE. I asked my friend if I could come to the first meeting just to sit quietly in a corner and listen to the presentation. I remember being so excited listening to the producer, talking about storytelling and how to be a one-person crew." The director also remembers that - probably out of politeness as she thinks - the producer asked her to show her portfolio which was mostly full of street photography and portraits. He then turned around and asked whether Marianna would like to try out filming. She couldn't believe it and of course, she agreed!
The producer handed Marianna a small digital camera, showed her some basic technical stuff about shooting and sound and she started to do her first documentary. She says: "I owe everything to this man who saw something in my photography and took the risk with me. Since then I haven't stopped making documentaries and my passion for this cinematic genre grows day by day. I love the shooting process and the magic of editing.”
Now Marianna is a member of the European Film Academy. In order to be a member, a filmmaker needs to have at least one film nominated for an award. It is a great honour for her to be a part of the film community and to have the chance to watch and vote for the best European film every year. Marianna says that being a member of the Academy gives you some extra recognition and perhaps benefits when applying for funds.