He recently moved to LA from Greece and in a short amount of time accomplished many things. Constantinos Isaias talked to us about the last short film he directed “Sacred Whispers”, the important collaboration he had with famous singer Alexia Vassiliou and also shared with us his experience so far working in the American film industry.
Tell us about the short film you recently directed “Sacred Whispers”.
Sacred Whispers is short Film-Noir, which i completed last fall.
Its subject matter is racism, discrimination and the non-acceptance of differentiality and how, due to their upbringing, religion, family, environment, one may be transformed into a “Monster” Racist.
I strongly believe that no one is born a racist instead they are molded into, formed into one by the system.
The film takes place in the 40’s and in the beginning of the 60’s, during the “Terrorism Era” as an African-American friend of mine mentioned, a horrible time during which many people lost their lives, revolting for “Acceptance”. Unfortunately this still goes on today, there are still people who have to deal with racism on a daily basis.
I have been Inspired to create this movie by my many and wonderful African-American friends and one friend in particular, Hussein Davies. Through their stories and through a need of mine to always travel in time and to recreate fragments of a different era, since I love the classic films and all the great directors who i carry within like a compass, I began writing from my own perspective. The core of the film is dark, beautiful, and mysterious with the temptation of the forbidden just like the ambiance of the Film Noir of that era.
I had a clear board, a palette of black and white and many tools, so i created “Sacred Whispers”. It will soon be available in iTunes for rental.
You were recently on the set of Desperate Housewives. Tell us a little bit about that.
“Desperate Housewives” is one of most favorite TV shows. I like it so much because it depicts an idea of how 50’s America was, that comme il faut attitude, that of “appearances”. Of course that era of “smiling to be pleasant and accommodating, polite”, began as a wave, as a trend after the 2nd World War and it served in essence as some kind of a mask, a façade to cover the pain of the internal chaos of the houses and of the families.
Something similar takes place in the Desperate Housewives’ story of today. So, when i came to Los Angeles, somehow in a totally serendipitous, magical way I came close to situations, habitats and people I have always admired. This is how this energy brought me near the people of this show. My friends and I had gone to a house party invited by the actress Amy Chaffee. All of a sudden, Felicity Huffman along with some other actors from the show appeared and we began to play Charades! Later on i found out that i had been in the house of Larry Shaw, one of the producers and directors of the show!
Thanks to Larry, i was able to visit the Desperate Housewives’ set, last year for the first time.
I was thrilled by the work ethics i was exposed to on set; by the way they all work as a family there. This year i had the chance to revisit the Desperate Housewives’ set not as a visitor but as an apprentice or as they say here: “the shadow of the director”, David Grossman and to observe his work and how he directs a whole episode, knowledge and information i find of great value. I was impressed by their sense of professionalism. I met and became friends with 3 Greeks who work there:
Agamemnon Andriano (production sound mixer), Anastasia Halax (Marcia Cross’ make-up artist) and Charles Skouras (producer).
During my visit at the set, the topic of conversation was often the news in Greece and what will happen in the future. Everyone was deeply concerned.
Alexia’s spiritual support and her participation in my film “Sacred Whispers” is one of the greatest gifts! Alexia acted, sang, and composed the music for the soundtrack of the movie, which has recently been released worldwide through iTunes. Alexia is a unique individual, full of light and love, a positive force. What impressed me the most when i first met her, was the fact that she spoke and gave of her love to everyone, with the same smile and with her eyes reflecting Joy and Trust.
I remember the housekeepers at the hotel where Alexia used to live when she first moved to Los Angeles, as well as the waiters and people in general from every walk of life and from every part of LA, who would all run to her, so that they would receive and share some of her love. Not many people have this charisma, to be so loved, so genuinely, so deeply, and so effortlessly. The same love for film and for music and the same values and beliefs, led Alexia to Los Angeles just a month after i arrived.
Our acquaintance was most important for a deep spiritual bond. Working with Alexia is Inspiring and a source of creativity! Her Jazz Voice is a priceless, divine gift and she can mesmerize you when she sings. I have always believed that she is a great artist in everything that she has accomplished but when i began searching for music for my film and heard her latest album: Re-bE for the first time, my belief became more solid. Many of the songs and music Alexia composed for Re-bE, could very well become soundtracks here in Hollywood movies!
Alexia & I have collaborated in 2 short films Noir: “As a last Resort” & “Sacred Whispers” which I wrote and directed. I also directed Alexia’s EPK (electronic press kit), her medley at the closing ceremony of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and her new music video from Re-bE: “Must Save the Day”. The music video will be released worldwide on Xmas 2011. It’s also the theme song of “Sacred Whispers”.
What are some of the differences you noticed working in a film production in Greece comparing to working in a production in LA?
In Greece i had worked as assistant director for: ” Yparhoun antres kai antres” on Alpha TV channel and on “Lakis o glykoulis” on Mega TV channel.
I remember myself tending to many tasks simultaneously and I was doing many things that were not my responsibility. Even though I naturally had the need to learn as much as i could, constantly absorbing new experiences, working non-stop and organizing with the greatest of pleasure anything needed for each shooting.
Arriving in Los Angeles and attending the Desperate Housewives’ set, i realized that everything i had been doing in Greece, here it was common sense: each person had their own task and responsibility, instead of a haphazard and general: everybody does everything, type of thing.
Here there is thorough organization for each little detail. Everyone has their own post and they all work together for the general good, without unnecessary yelling or insults.
Here, it’s a fact that on set, the actor must never be exposed to any nervousness or anxiety or to let them see any production problems. The actor is there to act, to create something good. What i saw, is actors who come and rehearse their scene with the director and when this happens they leave, two other people, substitutes, stand at their place for the lighting and for anything else needed and the actors return only when everything is ready on set, for filming. They do not tire the actor out by making them do things they do not need to do.
Felicity Huffman stopped the filming for 30′ during a table reading with the director and the scriptwriter (who is always on set for whatever is needed), to correct the meaning of a scene. She believed that this scene evolution did not fit with her role sequence, which proves that she really cares about what she does and she deals with it utterly professionally. A table reading is also performed prior to the filming of any new episode. Everyone involved, from cast to director is present during the table reading. In the States there is more than one director in charge of a series, (with some exceptions). The director and the director of photography are different in each episode. When one is filming, the other prepares for the next episode, which is quite wise and which makes the whole thing very organized.
Another very important aspect is that there are unions for each profession, which do the job of protecting the actors and the crew, very well. Overtime is payed even if it is a minute over and a fine is paid if the break is not on time. The Desperate Housewives’ production has food available for the crew on set throughout the day because they believe that everyone works better with a content stomach. I also noticed that it does work.
One more very important issue from my years of experience in Greek productions is that of the extras; I remember that they used to come for filming without having any idea of acting or previous experience. In America the Union makes it mandatory to hire as extras, or supporting roles only professional actors who are in the Union, which instantaneously provides thousands of actors and actresses with work plus they are all professionals and so is the result! Whereas this unfortunately does not happen in Greece, resulting in thousands of talented actors who graduate every year, to remain without opportunities. It’s such a pity because in Greece we have so much passion in our heart, we have exellent actors, directors and talent with which we can create beautiful and unique works we lack however, organizational skills.