Interview: Giovanis Brothers Direct Ensemble Cast in ‘Bereave’

Evangelos and George Giovanis shooting a scene with Malcom McDowell for 'Bereave.'
Evangelos and George Giovanis shooting a scene with Malcolm McDowell for ‘Bereave’

Evangelos and George Giovanis have been making films since they sold their pizza business years ago to support their love and talent for directing. The brothers’ first feature, “Land of Nod,” won the Digital Alexander Award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. The film that followed, “Run It,” had its own successful “run” at film festivals around the world, and garnered many nominations and wins.

Their latest project, “Bereave,” took seven years to make and has been well worth the wait. With an ensemble cast that includes legendary actors Malcolm McDowell, Keith Carradine and Jane Seymour, alongside Greek talent like Chris Papavasiliou, Anthoula Katsimatides and Helena Charbila, the story centers on a fatally ill man who thinks he’s figured out how to die alone but must live to save his beloved wife when she goes missing on their anniversary. The film also features a predominantly Greek crew, including “Hercules” screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos, who served as associate producer, cinematographer Akis Konstantakopoulos, and composer George Kallis.

As the duo put the final touches on “Bereave,” Greek Reporter caught up with the Giovanis Brothers to talk about the lengthy process it took to make the film, how they managed to put together an all-star cast, and they also shared some very interesting stories that occurred on the set.

What is the story behind ‘Bereave’?
I was interested in telling a story about loss. This life is so beautiful and we just don’t know how to quit it when the time comes. We are all aware of the bereavement that naturally occurs when we lose a loved one, but I am also fascinated in how the dying man mourns the loss of life as well. That perspective opens up a lot of psychological vistas to walk through.

How long did it take to complete the film?
Evangelos Giovanis wrote ‘Bereave’ in 2007. So it has taken us seven years to make this film. Most of that time was spent trying to raise the funds. We started the shoot for 18 days on January 13, 2014.

You started a crowdfunding campaign to get ‘Bereave’ going. What was the process like?
Crowdfunding is extremely time consuming, demanding and unpredictable. In our seven years of trying to finance our film and ‘almost’ making it on three different occasions — all of which fell just short for various reasons — we decided crowdfunding was our only remaining option. We were just tired of hearing financiers tell us we need to step down as directors because we were ‘unknowns,’ or that we needed to make drastic changes to our script; things we weren’t willing to do.

Our greatest hope was that we could convince a legend — and our leading man — such as Malcolm McDowell to shoot a video with us and try crowdfunding…be a part of that. Turns out his love for ‘Bereave’ was so great that he didn’t have to think hard about it.

How much did the crowdfunding page raise?
We managed to raise $103,500 in a month – all against the odds. We were a team of two people  — my brother and I — running the campaign, and we worked 24/7. Only 128 film and video campaigns of about 30,000 in the history of Kickstarter had ever raised over $100K; that is roughly .001%. Herculean task. It was extremely rewarding to make our goal; silenced many of the sourpusses and killjoys we had to deal with, as we tried to fulfill the lofty ambitions of making an independent, drama film such as this one for seven years. Can’t count how many people told us we’d fail.

Those funds made everything real. People take you more seriously when you have a chunk of the financing in the bank. It was also proof of sorts that people were interested in our film.

The cast includes legendary actors like Malcolm McDowell, Jane Seymour and Keith Carradine. How did you get them to sign on for the film?
A mutual friend, George Stephanopoulos, [the executive producer] on ‘Bereave,’ who had worked with Malcolm in the past, introduced us. Malcolm and his manager loved the script and signed on. We went about another year-and-a-half trying to find the money.

Jane Seymour Malcolm McDowell Bereave
Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour

We eventually sent the script to Jane Seymour, via Malcolm McDowell’s suggestion. She read it and loved it as well. So we were in the very fortunate position of having cast our leads. Jane introduced us to Oscar winner Keith Carradine and he loved the script as well. As you can tell, it was the strength of our script that really helped us get such a stellar cast. After we did the Kickstarter campaign and the remaining budget came in, we hired a casting director to fill the rest of the roles. The casting director brought us amazing additional talent in Mike Starr, Vinessa Shaw, Mike Doyle, Rachel Eggleston and others.

Any interesting stories that happened on-set?
We had the typical on-set stories of struggle, hardship, long hours, problems and stress. But we overcame these things. Every day offered a touch of all these emotions. We had a drunken thug try to shake our crew down for money, we had rain stop one of our shoots and destroy our lighting set up, we had generators that malfunctioned, we had the asphyxiating pressure of producing a film with a small crew… and you get the picture. But we also shared a lot of laughs. Everyday we made sure to laugh.

Malcolm is such a vibrant personality that it really helped us share laughs. I found out he is extremely passionate about Liverpool. They were playing an important game one morning and Malcolm asked if we could bring a TV to the set. Unfortunately, we had no TV or cable set up at this vacant apartment we were shooting in, so we reworked his schedule and arranged for him to watch the game with a neighbor who had a very huge TV. That all didn’t work out when Malcolm heard the neighbor was a Manchester United fan…He watched it at a pub! And yes, Liverpool won.

What’s the plan for ‘Bereave’ once it’s completed?
The plan is to acquire a reputable sales agent and start selling territories. We also intend to submit to reputable film festivals and introduce our film to the world. We are currently working on our second cut and expect to be done no later than the end of May.

For more on “Bereave,” visit Facebook.com/Bereave.Malcolm.McDowell.


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