Alexis Varouxakis has come a long way (literally) to become a successful Hollywood producer. The Rome, Italy-born talent, whose parents are from Athens via way of Thessaloniki, Sifnos and Thassos, studied at London’s City University where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Masters in Arts Management. With an interest in film and television that stemmed from a young age, Varouxakis took his skills to the entertainment industry capital of the world: Los Angeles.
Since then, Varouxakis has produced a number of critically acclaimed feature films and commercials. In 2001, he founded Adrenaline Entertainment, a feature film and TV production company. His feature producer credits include “Dark Hearts,” and “Opa.” He was also a producer on “El Greco,” which won numerous international awards, including the Audience Award, Greek Competition Award, and Greek Union of Film and Television Technicians Award at the 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival.
His latest project, “The Answer,” which is currently in post-production, tells the spiritual journey of James Donald Walters (played by Greek-Australian actor Leonidas Gulaptis) after his meeting with Indian yogi and guru Paramhansa Yogananda. Also an author, Yogananda wrote the impactful book Autobiography of a Yogi, which inspired “The Answer,” and was the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ last gift to those who attended his memorial service in 2011.
Greek Reporter spoke with Varouxakis about the upcoming film, as well as his career, including how he got his start as a producer and what it was like to work with the late, great director Theo Angelopoulos.
Tell me about your latest film, ‘The Answer.’ What is it about?
AutobiographyofaYogi’The Answer’ tells the true story of James Donald Walters in his quest for truth, which took him from his birthplace in Romania to Switzerland and England, [and] as far as the United States, where in 1948 in Hollywood, he had the extraordinary meeting with Paramhansa Yogananda, the great Indian Master author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Young Donald — later Swami Kriyananda — is immediately accepted as a disciple, and so his amazing spiritual journey begins.
How did you get on board to produce it?
I line produced the shoot that took place in Los Angeles. My friend Dimitris Apostolou was the first assistant director and recommended me to the director and producer.
Filming took place in cities like Calcutta, Los Angeles, Nevada City and Bucharest. How did you determine the locations for where the film was shot?
All locations were scouted. We shot in and around Los Angeles, including the desert, which was a lot of fun and makes for incredible scenes.
Did you get to travel to Calcutta and Bucharest as well?
I wish I did, but I didn’t!
Why is this film so important for people to see?
It is based on a true story of a man seeking spiritual answers. That man ended up becoming a disciple of one of the most influential yogis of the twentieth century: Paramhansa Yogananda.
Where did your interest in working in the industry come from?
When I was younger, watching movies, I used to love the fact that watching them made me feel so many things – happiness, sadness, suspense, terror. After a while, I wanted to be able to create films so that I would be able to make people feel these emotions as well. But my Eureka moment was on the set of the first film I ever worked on, Theo Angelopoulos’ ‘Eternity and a Day,’ where while watching a particular scene take shape before my eyes, I felt the sky open up and thunder strike me, and a chill ran throughout my body. At that moment, I knew that I would make films for the rest of my life; there was no other way for me, I was doomed.
How did you get your start producing films?
I started while studying Economics in London where I founded and became president of the university’s film society. This opened a whole new world for me. While still at the university, I initially thought I wanted to be an actor and director, but after attempting and failing miserably at both on a couple of productions, I realized that my natural talent was in making projects happen and bringing people together. With my passion for film, producing was the next logical step. After university, I started producing short films and slowly doing bigger projects.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
I love taking an idea or words, something that is intangible, and creating the right environment and circumstances that lead to that ethereal thing becoming a reality; something that not only becomes reality but also something that can touch so many senses like hearing, seeing and feeling. I also love the fact that as a producer, I get to be the shield and sword of a particular project, [and] that I get to deal with people at all levels from director to crew, to actor to lawyer to production assistant.
What else is your company, Adrenaline Entertainment, working on?
I am producing ‘Surviving the Cool,’ a feature set in the late ’50s Chicago, based on the life of Chet Baker and Miles Davis. I am also producing another feature that will be announced soon, which is a really powerful and raw story. It has some great talent attached already. On top of that, I am also producing a short film by a visionary filmmaker and an executive producer who is an idol of mine. This will also be announced very soon.
Watch Swami Kriyananda talk about his film. The interview was filmed before “The Answer” started production. Swami Kriyananda passed away on April 21, 2013.
For more on “The Answer,” visit the film’s official page.