December 5, 2012

Interview: Konstantinos Frangopoulos

By MOFILM

Konstantinos is a talented director and graduate from London’s National Film & Television School.  Originally from Greece (the name maybe a slight give away!) Konstantinos has lived in London for a number of years now and is currently in the process of working on two feature length projects with a couple of the UK’s leading production houses.  His CV includes a number of well received short films, plus a longer piece Blackwater, which was shot as his graduation film from the NFTS.  Konstantinos was kind of enough to give up some of his time recently, in which we spoke to him about all manner of things film related!

We hope that you enjoy the results and once again many a thanks to Konstantinos for being so kind as to indulge our questioning, cheers dude!

Hey Konstantinos, to begin with maybe you could just tell us a little about your background and how you got into filmmaking?

Basically I like films as most people do – when I was growing up I realized that I wanted to not just watch them but make them too.

It took quite some time for me to get where I wanted… When I eventually made it to the National Film & Television school, when I was about 26, I realized what really made me want to make films is that its one of the few art forms that let you capture emotion in a very kind of direct way – both capturing them and then allowing you to present them to your audience.  I think film does this better than any other art form – which I didn’t know when I was a child, because I liked cowboys and you know spaceships… But ten years later I realized what it was that I liked about film!

I still like a lot of cowboy films… Westerns, I love Westerns, for me that was a really big inspiration growing up, I haven’t done one yet, but I’d love to do one at some point!

Did you have a camera at home when you were growing up?

 

I didn’t have a video camera.  I had a still camera and I took a lot of photos but eventually that began to frustrate me because I realized that what I really wanted was to capture moving images.  I used to take a lot of stills and put them together as collages but after a while I started to nag my parents to buy me a video camera…  Because I’d nagged them about other things, like to get me a guitar or a tennis racquet or whatever, they were a bit hesitant about it, in case it ended up in the cupboard like all the other things!  But eventually they got me a camera, an old Canon Hi8 and from then on I never let it from my sight.  I took it to school, took it when I went out, I’d use it constantly capturing everything…

While this was great, unless you can edit your footage can’t make a film, so I went back to my parents and told them now what I want is two video players!  And they were like okay… but eventually they said yes.  It was quite difficult to get the equipment in Greece at the time, you had to go to specialist shop, but I did my research and I found a Hi8 video player, and a VHS with a head that you could move frame by frame, so I was very happy.

So was at this point you were manually editing your films?

 

Yes this was manual.  Once I had that equipment, I realized I had everything I needed to make a film!  I went out with a couple of friends to a derelict old factory, what is now actually the new fine art school in Athens, and we did a chase film!  My friends were basically running around trying to kill each other, the old cowboy influence, and I shot it.   We ended up with, for what it was, quite a kind of stylish…you know… chase film!  It was ten minutes and it took me about three months to edit it, spending all my free time on it, and really that was the start.  From there on I knew I wanted to find out how to do it properly!

This took me to the London College of Communication, on to some work, then to the National Film & Television School and from there kind of to where I am today!

So after you worked out filmmaking was what you wanted to do, you studied at LCC, what did you do there?

 

It was a film and video degree, quite practical.  In Greece we didn’t really have good schools, so only speaking English, which is quite dominant anyway, I decided to come to London.  It was a good school.  We did quite a lot of theoretical and practical stuff.  At the beginning theory can be quite annoying, but when you actually start to understand what other people have done and why, it lets you contextualize what each director you really love is doing… It’s easier then to actually be influenced and learn from them.

They had some good teachers.  I got to know a lot of melodramas, films from the 50’s that I didn’t really know about before, people like Douglas Sirk.  This turned out to be quite a big influence for me, the way those guys were using mise-en-scène, the way they staged things and framed their shots…

When you’re young and have no money you can’t really do big car chases or that kind of stuff, so it’s good to learn how you actually stage a conversation between two people in a room.  If you go back to those older films, they’re really helpful, and I found that those influences have carried through.  When I shot Blackwater, my graduation film from the NSTF, that kind of stuff helped!  After the LCC I went back to Greece for a bit.  I wanted to work and it was easier at that time to find more creative work there, I wanted to start climbing up and you know be a director, so I went there and did some assistant work.

Are you glad you went through film school?  Do you think that to be a filmmaker you kind of have to go through that process?

 

No I don’t think you have to do it.  I think you need to find out what route is best for you.  What film school is good for is practical stuff – you’re there making films all the time.  You can’t learn filmmaking if you don’t make films!

I’m not saying people who don’t… you know in the French tradition there was that school of directors, who learnt from just reading and writing about cinema and they made amazing films!  So yes you can follow that kind of route, but usually you need to make, to learn.  If you can afford to go to a film school, I think that it can be easier to do that because you have to make films, the people around you push you to make stuff.  If you’re not at school you have to be disciplined and on top of that you have to find the money to make your films!   So I think if you don’t mind being told what to do a bit, and you can afford it, film school is a good route.  But if you don’t want any one to tell you anything, and you feel you can do it on your own, meaning you keep on making your own films regardless, then that’s great to, go for it!

Do you think it’s easy for a young person coming up today to break into filmmaking?  I’m thinking more now of the technology that’s available to people… when you started you said you were editing manually with a VHS player…do you think affordable equipment has opened up filmmaking?

 

I don’t think it’s opened filmmaking up in the sense that it’s become easier to get jobs that will pay the rent and let you get by.  Where it’s had an affect I think, is that its made it easier for a lot more people to make films, so you know allowed people from broader backgrounds to approach filmmaking.  Equipment being cheap is amazing!  You get many more films being made…

 

But does that mean more bad films…

 

Well yeah, but you know, I think that was always the case…

When you see people who might never have made a film before, do so now almost just because they can, I don’t think that that’s a bad thing.  Maybe from an audience point of view it’s not so great, if you have to watch bad stuff, but from a creative point of view, the more people out there making stuff the better! It’s better for everyone, it’s more open, more free.  With the Internet, anyone can post their stuff up and if people want to watch it great!  If not, well they don’t, that’s fine too!

 

I guess it works both ways… more films means more bad films, but cheaper technology and the internet also means great filmmakers who could never have afforded to make stuff before, or get it out there, now have the opportunity to!

 

Exactly.  What’s good about things today is there’s not so many people intervening, trying to tell you what’s bad and what’s good.  You make it, you post it.  It frees people up and in my opinion filmmaking will benefit from this.

Maybe as an audience you have to be cleverer now to find what you actually want, but that’s where things are moving.  With 4G technology coming up, you won’t really need ‘channels’ any more.  Either you’ll have to actively go out and find what you want, or you know, brands or whatever will come directly to you saying “Watch This”!  The future of broadcasting, especially in this country I think (UK), will see much more of a brand orientated kind of content, where the people who invest money in it, will want to make sure that their target audience is immediately aware of it.

That’s kind of interesting.  Do you think a more discerning audience, will make the people who invest in films have to think a bit more about what they’re producing?

 

I like to be a positive person, so you know for me every change I like to look for the good in it.  If you look beyond the ‘bad’ side of the whole internet thing, of companies knowing what we’re doing and buying online and so on, there’s another side that means that companies will be more sure to invest in individual content, because they know that people who might be buyers will definitely see it!  I’m not 100% in favour of what I’m going to say, but as I mentioned I’m trying to look at the positives…

Say you make a film and it costs 200 million or whatever and it goes out to however many of millions of screens throughout the world, the people who invest really have no control over this content, of who’s going to see it and when or how.  But say you know 8 million people throughout the world really like blue jeans and buy Levis, and Levis is putting money into specific content that they believe these people will like, they’ll be much more confident about their investment in making that film.

You have to be clever.  Art’s always needed sponsors, in the olden days it was the Church, then the King and now it’s brands.  As an artist you have to be thoughtful in making good use of these sponsors, to be able to make criticisms and make people think within the parameters you’re working in.  You should always aim to create content that’s creative and thought provoking, but you have to keep in mind that there’s a balance.  We all need money and there will always be a sponsor involved somewhere, whether it’s the State or commercial groups or whatever…

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