December 12, 2012

Interview: Konstantinos Frangopoulos Part 2

By MOFILM

Following up from last week, here then is the second part of our interview with director Konstaninos Frangopoulos. We talk a little bit about funding and the changes that the industry has been going through recently, thanks once again to K for taking the time to speak to us, check out his work, it’s great!

Have you ever looked in to organizations like Kickstarter?  Thought about trying to launch a project that way?

I have, but the projects that I’m currently working on are a bit bigger than would be suitable for that kind of platform, at least personally I just don’t think they’d benefit from it.  In the same way each person needs to find their own route into filmmaking, you also need to find the best way to go about financing your projects.  And then there’s distribution… Would the people involved with the particular films I’m developing at the moment be interested in that kind of financing model?  To be honest, the answer is no.  But that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have their place!  Another film I’m working on, if I can’t get it funded the way I’m currently going for, would definitely fit that kind of crowd-funding model.  In many ways that model is much more open and current.  But I think that in each case you have to work out what’s the best way to go about it for that particular film!

When you came out of film school did you know much about the ‘business’ side of things, did you ever just think how am I actually going to get anything made?

Well, yes! I actually think that’s one of the downsides of the education system here (UK).  You learn a lot about your subject, but you don’t learn so much about how to actually go out there and get a job doing what you want to do.

Filmmaking can be quite a complicated thing financially.   If you’re not a producer, but a young director who just wants to get films made, it can be tough!  If you don’t have access to someone who knows about all the complexities of getting a film financed, then really you should try and find those people who do to help you out.  Or maybe that’s another instance where a thing like the crowd-funding platforms can really help.  With that kind of thing you can get noticed, you get people interested and you get some money too!  In those cases it’s all about generating as much interest in your project as you can.  That way the investors should hopefully come to you!

As someone who’s done a few shorts now, do you think that it’s a good thing to do to get yourself prepared as a younger filmmaker?

Short films are a great way to practice.  You don’t even really need to go through festivals these days. You can post a movie straight away, even if it’s two or three minutes long.  When I started ten years ago, 3 minutes wasn’t even considered a film.  We didn’t have broadband, nobody would watch films online, but now I think 3-5 minute pieces are great.  The one I would be careful about, especially if you’re interested in working on feature length films, is to keep in mind that ultimately TV and Cinema is long form filmmaking.  I’ve had cases of friends who have got ‘stuck’ in the short film arena.  It’s not always easy to get out, as it can become kind of addictive…

I would definitely recommend people work on shorts, but with the caveat that they keep in mind what it is they might ultimately want to do.  A good thing to do is to have a short, from which a character or concept can be developed into a longer piece.  I tried to that with a short of mine not so long ago.  While it didn’t really work out in the end as we couldn’t secure the financing, it did get people interested in our work, so it got us noticed!

When you graduated from school, you shot a half hour film Blackwater, and that was kind of how you got people’s attention…  If you were trying to get yourself noticed as young filmmaker today, what sort of things would you be doing?

If you want to get noticed now a days, and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you, the way to do it is via the internet.  Getting hits for your work will make people notice you.  Even if you’ve shot a beautiful short, that goes on to be awarded first prize at Cannes or whatever, sadly it’s likely that it will be forgotten after a month.  There’s quite a short shelf life for those kinds of films.  Today, people like hits, they like ‘likes’, tweets, all that kind of stuff and over the last five years or so it’s become increasingly important as a form of recognition.  Even personally, I find myself not caring so much about what’s going on in the festival world now, but more what’s happening online.  And, that’s a big change!  Festivals are still important, but to break through I think it’s better to build that kind of online following.  Also as a younger person, you’ll have the ‘advantage’ over slightly older people in the industry who might not be so familiar with the online world.

As I was mentioned before, I think brands are going to be very important going forward, because they will be the people who invest directly in content.  I think that as a young filmmaker, the kind of thing MOFILM does e.g. offering them the chance to connect directly with the brands brands, could be really a useful thing to get involved with.  If I were an 18 year old now, I would really try to understand, in a good way, that system.  I know it might sound a bit cynical, but you should try to understand how the brand works and what that means to you as a filmmaker…

So what you’re saying is you have to be a bit more savvy in a way, to understand the marketing angle for investors?

Yeah I think so.  You’ll find very few places will have the kind of independent government funding and transparency that you might find with the BBC for example.  More and more I think you’ll see projects directly driven by consumer demand.  For me that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s transparency but kind of the other way round. If Nike wants content, you accept that they’re paying you to do that, full stop.  They might be after stuff that’s not a commercial exactly.  What is it?  Well it could be a film, a program, a show, anything, something new…  If you accept that and work with it, it’s the answer to old problem of finding funding for your work.

So maybe it’s the case that people have to be a bit less precious about their work, get over the idea of themselves as an ‘artist’, as someone above certain things?

I think we have to be realistic about it and accept that we are a channel for these investors.   If you go back and think of Renaissance painters for example, the Church comes to you and says we want a painting that shows how great God is, well as an artist you can react to that by painting the Capella Sistina (Sistine Chapel).  That would be my analogy… Nowadays you have big brands coming to you and saying ‘I want you to tell me how great it is to wear Nike shoes’, or whatever the case may be, as a young filmmaker, you need look at this and understand how you can work with it!

So don’t see these kinds of things as limitations, but rather work out what you can do with it?

Yes, and it happens throughout all art.  I’m not saying that it will be this way forever, but at the moment, it just is.  With faster internet and screens everywhere, everyone downloading things on their mobiles… the guys who are investing in these projects, will demand from their producers and creators that the work they’ve paid for is seen by all these people! So you as a filmmaker have to know how to make that happen.

Well that’s kind of how MOFILM works in some ways, brands want more and more content and we help to provide it…

Yeah!  I mean personally I’m not trying to make a commercial for MOFILM from where I am.  But the kind of briefs that MOFILM puts out, are exactly the kind of things that you should be learning how to do as a new filmmaker.   Especially if you’re a twenty year old kid, what with school fees going up and all that.  One other thing I’d say is that film schools haven’t quite adapted to all the new technological stuff that’s going on.  Not that they necessarily should, I think education should be open and free, but today the technology is kind of moving faster than they are…

And you know it is quite scary.  But if you’re a part of this world, you have to know how to work within it.  If not, fine, close your computer and go up and live in the mountains!  But if you don’t want to give up and would rather like to try and make it work, then why not raise questions about the system from within?  To me, that’s even more interesting.  Financiers are not stupid, they don’t want content that doesn’t challenge anyone, nor does an audience.  As an artist you should look to find the best way of making the connections you’ll need in order to create your work. Use ‘the system’ and what’s out there to make work that you can be proud of!

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