My director’s statement for Cannes press pack
I had to write a director’s statement for the press pack, ahead of Cannes. Papadooulos & Sons is being screened to industry there at the film market in mid May. I enjoyed writing this statement. The act of writing it was an affirmation of everything I believe in. I will go back to it when I forget who I am and why I made this film – which happens quite often.
Here it is…
I am a writer before I am a director. I love stories. I love sharing them. This is the reason I trained as an actor. It is the reason I wrote plays and attempted to write novels. I had no intention of becoming a film maker – although my passion has always been film. We were one of the first family’s in Birmingham (in England) to get a video recorder in 1979 (a Panasonic PV-1600) with big chunky buttons.
Kids TV was never that good back then. As children, my brothers and I would watch classics like Some Like It Hot and The Good, Bad and The Ugly on a loop – films my mother had recorded on this magical machine. You cannot imagine the excitement of recording something for free off the TV and playing it back. Thankfully, my mother recorded some great films.
I never imagined I could make a film. I thought making a film would be too complicated. It would be too technical and I was put off by the idea of it being too glamorous. But I found that whilst making Papadopoulos & Sons was not easy, it was much easier than I had expected. If you surround yourself with the best technicians, it’s not as technically difficult as you first imagine. And to my relief, film making is not remotely glamorous. It’s hard work and you sweat a lot.
It was a revelation to discover film making. And it is a great privilege. I looked back at my stage plays and realised they were film scripts. As a playwright you have no control once you hand your work over to a director. You have no say in the casting. You attend a read-through, maybe one rehearsal and the dress rehearsal before you open. As a writer/director of a film you have the ultimate control and an army of people to help you realise your ideas.
With my experience as an actor (I still work with an improvisation theatre company in London) and my experience running a business (I founded an online publishing business) it was natural for me to give the cast and crew the freedom to express their talent. A collaborative film set feels very much like a good business or a successful improvisation. Everyone is in sync, working together, telling the same story.
And what is my story? The story behind the story? I am the son of Greek-Cypriot immigrants. I grew up in a tightly-knit Greek community in Birmingham but my parents were liberal and they embraced their host country. For example, they gave my brothers and I the English versions of our names (Marcus – instead of ‘Markos’). We were privately educated and were given all the tools needed to assimilate into British society. My father came from unimaginable poverty, from a village in the Troodos Mountains, without electricity.
He came to the UK in 1962 with nothing but the desire to escape this poverty. He built a successful life for himself in the UK and his family back in Cyprus. It’s remarkable. However, something is lost along the way. Progress always comes at a cost. And that is what I wanted to explore in Papadopoulos & Sons. What do you lose along the way? In the face of global financial crisis, we are asking similar questions. What have we lost in the pursuit of that dream? Now that the prosperity of the last generation comes undone, we are starting to redefine what success is and what is truly valuable in our lives.