Thursday, 28 February 2013

Interview with Chris George

Chris George is an Adelaide-based musician, songwriter, animator and story-teller.

He is best known as the creator of the animated web series Fried Rice, but is also a busy musician.

His song Time Waster is available on iTunes.
________________________________________________________________________

•   Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia.

•   What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I grew up with two older brothers. Both my parents were supportive of all my creative endeavours, even from an early age. From attempting to create my own comic books at age six, to making short stop-motion films. My mum always praised my work, as mothers do, even when my drawings were not much more than stick figures. As I progressed from comics to video, with the family video camera, my dad brought me my first video-editing machine. By today's standards it was very basic, but still allowed me to add music, fades, and wipes to my short films. So the family has always shown support with my projects.

•   Where did you go to school?

Underdale High School, then on to University of South Australia. I was deciding between enrolling in a filmmaking course, or something more practical. I decided on the practical side, as there was a high demand for work.
   I completed a Bachelor of Business with a major in Information Technology/Systems. Keeping my creative side alive, I chose Digital Arts as one of my electives. I also went on to do a short script-writing workshop with the South Australian Film Corporation, and some basic animation courses at a local adult college.

•   What was your first paying job?

Working in a seafood factory. At the end of the day the smell was hard to wash off. This was very good encouragement to study hard at university.

•   When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

As previously mentioned, from an early age. Inspired by films, such Star Wars. I was always keen to create something equally as engaging and exciting. I remember watching The Making of Star Wars on television, and being blown away by the model-building and special fx work that went into creating the film.

•   Who has had the most influence on you as a filmmaker?

That's a tough one. George Lucas would have had to been the first filmmaker that inspired me as both a writer and film maker. The guy is a genius. 
   As I got older, filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith also had a big impact. The idea of creating a film, on a miniscule budget, was inspiring, and showed that anyone with determination or drive could accomplish great things.

•   What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?
  1. Set realistic goals.
  2. Just keep making movies.
  3. Every film/project teaches valuable lessons.

•   Where did the idea for Fried Rice come from? And what is the significance of that name?

Fried Rice is an idea that has floated around in one form or another for a long time. When I was about fifteen, my cousin and I made a few short films about these oddball characters.
   I remember after seeing the film Mortal Kombat, we attempted to create our own supernatural martial arts film. From there the idea continued to evolve into different stories. I kind-of forgot about it for a while, then decided to put together a cartoon series. I thought about those original ideas as a kind of inspiration—oddball characters, super-villains, martial artists, and so on—and Fried Rice, the web series, was born.
   The name came from an idea that was kind of lost on my first season. Each episode was to be about two homeless characters, who were trying to earn money to buy some fried rice. Each episode was to end with the two eating their takeaway and discussing life.
   I am currently working on Season Two, which is different from Season One in that it's an ongoing story. Cut together this would play as a 75 minute movie. It's way bigger than Season One, with lots of guest stars, such as aspiring voice actors and musicians from around the globe.
   Once Season Two is finished, I plan to relook at that original idea for Season Three and expand on that. There is plenty of room for change in my web series as the full name is actually Fried Rice TV, where as the TV part stands for TOTAL VISION. So, in essence, Fried Rice could be considered the alternate reality where these characters live.


•   You started out more as a musician, writing songs. Why did you move to animation?

Actually, from a young age, filmmaking was my passion. It wasn’t until I turned thirteen, that I took an interest in music production and song-writing, after being inspired by a cousin. She was a singer and I used to help her by creating beats and loops, then moved on to making my own music. About three years back, after a discussion with a co-worker/friend about one of my scripts, I was inspired to go out and make Fried Rice happen.

•   If you could recommend just one filmmaking advice book to a newcomer in Adelaide, what would that book be?

That's easy, I would recommend Rebel without a Crew, by Robert Rodriguez. The book tells the story of how Robert created his first feature and how a film maker should use what they have available to create something.

•   What are your ten favourite movies of all time?

Star Wars (1977)
Clerks. (1994)
El Mariachi (1992)
Mall Rats (1995)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Batman (1989)
A Man Who Was Superman (2008)
Terminator 2 (1991)
Friday (1995)
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Here is Chapter One of Fried Rice the Animated Movie.
This is the Legend of the Legendary Lost Legend! Join Fong and Chicago as they embark on mission to save the world from evil forces.


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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Los Angeles story

Anne Lower, the famous Princess Scribe of Twitterland, has just had three videos she wrote released on YouTube and elsewhere.

They deal with the history of Los Angeles and, no, it's a not a rerun of Sunset Blvd. (1950), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), The Long Goodbye (1973), Chinatown (1974), Lethal Weapon (1987), Die Hard (1988), Barton Fink (1991), L.A. Story (1991), Speed (1994), Pulp Fiction (1994), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Mulholland Falls (1996), L.A. Confidential (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Training Day (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Collateral (2004), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), The Black Dahlia (2006), The Lincoln Lawyer, (2011), or Gangster Squad (2013). But listen closely and you might hear echoes of all those films, and others.

Here are the videos. They are short, interesting and well written.





"Keeping Australian stories on TV"

Australia has a Federal election coming up in September. The government is in trouble in the polls. The Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy has suddenly offered to slash the fees of the major TV networks by 50%. That's almost $150million a year. In return for... what? 

In the old days, it would have been called it a "sweetener," but that's probably out of date now.

It had been mooted previously by the government that they would be increasing the levels of Australian drama, documentaries and children’s entertainment on Australian television. Apparently that's about to go in the opposite direction, following an additional offer to the networks of even “greater flexibility” in those areas.

Desperate politicians. Powerful media interests. Too bad for the bunnies caught in the crossfire; to wit, the creators of Australian television content.

In a time of rampant cultural imperialism, a small group of Australians are struggling to defend the status quo, led by the ghost of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.



What's that, Skip?

You want people to hop along to this link and sign a petition? But aren't petitions ineffective?

You're right, Skip. Petitions are no more ineffective than a Gillard government. Either way, it's probably better than doing nothing.

The greatest good

I just noticed the other day that the blog The Reel Bits had closed down. Richard Gray had this to say about his decision:
The strain of running a website takes its toll eventually, and negotiating the landscape of studios, PR and the social media landscape is just too much for one needlessly hairy man. Basically, it’s just not fun any more.
Thank you for two good years, Richard. We're sad to see you go.

But speaking as another needlessly hairy man, the line—Basically, it's just not fun any more—made me think. Why do we do what we do? In an age when the range of opportunities available is mind-boggling, why have we stuck ourselves with whatever choice it was that we last made? And is it time to choose something else?

Then I came across this video, which asks the same question, but in a different way.



Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Beam me up, Scotty

William Shatner is a living symbol of cult television. He has appeared in over 200 films and TV shows, most significantly in Star Trek (1966-1969). But he also played T. J. Hooker on T. J. Hooker (1982-1986), hosted Rescue 911 (1989-1996), and starred in the television dramas The Practice (2004) and Boston Legal (2004-2008).

His experience hosting the Miss United States beauty pageant qualified him to appear at the 2013 Oscars via video hook-up in order to help out the host.



These days, the man is 81 years old, which is about the right age at which to start making your own web series TV. His show is called Brown Bag Wine Tasting.
Bill goes out into the public with a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag. After meeting a new friend, they taste and rate the wine together.
Yeah, I know, you don't believe me. But it's true. Just watch this.



Now why this is interesting, apart from the obvious cinematic qualities of the show, is that the man is coming to town. By "the man," I mean William Shatner; and by "town," I mean Adelaide.



The Oz Comic-Con will be held in Adelaide on the weekend of March 16-17. Mr Shatner is so excited by the prospect of being in Adelaide that he wants to meet some interesting people here. And drink some wine with them. I know this because he tweeted the information.



So, if you are two camerapersons living in Adelaide, or if you're simply interesting, e-mail the man: Press@WilliamShatner.com. Good luck!
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Actually, no, he's not coming to Adelaide now. Changed his mind... Sorry if I raised anyone's hopes.

  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Book review: 'Writing the Romantic Comedy'

The book, Writing the Romantic Comedy, by Billy Mernit, has been around since 2000. I started reading it several times in the last eighteen months, but always got stuck on page 5, where he talks about structure. He throws up three-act theory, then justifies it with the following words:
"Funny thing about threes. Maybe it's hardwired into our DNA, but three seems to be the magic number (as in morning, noon and night, the Holy Trinity, etc.)"
That's absurd and it stopped me cold every time. What about four: the four seasons, the four points of the compass, the four Gospels, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Or five: the five fingers, five toes, five basic tastes? Or seven: the seven days of the week, seven hills of Rome, seven Wonders of the ancient world? These are no more arbitrary or irrelevant than his two choices.

The sound you could hear about that time was me grinding my teeth, followed by a 'thump' as the book hit the shelves.

What eventually got me past page 5, and my growing prejudice, was a single visit to Billy's blog, Living the Romantic Comedy. There I found a sincere interest in the subject of romcoms and confessions of his real-life struggle with the elements that make up one of humanity's greatest preoccupations. So I returned to his book. The thing that really won me over was his analysis of Annie Hall, but that's another subject. He talks about Theme a lot and that's all good reading.

Here are a few quotes to give you a taste of the book itself.
________________________________________________________________________

Romantic comedy protagonists tend to be emotionally incomplete.

Every genre has its subtext. Thrillers are about creating cathartic confrontations with our fears; action adventures are usually enactments of mythic heroism. In romantic comedies, the real subject matter is the power of love.

In a romantic comedy, crisis provokes the protagonist into comprehending the value of love.

What a protagonist learns by falling in love determines the outcome of a romantic comedy.

One could restate the paradigm for a three-act structure in a romantic comedy as follows:
   Conflict:  Love challenges the characters.
   Crisis:  The characters must accept or deny love.
   Resolution:  Love transforms the characters.

There's a common misconception that characters need to be sympathetic. Not necessarily. Godfather Don Corleone is a monster. We don't sympathize with his methods and his murderous morality. But we're fascinated by his power and passion, and we identify with his devotion to his family.

A character who's getting in his own way is a character who has more than one side to him. He's got an inner conflict that's fueling his outer conflicts. He's got, in a word, complexity.

There's one no-no, a cultural bias so powerful that it remains unbroken in our genre: he can't be in it only for the sex.

The only written-in-stone rule that applies to female protagonists: she can't be in it only for the money.


Typical of romantic comedy heroines from the earliest days of the genre: they were women who dominated, or at least held their own with, men whom they pursued.

What's universal comes out of what's most personal.

A screenwriter's resistance to getting into "personal stuff" is absurd. It's got to be personal, if anyone's going to care about your story, and theme is the arena where your personal experience, attitudes, and insights come into play.

The theme issue in screenwriting is probably the trickiest one of all. ... What's it about? ... Theme, premise, point—whatever you call it. ... Something to learn. A point of view. A meaning.

Your characters are embodiments of thematic concerns; they're the ones arguing the sides of your possible truth.

A good theme is a flexible, ever growing entity and, unlike fortune cookie slogans, is so much an organic part of the whole that it can't be patly extracted.

The romantic comedy generally breaks the traditional three-act structure into seven essential beats: the setup (a chemical equation), the catalyst (cute meet), the first turning point (a sexy complication), the midpoint (hook), the second turning point (the swivel), the climax (dark moment), and resolution (joyful defeat).

The hidden challenge of every romantic comedy lies in getting its audience to believe that these two people absolutely must end up together.

Romance writers can't shy away from the big emotions their characters inevitably experience. One of the reasons people come to these movies is to share those feelings.
________________________________________________________________________

Writing the Romantic Comedy. It's a good book. Recommended. 


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Script Development Strategies - Linda Aronson

Years ago, Linda Aronson taught a course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). One component of the course was a list of Development Strategies that Linda created to assist students find the best version of their stories. The Development Strategies were incorporated in Linda's book, Screenwriting Updated, and subsequently reproduced widely. In 2010, Linda published an expanded version of the book, called The 21st Century Screenplay. The following is a list gleaned from that book.
    Next time you're about to start formulating a new story, try reading through this list and apply the strategies. Think of it as twenty-five steps to a complete story. I consider the Strategies to be distilled practical commonsense, from a professional writer who has decades of writing-to-a-deadline under her belt. You need a method in order to consistently pump out quality work. I suspect most professional writers do this intuitively. Linda Aronson started with an academic background and couldn't help analyzing her own approach, for the benefit of others.
    If you find this information helpful, buy the book. It is an "atlas" (as Christopher Vogler describes it) of information about screenwriting. ________________________________________________________________________

1. Define the task at hand.

2. Brainstorm the best 'real but unusual' remedy.

3. Solve the genre equation.

4. Find non-narrative triggers.

5. Create a simple narrative sentence.

6. Create an advanced narrative sentence.

7. Make sure the disturbance happens soon and involves real change.

8. Distinguish the idea from a story.

9. Differentiate the action line and the relationship line.

10. Create a relationship road.

11. Peg the relationship line to the action.

12. Identify the protagonist.

13. Identify the antagonist.

14. Find out what the plot tells you about characters.

15. Get into character.

16. Create a character arc.

17. Insert a misleading plan.

18. Find the first-act turning point scene (surprise/obstacle).

19. Devise second-act complications via the first-act turning point.

20. Second-act turning point, Part 1: Protagonist's worst possible moment.

21. Second-act turning point, Part 2: Decision to fight back.

22. Check that the relationship line is moving.

23. Find the climax and first-act turning point.

24. Come to a resolution and ending.

25. Use symbolism and myth.

________________________________________________________________________

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Free screenwriting software

Screenplays used to be banged out on typewriters. Those were the days! Typists, typing pools, typewriter ribbons, Liquid Paper, and that special knack you needed for squaring up the page.

Not any more. The first ever computerised screenplay formatter was called Scriptor, which was created by Stephen Greenfield and Chris Huntley in 1982. Movie Magic Screenwriter was originally developed under the name ScriptThing. That was bought by Write Brothers, who redeveloped it. The first version of Final Draft came out in 1991.

These days, Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter dominate the field, with Final Draft having almost complete sway in Australia. The problem, for beginner screenwriters, is that they are not cheap products. The good news is that there are alternatives. Free alternatives.


"I think I'd kinda like to be a writer."
Top of the list is CELTX, which is an acronym for Crew, Equipment, Location, Talent and XML. The latest version of Celtx is compatible with Windows XP/Vista /7, Mac OS X, and Linux. The downside is that Celtx isn't content to be the nifty little screenwriting package I was looking for. Instead, it is trying to be all things to all men. It's free, but it's a business as well. I found that confusing.

Rough Draft is available for free. It hasn't been updated since 2005 and is no longer being supported by the creator, but it might interest someone.

Free Film Project is another free software suite. Apart from that, I don't know much about it.

Page 2 Stage used to be available for free, but I notice the download has been disabled. I don't know if that is temporary or permanent.

Ace reporter Clark Gable prepares to tell the story in It Happened One Night.

Plotbot is a free online screenwriting program. The official blurb says: "Write from any browser solo or with friends. No formatting headaches. There's nothing to install, it's free, and it's easy to use."

Another, simpler option is Trelby. It has everything you need to write a screenplay. It isn't overwhelmed by ambitions of conquering the world; it's content to do a job. The product is advertised as "simple, fast and elegantly laid out." All true. Take a look sometime.

Or, if you have Microsoft Word, you can set up your own macros (or styles) to simplify using it for screenwriting. Better yet, you can download a set of macros written by someone who knows how. And there's a whole bunch of those around. Some are free, some cost a few dollars. In fact, Microsoft offers a free download of its own screenplay template, designed for use with Microsoft Word 97 or later

Here are three other examples of macro packages:


FADE IN:  A tenement hotel on the Lower East Side. We can faintly hear the cry of the...
And if none of these work out, like Barton Fink, you can always go back to your typewriter. Just stay out of the Hotel Earle.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The making of the shower scene from 'Psycho'

I've been reading Hitchcock, by Fran├žois Truffaut, which records the substance of a series of interviews between the French director and his English hero. It's an interesting book and loaded with quotable passages. One that seems topical relates to the shower scene in the 1960 movie Psycho.

Here are some quotes from Alfred Hitchcock, relating to Psycho in general and the shower scene in particular:


_______________________________________________________________________

It's tremendously satisfying for us to be able to use the cinematic art to achieve something of a mass emotion. It wasn't a message that stirred the audiences, nor was it a great performance or their enjoyment of the novel. They were aroused by pure film.

That's why I take pride in the fact that Psycho, more than any of my other pictures, is a film that belongs to filmmakers.


The construction of the story and the way in which it was told caused audiences all around the world to react and become emotional.

The picture cost eight hundred thousand dollars. It was an experiment in this sense: Could I make a feature film under the same conditions as a television show? I used a complete television unit to shoot it very quickly. The only place where I digressed was when I slowed down the murder scene, the cleaning-up scene, and the other scenes that indicated anything that required time. All of the rest was handled in the same way that they do it in [1950s] television.

You have to design your film just as Shakespeare did his plays—for an audience.

It took us seven days to shoot the [stabbing of Janet Leigh] scene, and there were seventy camera setups for forty-five seconds of footage. I used a naked model who stood in for Janet Leigh. We only showed Miss Leigh's hands, shoulders, and head. All the rest was the stand-in.
_______________________________________________________________________

And if, like me, you were curious as to who it was who actually does the stabbing in that scene, Truffaut had this to say:

Hitchcock informed me that the attacker was a young woman wearing a wig. He added that the scene was shot twice because, although the only lighting was placed behind the woman, the reverberation of the white bathroom walls was so strong that it revealed her face too clearly. That is why her face was blackened in the second take, so as to create the impression of a dark and unidentifiable silhouette on the screen.
The complete scene runs for just over three minutes. Here it is:



Thursday, 21 February 2013

Digital artists behind ''Life of Pi'

Melena Ryzik is the lead writer of the Carpetbagger blog for the New York Times. In addition to being a general assignment culture reporter, covering film, music, theater, television, visual art, dance and the occasional Dumpster pool party or eco-art-barge, Ms. Ryzik enjoys riding her bicycle to black tie events.

In the following video, she pays a visit to Rhythm & Hues, the award-winning production studio that created the Oscar-nominated visual effects for Life of Pi.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Science of Orgasms

Here's a short film with more information than you were expecting. 
Everything you wanted to know about orgasms, but were too afraid to ask. Who knew science could be so sexy?
Written and created by Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tropfest 2013

The 2013 version of Australian Tropfest took place a couple of nights ago. It was won by Nicholas Clifford for We’ve All Been There, a short film which explores the idea of shared kindness through goodwill and pay-it-forward style ethics. 
A young woman in need gets a dose of kindness from someone who experienced it herself.
You can watch the video here.



Meanwhile, here's another short film made by Clay Walker called The Chain of Love. He made it back in 1999. See if you can spot any similarities...


Monday, 18 February 2013

"Phil Spector"

Al Pacino, playing a famous nut case with a gun and lots of money/power? Yep, I'll take that. Written and directed by David Mamet, for HBO? Yes, yes, yes.

Phil Spector was part of the background sound to my life from when I was four years old, up till the early 1970s. He was hard to miss.

Some of the singles he produced included: 

To Know Him Is to Love Him – The Teddy Bears
I Love How You Love Me – The Paris Sisters
He's A Rebel – The Crystals
(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry – Darlene Love
Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home) – The Crystals
Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals
Be My Baby – The Ronettes
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' – The Righteous Brothers
Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
River Deep - Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner
Instant Karma (We All Shine On) – John Lennon
Some of the albums he produced included:
Let It Be – The Beatles
All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
Imagine – John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band
The Concert for Bangladesh – George Harrison and friends
Born To Be With You – Dion
Death of a Ladies' Man – Leonard Cohen
For those who can remember, here's some quick sound bites of the songs.



In 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead in Spector's mansion in California. Spector stated that Clarkson's death was an "accidental suicide" and that she "kissed the gun." The emergency call from Spector's home, made by Spector's driver, quotes Spector as saying, "I think I've killed someone." After two trials, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for murder in the second degree. Spector was sentenced to nineteen years to life in prison.

The TV show, Phil Spector, is about Spector's relationship with his defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, who was originally to be played by Bette Midler. Midler pulled out because of illness, and Helen Mirren stepped in.



Sunday, 17 February 2013

"Downsized"

Downsized is a webseries written, directed and starring Daryn Strauss. Debt, credit default, bankruptcy, and unemployment— this is a dramedy about the extremes people go to when faced with an economic crash.

In Episode 1, Beth finds herself victim to a recession-fueled downsizing effort by HR Manager Maura and Maura's new efficiency expert, Lowell Wishingbone.



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Saturday, 16 February 2013

"Hercules Returns"

The question is debated by punters in pubs the length and breadth of the wide brown land: What's the Greatest Australian Movie Ever Made?

The answer is known to all true aficionados of Australian cinema. No, it's not Breaker Morant (1980), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Death in Brunswick (1990), Strictly Ballroom (1992), nor Muriel's Wedding (1994). Not even The Club (1980).

No, it's Hercules Returns (1993). It was written and voiced by Des Mangan, and is based on the old Australian live comedy show 'Double Take', in which ostensibly serious films were re-voiced in a satirical manner.

A guy gets fired from a big film distribution company and buys an old cinema. He and his friends decide to reopen with the last movie shown before the cinema closed, an Italian film about the mixed adventures of Hercules, Samson and other classical and mythological heroes. When the big company provides a copy without subtitles, they have to improvise dialogue from the projectionist's room.
Hercules Returns was directed by David Parker, and stars David Argue, Michael Carman, Bruce Spence, and Mary Coustas.

In the clip that follows, our hero—Testiculli, or 'Testy' for short—has a meeting with his father.


Friday, 15 February 2013

Formulas for hit films

Roger Ebert called Pulp Fiction “the most influential” movie of the 1990s, “so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it—the noses of those zombie writers who take ‘screenwriting’ classes that teach them the formulas for ‘hit films.’ ”

Ouch!

Taken from: 

Vanity Fair, Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction.

This is a long article, but worth the time if you're interested in the history of Quentin Tarantino or the making of Pulp Fiction. It has lots of odd little cinematic and screenwriting tidbits. 


The Language of Illusion

Gustav Kuhn completed his PhD at Sussex University in 2003, where he investigated implicit learning of musical structures. Prior to his academic career, Gustav had worked as a professional magician. Towards the end of his PhD he started to explore the ways in which magicians can misdirect people’s attention. He discovered the potential of using magic as a method for investigating a wide variety of cognitive processes.

Over the centuries, magicians have learned how to perform acts that are perceived as defying the laws of nature, and that induce a strong sense of wonder. Many of the techniques used to create these illusions share similarities with topics investigated by psychologists.

In a simple experiment, he shows us the difference between what we actually see and what we think we've seen during a simple magic trick. This disparity allows magicians to create illusions which both fool and entertain us.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Interview with Elena Carapetis

Elena Carapetis is an Adelaide-based actor and writer. She is a graduate of NIDA, best known for her role in Heartbreak High, where she played 'Jackie' Kassis in 25 episodes, as well as numerous other television series and theatre roles.

I first saw Elena in the 2009 Adelaide movie Offside. Although she only had a small part, I felt she was the best actor in the film. A few years later, when I was asked to retweet a line about One Eyed Girl, a new movie that was just starting filming in Adelaide, I discovered that Elena had a part in it. So I asked her for an interview.

________________________________________________________________________

•  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Whyalla, spent part of my childhood in Port Pirie, and then my family moved to Adelaide.

•   What kind of a family did you grow up with?

A big family. BIG. Extended that is. It's just me and my brother in the immediate family. But dozens of cousins we hung out with regularly and still do. Which was quite magical. My dad is the descendent of Greek migrants who arrived here around a hundred years ago. Dad was born here. And my mum is from Cyprus. She came to Australia on her own as an eleven year old girl.

•  Where did you go to school?

A few different places, but I ended up at St Michael's in Henley. Had a wonderful teachersMr Sturt taught me English and Mrs Delgado was my drama teacher. They are both still there, bless them.

•   What was your first paying job?

Working in my family's restaurant when I was twelve. Child labour!!! 

No, not the Dancing Zorba's from My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Tell us a little about the last stage show you appeared in.

In 2012 I appeared in Truck Stop, a new Australian play by Lachlan Philpott. He is one of Australia's hottest writers at the moment. He writes from a youth perspective, without being patronising. He makes us face our fears and judgements about 'troubled teens'.
   I was involved throughout the development of this play, which is based on a true story about schoolgirls who would wag school at lunchtime to prostitute themselves at a local truck stop. The play explores the overt sexualisation of our young women and what makes girls come to decisions that ultimately undermine their self worth. It also looks at our obsession with slut shaming.
   I felt it was a very important piece of theatre and audiences responded to its immediacy and rawness. My role was to play all of the people in these girls' lives, twelve in all, including a counsellor, doctor, a couple of parents, a school girl and a Tongan boyfriend. It was a wonderful challenge.
   Truck Stop has been nominated for four Sydney Theatre Awards. Yay!

You are currently filming another movie, One Eyed Girl. What is that about?

It's about a guy who loses faith in everything he believes in. He is a psychologist and one of his patients commits suicide. He ends up residing in a religious cult. I play one of the only 'normal' people in the film, a psychologist colleague. Ultimately I think it's about the fact that people are looking for meaning, a connection, everywhere.

Elena ponders the right of men to self-pity, in Look Both Ways (2005).

Your play, Helen Back, was nominated for an award at Adelaide Writers’ Week. How did you come to write that particular story?

I am still writing Helen Back. It looks at the commodification of beauty and the pressure on women to remain beautiful and youthful.
    The play revolves around a central character called Helen, but in each act Helen is different. In act one she is Helen of Troy, in act two she is a 4 year old girl in a beauty pageant, and in act 3 she is a pop star.
    I started writing it in response to the rampant double standards we hold about women and their value in society. Look at the way media portrays them, look at how we obsess about weight, plastic surgery, 'slut' behaviour, what women wear. I mean, it's so ingrained in our society that most people aren't aware of how insidious it is. The 'male gaze' is still the 'normal' point of view. Also, as you get older as a woman, you literally disappear. You walk into a shop or down a street, and people stop noticing you are there. You sort of fade out of view because your lack of youth has made you invisible.

You’re currently writing another play. Tell us a little about that.

I have just finished writing The Good Son, my first play. It's about a guy who lives with his mum, who is addicted to poker machines. He really wants to leave, and be with the woman he loves, but he is trapped by his mother's need for him. It's lights up, real-time-naturalism, for an hour ten and then lights down. Nowhere to hide; no scene changes, no lighting shifts, just the story powering through. I set myself that very difficult task. I figured if I could get this kind of storytelling 'right' (whatever that is), I could then subvert it in my later work, and play more with form and style.
    The characters in this play are Greek-Australian, but it is not a 'migrant' play, as such. I like to think of it as an Australian play, pure and simple. The cultural landscape can be rather white here, so I am trying to portray our country as it really is, with every kind of Australian, not just the Anglo ones.

Who has had the most influence on you as a writer?

I love the work of Arthur Miller. I remember watching and reading his plays as I was growing up and feeling so incredibly moved by his characters. I had nothing in common with them really, but his ability to tap into their humanity, whoever they were, was breath-taking. I also love his use of language. He is an exquisite master. Exhibit A:
ABIGAIL: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam's dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!

Elena admonishes Terry Rogers (O.S.), much to the amusement of Peter Michell, in Offside (2009).


What was the best advice you were given at the start of your career?

Observe people every day. Ordinary people on the bus, or walking down the street, their behaviour, their gestures, seek out their stories through what they do, what they wear, what kind of bag they carry. The devil is always in the detail. And if you can put it into your work, that will make all the difference. 

What are three things you wish someone had told you about acting when you were starting out

1. That acting is not about feeling, it is about doing. Too many people think acting is about emoting and use feelings as a starting point—as in, 'Oh, I think the character is angry here'. 
    Feelings are a by-product of a thought process. Get the want happening, have the thoughts, make it personal. Whatever you feel is irrelevant, if the audience doesn't believe you and feels nothing themselves. Purse your want passionately. Then you may find that feelings will emerge that are much more interesting, organic and creative. Feelings that actually come from your soul, not from your head. But ultimately what you are feeling should be none of your concern. 

2. When you are working it's the best job in the world, but when you are not, it can be the worst. So when you're not working, keep sane by keeping 'performance fit'. Read plays, practise work in front of a camera, do classes, keep your training going always. Otherwise your creativity can die.

3. Good acting looks easy. That's the paradox. The amount of work that goes into a brilliant performance is enormous. So work harder than you think you need to. Don't be lazy, nor complacent, nor ungrateful. Do the work. That's your job.

What one filmmaking advice book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide

Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder, breaks down the fundamental elements of storytelling on film, and why certain films resonate with audience and why others don't. A good basic overview.


The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential as an Actor by Larry Moss, covers everything you'll ever need to understand about the acting process.

Name ten of your all-time favourite movies

Magnolia (1999)
Tootsie (1982)
Withnail and I (1987)
The Three Amigos (2003)
Aliens (1986)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestial (1982)
Elf (2003)
Amadeus (1984)
Brazil (1985)