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Costa-Gavras > Scripts, egos and inept producers harming local film industry February 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Celebrated director at the helm of committee to improve legislation for Greek cinema > Besides working on his upcoming film ‘Eden is West’ and heading a committee on improving Greek legislation on cinema, Costa-Gavras is currently heading the Berlin Film Festival’s international jury.

«Every country needs its own images. A friend, a Brazilian producer, once said that cinema is our mirror,» said Costa-Gavras recently. Could this be the reason behind the director’s decision to lead a committee working toward the improvement and modernization of Greece’s legislative framework for cinema? Given the director’s international reputation and experience, for years Costa-Gavras headed the French Cinematheque, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis invited him to contribute to the Greek efforts.

A few weeks ago, Costa-Gavras was in Greece for three days. It was a dual-purpose visit, on the one hand to participate in the committee’s first session, while also working on matters regarding the production of his upcoming film, «Eden is West» in which Greece is participating as co-producer. Costa-Gavras is currently in Berlin as the president of that city’s film festival’s international jury.

How does France protect its cinema tradition nowadays? > To begin with, cinema is indeed protected. That’s a fact. It was de Gaulle, when he rose to power in 1944-45, who decided that France ought to have a national cinema and started by imposing a series of laws for its protection. These were laws supporting film production and cinema houses, for instance. A percentage of all foreign films screened, taken from ticket sales, went toward French cinema.

That was 50 years ago. > What is great in this case is that all ensuing governments have protected the sector. And, at times of crisis, the world of cinema sat down with the state to find a solution. When television emerged, for instance, absorbing the public’s interest, channels were forced to co-produce movies. And that included the private ones too. Canal Plus, for example, was developed especially for the cinema.

What do you think Greek cinema needs above all else? > In keeping with the rest of the world, one of the fundamental problems here is with scripts. The other problem is that we, the directors, given our power, go on huge ego trips. I also consider a problem the lack of competent producers who know how to read scripts and subsequently guide the directors accordingly.

In your opinion, what parts of the relevant Greek laws don’t work anymore and therefore ought to change? > That is up to the committee to figure out. Laws are conceived, they come alive, they grow old and then decay. Today, for instance, cinema is entering a revolutionary, digital period. Everything is changing: conception, aesthetics and film production. It’s a little bit like living a landmark moment: from silent to talkies, from black and white to color. We are now living through the same revolutionary changes because we can watch the films in our homes – tomorrow it will be on our phones. On top of it all, films can now be made on a low budget. Cinema houses will have to readjust as well. No one knows where we are heading… Who knows, perhaps tomorrow a big Hollywood distributor might say, «Right, this week, this film will be screened at a particular time in 10,000 theaters around the world,» and impose this at the touch of a button. It sounds like science fiction, but the truth is we don’t know what lies ahead… Theaters will have to acquire new machinery within the next four to five years. Large studio sets are currently being replaced by digital environments. Impressive sets are being mounted on computers. Actors are acting in empty space, with props to be added at a later stage. Laws should follow our lifestyle. The new digital age is similar to the kind of changes that took place when electricity was discovered.

Is the French language protected in France? > French has to exceed 50 percent of the spoken language in order for a film to benefit from French laws. It has to go on television at some point. It must have a specific number of technical and acting crew and a language percentage. This is vital. Consider that television channels prefer to purchase an hour of American programs (at about 50,000 dollars) rather than produce in France (at about 300,000 dollars). On this scale, if left unprotected, national production would vanish entirely. We are so hooked on the American living room that we don’t really know what is going on in the French one. We know about the lives of others, but not about our own. This kind of discussion has been going on for decades, since May of 1968.

Not in Greece. > The funny thing is that in France, all theoretical discussions begin with Greek philosophers.

Does it get easier to make a film as time goes by? > It’s a new, personal adventure every single time. I start from scratch. It always depends on the last two films. If they have worked out then it’s easier. If not, doors are half-open.

Even if you’re Costa-Gavras? > Even if you’re Costa-Gavras. With today’s overproduction, films are losing respect. There are 200 films made in France every year, that is excessive. There are theaters for 150, not more. That’s where I think the problem lies today: We are losing respect for films and the myth of cinema. The myth that the actors themselves once nurtured for their work has disappeared.