Committed to Filmmaking: A Debut Feature

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Committed to Filmmaking Stelana Kiliris Debut Feature shooting cyprus
I am about to complete my debut feature film entitled Committed. It’s an English-language romantic comedy about a chance meeting between a man and a runaway bride and it’s set on the gorgeous island of Cyprus. This small country has a keen, developing film industry that up until recently was funded by the government. With the arrival of the crisis about a year ago, these funds were slashed and filmmakers were left to fend for themselves. This is how Committed was born. I designed a film that could be made on next to nothing, without compromising the story, and raised funds through a crowd-funding campaign and an amazing angel-like investor.

A shoe-string budget film is by no means a model to follow for life, but you have to start somewhere. This is what your day looks like when you’re directing a microbudget film: You’re up at 4am so you can put pastries in the oven (because this is cheaper than buying them at a bakery) after which you collect the actor’s shirts that you washed and tea-dyed the night before so you can iron them (because you can’t afford a stylist) and then you pick up that day’s packet of props (because you had to sacrifice a designated art director as well) and load up your car. You are also fully equipped with the world’s most detailed storyboard and breakdown because you have no assistant director or continuity person, so you’re counting purely on your notes and shooting schedule. You then car pool to your location (to minimise fuel costs) which is about an hour away as you’re doing a road trip movie so you have no location expenses or sets to build. You then finally get to wear the director’s cap, while still juggling your notes, walkie-talkies and some props and costumes. You get to the end of your 12-hour day, you have a brief meeting with your actors to either rehearse, vent, drink or all of the above and then you go home so you can wash costumes and prepare for the next day. You repeat this for 17 days over 3 weeks and BAM! You have a film in the can!

That’s right, 17 days. A road trip movie with 25 different locations and a temperamental vintage car from 1958 in 17 days! We were filming in the rural parts of Cyprus so we also had the added challenges of dealing with unwanted set visitors like herds of goats and stray dogs. Not to mention the blistering heat. Credit has to be given to our actors: Melia Keriling, who had to wear a lace bodice and multi-layered wedding skirt, as well as gloves and stiletto heels for the duration of the shoot, and Orestes Sophocleous who was in a suit and had to perform while driving a difficult car with a camera strapped to the hood, so he couldn’t really see where he was going and he had to maintain a certain speed to hit certain marks, all the while delivering his lines.

Hats have to be tipped to our very dedicated crew as well, each of them multi-tasking as much as I did. We wanted to keep the production light in order to travel around easily, so we had a core crew of 12 people. The film would not have been possible without each and every one of them. This is also extended to our post-production team who have compensated for anything we missed during the shoot.

But there is a bigger picture here. The crisis and depletion of government funding may not have been such a bad thing. It just means that filmmakers who really want to tell their stories will find another way. It also means that they need to become a little more business-savvy in order to build an audience and create a local film industry that is self-sustainable. We have seen incredible movies come from our neighbouring country, Greece, during the darkest financial hour, and now it’s our turn. We haven’t felt the blow as hard, so the economic climate may not affect our content as much, but it will certainly affect the creative process, and perhaps for the better.

As Committed nears completion within budget and schedule, it provides proof and encouragement that it can be done. Already a ripple effect has begun and new guerrilla-style shorts and features are in the works by local filmmakers, and it’s a wonderful thing to see!

Find out more about Committed here.

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