Breathing life back into Cypriot film

Until recently, Cypriot filmmakers received great financial support from their government. With the difficult economic situation and the advent of the crisis, however, a decrease of government funds has followed, and Cypriot filmmakers now need to look for alternative funding options.

Stelana Kliris, South African Cypriot writer and director, based in Cyprus, is making her attempt at creating work for herself and her crew. Through the feature film Committed, she will do just that. Committed is a feature film about love and madness, written and directed by Stelana Kliris. It’s a romantic comedy about a man who takes to the road to escape the pressure of proposing to his girlfriend, only to come across a bride who has just run out on her wedding.

To make this film happen, the film crew agreed to work for lowered rates, and local production companies have generously offered equipment, facilities and services at very low prices, or even for free. However, there are still the day-to-day expenses of producing a film, like crew and cast fees, equipment rental, petrol and post-production that must be met. “In a place like Cyprus, where we haven’t yet established a local cinema culture, it makes private funding very difficult. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, as they say,” says Kliris, who has recently launched a funding-campaign on the crowd-funding site ‘indiegogo’, as an attempt to find alternative sources of funding. “It’s hard to produce a movie anywhere in the world, but when it comes to small countries with small film industries, there’s an added challenge. We depend on government grants to produce films in Greece, and especially Cyprus where the industry is still developing.

“This film is really just an attempt to create work for ourselves and keep our industry going. We have some very talented, young crew members here, who just want to work and despite the small size of our industry, they’re still passionate about what they do. And we have produced some world-class films in the past, so we just want a chance to show what Cyprus is capable of,” says Stelana, who has a background in editing and production in international film and commercial productions in Greece and Cyprus.

The movie Committed is a road-trip movie taking place for the two main characters on one day. Set on the Eastern Mediterranean island, it’s about a man, running away from commitment, who comes across a bride on the road. They end up going on a road trip together, where they explore ideas about love, marriage and commitment; all against various Cypriot landscapes. They pose the question: do you have to be crazy to believe in love? “I think that matters of the heart fascinate all people, and I wanted to explore that. It all seems to be an endless topic of conversation.” The filming of the movie Committed hasn’t started yet, as it depends on the funding. If the shooting starts by May 2013, the film will be completed by the end of 2013 and ready to screen in early 2014, as Stelana says. Only a small teaser trailer was shot recently, to assist the funding campaign.

“This film was specifically designed to be shot on a super low budget – small cast, no complicated locations, no major lighting or set-ups, smaller crew. Cyprus is one of the cheapest shooting destinations in Europe, and we have some great production companies behind us – as Fullmoon Productions, Seahorse Films, and Filmworks – who have helped us keep costs down through equipment, facility and service contributions, so the actual fund that we need to get this film made is about $40,000.

“We have two lead actors and several featured extras. We haven’t begun casting yet, but ideally they will all be Greek. The film is in English, so they will have to be able to perform in that language. It may very well be a Greek from abroad, perhaps even Australia,” Stelana says to Neos Kosmos.

Stelana Kliris was born and raised in South Africa, where her parents moved around the time of the war, from Rizokarpaso of Cyprus. She was lucky, the talented artist says, that she had the best of both worlds: she was raised in a Greek home, in an African country, having a ‘wonderfully diverse way to grow up’. Fairly new to Cyprus, Stelana moved to the island two years ago. After completing her degree in South Africa, she moved to London, and than to Greece, where she was working in film industry for seven years. “I worked mostly in international commercials, which was the best way to learn the business, but my heart has always been in cinema. After I shot my first short film, The Fiddler in Cyprus, I decided to take the risk, move over and pursue my own projects in a small, supportive environment.

I have been in Cyprus for two years now and it’s been great so far,” Stelana says. Two short movies have already been produced and directed by Stelana Kliris, and both of them entirely shot in Cyprus. Her first short film The Fiddler was screened at several international short film festivals and was awarded at the Drama International Short Film Festival in Greece last year. A second film, Hope, was recently screened at the Cyprus International Short Film Festival. In Stelana’s opinion, as a road-movie shot in Cyprus and with unmistakable flavour of the island, Committed could be an incredible boost for Cyprus and its tourism. The movie will be showcasing some of the islands most beautiful locations. “If the film gets enough exposure, just by getting Cyprus’ name out there, it could attract all sorts of businesses back into the country. We’re still on a smaller scale – however, some good examples of films that boosted their countries’ profiles are Vicky Christina Barcelona and Slumdog Millionaire,” she says.

If this film takes off, it could inject some life into the dwindling Cypriot film industry. As work peters out, many film industry workers are considering leaving the country. This is, according to young Stelana Kliris, the biggest challenge these young people face. “If this happens, the industry dies. It is tragic, as we have good filmmakers here and even better stories to tell. Cyprus is a country still divided by war and politics, a crossroad between the East and the West, a melting pot of the many cultures that have visited, invaded or occupied it. The stories are endless. And the filmmakers are dying to tell them.” However, Stelana is enthusiastic, and still believes that if there is a good story – you don’t need millions to tell it.

“Being a member of the Hellenic diaspora and having met with Greeks from all over the world, and knowing what we can do when we support each other, I’m really counting on our diaspora to pull this off; not just in the funding phase, but also when it hits the screens. By contributing to this campaign, you will actively take part in making a movie, and more importantly, you will provide local filmmakers with work, and support Cyprus’ film industry. It’s going to be a feel-good movie with heart, and set in the cradle of our heritage,” concludes Stelana.

Your contribution made to the making of the feature film Committed, may see you receive a DVD of the movie, mailed to your address and a poster or the film signed by the director. Also, your name may appear in the closing credits of the movie. For more information on contributing toward the fundraising drive for Stelana Kliris’ movie Committed, visit: Fundraising closes on Friday 14 December.