Apart from creating a range of film projects, being a co-curator of the Greek Australian Short Film Festival and a producer, Stella Dimadis is the director and now co-producer and presenter of Channel 31’s She Shot.
NK: Stella, your career hasn’t been achieved in an instant – tell us about yourself and your journey?
SD: There are very few things in life that happen in an instant, but developing my creativity was certainly not one of them. For me it was an inherent aspect of myself, identifying from the age of five, in prep, without a word of English, that the best way I could communicate was through my drawings. For me, art was the universal language that I could apply to every situation. So from that very early age in childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood, art, stories, and creativity shaped me as a person and forged the journey and every decision I have ever made. There have been many moments where I have had to compromise and appease, simply because life, work and family commitments were never aligned on the same level playing field. I pushed on though, because practising my art was the only thing I knew, and by art, I mean my paintings, drawings, and writing. My art has kept me grounded.
NK: What were you doing before you entered the world of film making? Was there a moment when you said to yourself, “I want to be a filmmaker” or did that come later on?
SD: Melbourne in the ’70s was a very different place to what it is now. The culinary delights were very few, traffic was sparse, cars were large and my world consisted of my family and the extended family. I constantly observed life around me, watched my parents work in factories or at home to make ends meet, and lived for my art and the books that I pored over. These gave me an insight into the world away from my home in Brunswick and that I wanted to be a part of. I wanted more. I obtained a degree in fine art and formally painted and drew. It was the most liberating experience of my life, going to art school, but I also knew that I had to survive as I practised my art, so I did a DipEd at Melbourne University and taught for a while.
I painted and exhibited in galleries, but I wasn’t able to express myself enough. I felt I was still constricted in what I had to say, and I found myself creating artworks with text; it was then that I knew I had to move across into film. In essence I was creating storyboards. With the birth of my fourth child, 18 years ago, I was initiated into that world. So, with my baby in the baby capsule, I had a few meetings with film schools to see how I could move across into the world of filmmaking. Looking back I’m sure that it was quite a sight, mother with baby capsule in a film school wanting to be a filmmaker.
NK: Who has inspired you? Where did you get the idea for your first film, Just a Memory, in 2011?
SD: I constantly get inspired by many people and the things they do, some that may never get a mention in life, like the nurse that has to look after the Alzheimer’s patient who refuses to eat and that the world never sees. I am, however, inspired by professional people too; Robert Rodriguez, Darren Aronofsky, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Georgia O’Keefe, Joy Hester, Frida Kahlo, Kriv Stenders – there is a mix of directors, artists and writers here, and each and every one of them has shown phenomenal drive, energy and guts to portray their unique vision to the world.
I always know when I am about to embark on some creative project. It comes from within and starts to ferment inside of me and refuses to allow me to rest. I have a restlessness that those closest to me know what it is going to mean, so I am left alone to create. I had one such urge whilst still at film school, that was independent from the curriculum. The idea revolved around an older couple, and what that older couple may look like if the wife was still holding on to a love that was long gone from her life. What does a loss in life mean and the regrets that go with it? I am really proud of that little short because it is my first film and the film that showed me my first baby steps.
NK: Who does Medea films represent? What are you hoping to achieve with your production company?
SD: Medea Films was inspired by Euripides’ Medea. There is always a look of horror by some people who know the story of Medea, a young woman who revengefully kills her own children to get back at her husband for taking on a lover, then flees to Athens, but for me the name represents a woman that did not allow society to dictate what she could and couldn’t do. If she couldn’t have what she wanted, neither could he. For me, that says something about equality. In any case, Medea Films is now in development on two feature films and co-producing She Shot.
NK: You have been to Los Angeles to receive ‘Best Cinematography’ for 25.12. The film has screened in various online festivals worldwide and live screenings. Tell us about 25.12 and the international attention it has received.
SD: 25.12 is about an older man who faces loneliness on Christmas Day. The film is based on a short story, Christmas, written by Thanassi Papastergiou. The film is 13 min and 48 seconds in duration and it has done very well across the world. It has been in 13 International Film festivals to date, some online and some live screenings. Approximately 45 people worked on 25.12 and it took two years from concept to completion. I’m proud that it won ‘Best Cinematography’ in the 9th Indie Fest USA, Los Angeles, great work for Con Filippidis, the cinematographer.
NK: As we approach International Women’s Day, it would be great to get your thoughts on gender in the film and television industry. The Academy Association of America was recently blasted for lack of a gender, and CALD, balance. How are we placed here in Australia and also from what you have seen overseas?
SD: Diversity for me is what should be represented across all media. Our society is made up of men and women and a beautiful array of many cultures. Men, women and the many cultures in our society all have unique stories to tell; these stories must be represented, otherwise content becomes homogenised, bland and boring. I understand that our film and television industry in Australia is very small, but from small things greatness can still eventuate, and by that I mean that if diversity is a priority, then the greatness and richness of these stories will be executed. If this does not occur, then there will be anger within the established institutions, as it has been witnessed recently with the Academy. Screen Australia has made a decision to increase funding for female-driven projects. A study recently showed that if female directors are employed then the rest of the crew will become more gender balanced. This is a real passion of mine, which is why I am the vice president of Women in Film Television in Victoria.
NK: You are involved in a new project called She Shot. Tell us about the idea behind it.
SD: Women in Film and Television Victoria in association with Channel 31 have worked together to create a one-hour program featuring five female filmmakers and their short film projects. The idea behind the program is to showcase female filmmakers and their films with a discussion with the filmmakers about their films, thoughts and future projects. It will be aired on 7 March at 9.30 pm, celebrating International Women’s Day. She Shot via the Facebook page is also showcasing the individuals who make up the crew. Presenting female filmmakers in this way will hopefully raise awareness on the work that women are doing as filmmakers and allowing viewers to see their work, who otherwise may not be given an opportunity.
NK: Are there any other projects you have been working on?
SD: My book is a loose historical account of four generations of the two sides of my family. I am exploring the fluidity of human movement on our planet and how leaving one’s home, by force as a refugee, or as a migrant, impacts the following generations and how that journey starts to look for a family over, say, the course of 100 years. My family has had to move twice, my grandmother from Turkey in 1922, and my parents and myself from Greece to Australia in 1967. Both those journeys set our lives on a path that we could never have predicted.
My book is still a couple of years away, but in the closer future I am developing two feature films; one is a co-production and a co-writing exercise called Sharps, based on the gang culture of Melbourne in the ’70s, and on the book by Dean Crozier and Nick Tolewski, titled Once Were Sharps, and another is Exterminated, about one woman’s journey to overthrow the system that is controlling the masses.
NK: Finally, is there a favourite place in the world you like to relax?
SD: I spend a lot of time walking, thinking and I do these anywhere near a few times a week. It helps me put life, events, stories into perspective. I also find myself in the dance studio about four times a week, and in between the discipline of remembering dance steps, dancing helps me to relax. I also enjoy the social nature of dancing and allowing my body the freedom of expression without words. For someone who at times talks too much, this is definitely a relief for those around me.
She Shot screens on Channel 31 on 7 March @ 9.30 pm
* Billy Cotsis is the author of The Many Faces of Hellenic Culture.