Two Greek filmmakers at the San Diego International Comic-Con

Dimitris Tsakaleas and Sotiris Petridis are about to present their horror short film #NotAlone at the US pop culture event of the year.

With 130,000 visitors each year, it’s no wonder that San Diego Comic-Con International is considered the pop culture mecca of the world: a place where Hollywood studios announce their big superhero movies, where the new video games are tested and where comic-book, sci-fi and horror fans go from stall to stall among cosplay enthusiasts dressed up as their favourite characters. It is also the incubator of new projects and where new talent emerges from, particularly at the side events, such as the acclaimed short film program. This year, there’s a Greek short horror film among this year’s roster: #NotAlone. Written, directed and produced by Sotiris Petridis and Dimitris Tsakaleas, it is already being hailed as a small gem, narrating in five minutes the story of a young woman dealing with a dark entity threatening her through her mobile phone. The two filmmakers (the former a PhD candidate and the latter a student of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s Film Department) talk to Neos Kosmos about the film, their hopes and aspirations and what it means trying to make fantasy fiction in crisis-stricken Greece.

How did #NotAlone come to be?
Sotiris Petridis: I’ve been thinking to write a story influenced by the viral esthetic now dominating the internet culture, for a quite some time. Linking the story itself to this esthetic was inevitable. That is the main idea behind ‘#NotAlone’, which is a comment on over-sharing [in] the internet age, through an occult lens. It took five months from inception to the film’s post-production, with the whole process being completely ‘no budget’ – we covered all (minor) expenses out of our own pockets.

What has its journey been since the film was completed?
Dimitris Tsakaleas: We’re very happy because it was embraced by the audience online, but also on the festival circuit. #NotAlone has had a strong online presence, with many views and many favourable mentions on both Greek and international websites, from Huffpost and Euronews to the acclaimed Blumhouse Productions.
Sotiris: Since the movie’s pre-production time, we decided to let it free online, but also to pursue festival screenings. So far, both attempts have been successful. Two months since its premiere, it has been screened in 11 festivals in six countries and has won the Best Short Film Award at the Hororrant Film Festival.

What does participating at the Comic-Con International mean to you?
Dimitris: It’s a great joy and honour to have our movie at the biggest pop culture event in the US. We’re very happy to see the work of all the people who worked for it be acknowledged like that.
What is your greatest apiration?
Dimitris: Our main goal is for each story we make to reach as many people as possible. It’s very important to realise that a movie can touch people from different sides of the planet.

Why did you choose this genre of fiction?
Dimitris: I’m a big fan of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, because [these] kind of movies deal with important issues of daily life in a way [that is] accessible to anyone. I think it takes a great deal of strength and mastery to address serious society issues through this kind of narrative.

What are your main influences?
Sotiris: While we were making #NotAlone, I had two basic influences: on one hand, Alfred Hitchcock and his overall cinematic approach; and on the other hand, the whole slasher film subgenre. Hitchcock’s directorial approach in suspense-building, combined with the slasher film esthetics which builds on terror without intense, gore sequences, were the starting point for our film, as we wanted to offer suspense without the easy solution of using bloody, gory scenes.

How easy is it to be an aspiring filmmaker in times of crisis?
Dimitris: I have no experience of filmmaking with no crisis. But what the crisis did, apart from all its negative effects in all aspects of society, was to make creators smarter and more open-minded. It’s important to be able to think how you can tell a story with so little means, because this means that you are in a position to understand the important parts of the story.
Sotiris: While there are certainly a lot of problems in the audiovisual sector due to the crisis, with fiction features being dramatically reduced in TV and cinema, this situation has also been an opportunity for creativity and innovations; you need to find new ways of approach, under the new circumstances. When you have to work within a limited budget – or no budget at all – then you either concede to the limitations and quit your vision or you try to find a creative way to face the problems. Despite the times, we chose the latter.

* Watch ‘#NotAlone’ on