Masterclass by Yorgos Tsemberopoulos

Beloved filmmaker Yorgos Tsemberopoulos, who has given us some of the most significant moments in contemporary Greek cinema with films such as Sudden Love, Take Care, Backdoor, and The Enemy Within, delivered a masterclass on Friday, June 23, in Agia Anna as part of the 2nd Evia Film Project, titled "Professional, Artist, Filmmaker."

Yorgos Tsemberopoulos, who has an impressive five-decade career in the film industry, having traversed through all stages of film production, honored the event with his presence. He also participated in last year's Evia Film Project, where he presented the film Megara, which he co-directed with Sakis Maniatis. Eleni Androutsopoulou, the Head of the Greek Program at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, initially took the floor, welcoming "a beloved friend and companion of the Festival," before handing over the baton to Yorgos Tsemberopoulos.

"Northern Evia is my second home, and the Festival is in my heart, I have worked and served on the Board of Directors for four and a half years. When I was offered the opportunity to speak to the students of Psachna, I accepted at once, without even having considered the topic. I went back to the time when I was your age and pondered on these three words: Professional, Artist, Filmmaker. But in what order does one place these words? That is the dilemma, where the essence lies. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I urge you to never remove 'professional' from the equation, to never be afflicted by this timeless ailment. To summarize my personal journey, I studied Economics until I was 20 years old. In reality, I wandered around all day with a camera, capturing everything around me. However, I realized that my photographs were missing something -they couldn't capture the moments I experienced and witnessed in real life: music. That's when I decided to turn to cinema and found myself working as a photographer on a film set, without any payment, of course. I would sit in a corner, set up the shot, take the photograph, and then wait for the next one to be set up. I was captivated by witnessing so many different specialties working together, so many people collaborating meticulously towards a common goal. It was then that I understood that 24 frames ran through my veins, that I would dedicate myself wholeheartedly to cinema. And because I couldn't simply wait, I offered my assistance wherever it was needed, mending any hole that existed. Soon enough, I gained experience in short films, and I quickly realized that I wanted to tell my own stories," he stated initially before reflecting on his directorial journey in Greek cinema.

"This life journey in cinema has yielded five short and medium-length films and another five feature-length films. Along the way, I've performed every job that exists on a film set and have written many more screenplays than the films I've directed. Nevertheless, I was fortunate because I discovered early on that my path was through directing. What I want to convey to you is how much work is involved from the initial inspiration, from the first idea of a film to it becoming a reality, after two, three, or five years. I would say that the term 'masterclass' sounds somewhat strange to me. There is a corresponding Greek word that I really like: 'mastoras' (craftsman). Let's say that Nikos Perakis is a true 'mastoras' of Greek cinema. As a director, you need to become a 'mastoras' because you are obliged to collaborate with countless other specialties and understand their work, as they will offer you a lot,” he stated in reference to the matter.

Furthermore, Yorgos Tsemberopoulos made a special mention of the discipline that every aspiring creator must consistently demonstrate. "If you don't relax amidst the intensity of the work, you're not cut out to be a filmmaker. Forgive me for being so adamant about this issue, but I firmly believe it. Generations upon generations spend their time discussing the films they dream of making instead of actually making them. The subtitle of my speech today, 'Stories of Everyday Discipline,' is not a coincidence. Gain experience by trying and working, dedicate several hours every day to writing, and make films in any way you can, even with your cell phone camera, you can't just write and do film casually. Only by persistently writing will you eventually be able to give shape and substance to your characters and plot. You may even need fifty pages of writing for a five-minute short film, at least according to my own way of working. The key is to keep your antennas open; reality out there is full of cinematic stimuli. In my mind, life and cinema are not separate from each other," he explained emphatically.

Immediately after, the beloved Greek filmmaker dwelt on the magic of the cinema hall, making a comparison between the expressive power of cinema and television. "In my opinion, the cinema hall will not die; perhaps it will lose its popular character, but it will not die. The energy of the cinema hall, which compels you to engage in an experiential and focused viewing, cannot be replaced by the small screen. In television, by nature, you tolerate more carelessness and conveniences. The economy and conciseness of cinema are unbeatable; on television, you have the opportunity to develop a story over dozens of hours, while in cinema, you have an hour and a half or two hours at your disposal. I understand, of course, the aspect of making a living, and the truth is that in this day and age, television is much more lucrative. I also had a parallel profession with cinema; I worked as a producer in over 800 commercials, while other colleagues went into theater or television. Naturally, many well-known names we now recognize from television transitioned there from cinema, such as Lefteris Charitos, Vardis Marinakis, or Nikos Perakis, to name only a few. Currently, only France in the whole of Europe systematically invests in film production, having established a strong support system that remains unaffected by governmental changes and political games."

Concluding his remarks, Yorgos Tsemperopoulos engaged in a conversation with the audience and shared humorous experiences from his time studying film in the United States. He also spoke at length about the usefulness of advertising as a field of creative experimentation and practice for any aspiring filmmaker trying to find their own style, making a special reference to the case of Yorgos Lanthimos.

Evia Film Project is the Festival’s third pillar of activities, following the International Thessaloniki Film Festival, held in November, and the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, held in March. Its goal is to consolidate Northern Evia, a region severely hit by the 2021 calamitous wildfires, as an international hub of green cinema. Evia Film Project is actualized with the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, within the framework of the Reconstruction Plan for Northern Evia, in collaboration with the Region of Central Greece, the Greek Film Centre, the Municipality of Istiea-Edipsos, and the Municipality of Mantoudi-Limni-Agia Anna. The Thessaloniki Film Festival collaborates with the production institutions that are based in Evia and the Department of Digital Arts and Cinema of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Psachna.