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EAVE EXCLUSIVE interview with EAVE graduate and Greek National Coordinator Konstantinos Kontovrakis

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©Jurgen Van Tiggelen

An interview with EAVE graduate Konstantinos Kontovrakis on the shooting of one of the first European co-production to be shot after the lockdown due to the COVID crisis.  

- I’m talking to you via Skype while you are on the small Greek Island Amorgros where you have been shooting the Greek-German-Italian co-production TÖCHTER (DAUGTHERS) since mid-June. How does it feel to shoot a film again?

Well, I would say, for sure it’s a relief that we are doing it, and there are points when it feels like a victory. It’s somewhere in between these two feelings. There was a point when it was a mere “if“ and “when“ and “how“ would we be able to go back to shooting – not this film, but in general – and then I kind of took it personally. I said, no, we cannot allow this situation to make our work obsolete – it’s either this or nothing. So we have to win this battle. On the other hand are we shooting a film here in conditions that are very friendly to the COVID safety protocol: We are outdoors, we’re all staying in this hotel here, we don’t have any difficult scenes with a lot of extras, we have no sex-scenes ... . So it’s a good project to get your feet wet and experience how to shoot under these conditions. But nevertheless we are doing it and that’s the most important thing. 

- You are shooting one of the first European co-productions after the lockdown of Europe’s film industry. How is it that you are so quick?

Well, two things: one is objective and has nothing to do with us, and that’s the fact that Greece was one of the countries that managed to handle the pandemic quite quickly and efficiently and therefore we were able to get out of the lockdown sooner than other countries and it’s a safe destination in that sense. The other thing is Bettina Brokemper’s, who is the main producer, determination in making it happen and not let go. The moment it became clear that Greece will open ist borders and that it will be possible to travel safe onto this island we are now and shoot, the moment we had a protocol published by the authorities and all that, we had less than a month to do all the preparation and be here and shoot. The borders opened for countries like Germany on the 15th of June. On the 16th Bettina and the whole cast and crew boarded a private plane and came to Greece.  

- What is the story of DAUGHTERS or TÖCHTER, as the film is called in German?

The film is a road movie set in Switzerland, Italy and Greece following two friends, Betty and Martha, who have the typical problems of emancipated forty-year-old single women in Berlin. They set out on a trip with Marthas dying father on their backseat to Switzerland where he has made an appointment for assisted suicide in a special institute. As it shows, things are not going exactly according to his plans. The story evolves to a big adventure that takes them to Italy and eventually to Greece in search of another father, Bettys father. The final part of the film is set in Greece. The film is a road trip and a bittersweet comedy with lots of dry humour.

- What do you think, how much longer will the shooting have taken in the end compared to non-COVID-times?

We do not need any more time for the shoot. I mean, normally we would not have stopped, but in terms of shooting days there was no days added to the shooting schedule because of the measures. We had to hire more people instead – it would either have been more time or more people. Because we have to disinfect everything at the end of the shooting day: the camera equipment, the light equipment, the wardrobe, the make-up rooms, the production base, all of these places have to be decontaminated by people. We decided to go for a slightly bigger crew so that we can save time and stay within the schedule that was initially planned. Another reason is that we think the less time we need for shooting, the less chances are there for a possible infection. So on the one hand there are financial and practical reasons and on the other hand there are safety reasons. 

- What else do you have to do to stick to the protocol?

The Greek protocol is slightly stricter than the German. Everybody had to get tested before we started shooting. The cast was getting tested twice – the second time was here on the island. As I said, all the equipment has to be decontaminated at the end of the shooting day before the crew puts them in the trucks to store them until the next day. The same applies for the wardrobe and make-up equipment as well as for all the rooms that are used for the production. There is medical staff with us at all times. They are also taking the temperature and monitor the safety regulations. And then there is the usual stuff: indoors we need to wear masks, fortunately the majority of the scenes are outdoors. We need to keep safety distances with eachother. The medical staff inspecting the shoot, reports daily at a health inspection company, which is going to certify at the end of the shoot that the protocol was followed. But that’s pretty much it.

- So it’s strange, but it’s manageable?

It’s strange, but sometimes it’s also irritating. You know, we’re here to work. And sometimes people forget something and you don’t want to be the policeman to tell other people what they have to do. But we are all getting used to it and we are respectful to each other and that’s the main thing.

- With all these precautions and safety measures the production will cost more money?

For sure all things bring extra costs to the production, completely unforeseen costs. Now we have to start to talk budget and take all these things into consideration. But for me the most important thing is that we are making it. I’m talking to colleagues while I’m here and I’m telling that we are shooting. And the reaction I received from all of them was that they are feeling optimistic and encouraged that we, that someone is doing it. It’s important to show people that can you continue to do your job under these conditions. We’ll have to find solutions all the time and we’re doing that here, too. Most of the European independent producers are tough cookies. We are learned to work with difficulties and under harsh conditions, so we’ll battle that, too. 

- Besides TÖCHTER, you have more international co-productions scheduled for shooting this year?

Yes, we have. The funny thing is, this whole thing is happening in a year where we are only shooting international co-productions. After this one here we have MEDITERRANEO by Marcel Barrena, a Spanish-Greek production which we were supposed to shoot now and which is postponed to September. And then we have TRIANGLE OF SADNESS by Ruben Östlund, which we are also going to shoot in the fall. All these projects were initially planned for now, but we had to change our plans because of the COVID chaos. But we have resumed to work on these two projects, too. And hopefully in September and October we are going to shoot them. So for us, as I said in the beginning, it has been a matter of doing it. Otherwise – what? We close business? We can’t let this happen. 

- So this will be a memorable year, I suppose.

Yes, let’s hope for good reasons, also. Who would have thought we would experience a pandemic in our lifetime. But we are. We should be thankful that science and medicine is progressed enough to be able to battle this thing.

Still from Töchter, ©Wolfgang Ennenbach Heimatfilm

Page published 30 July 2020. Updated 31 July 2020.


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