Friday, February 22, 2019

Finding Yianni

I’ve travelled through various cities to find my sailor. From Athens to Crete then Vancouver and LA but success came in Toronto. Technically it would have happened in New York but a very accommodating and talented actor came to see me here instead... and our Yianni was finally discovered. 

And this is how it all began. He arrived at Pearson International airport with his cowboy hat. He was incredibly handsome but at first appeared a bit shy. As he got in the car and started conversing I knew he had the personality I was looking for to be a part of an incredible cast already assembled. I already knew he was a great actor but was he the right man to play Yianni the sailor? 

I wanted Yianni to look in his mid to late thirties, handsome and very sexy. It is important to me that Yianni is not a playboy instead he’s intelligent with a past often in deep thought like a philosopher but incredibly charming.  

The auditions took place a few hours after I dropped him to his hotel. He entered the room and as he began his audition we knew then he was our Yianni. There was no question in my mind that we had found our sailor. 

It is these moments, part of the process of filmmaking that I enjoy the most because you see your vision becoming a reality. This guy delivered his lines authentically, with the right amount of charm and when he sang the goosebumps were visibly present. Chemistry was high. Wow! 

Constantine Maroulis will play the Greek sailor and we’re excited because we know that this 2x Tony nominated actor will win the hearts of audiences all over the world with his authentic self. 

I write these blogs  to keep the already passionate fans abreast of what’s happening and for aspiring independent filmmakers to see the amount of work it takes to go through the art of making a movie with a small budget but with people who have true passion, dedication and perseverance. This has not been an easy road but it is the difficulties along the way that have made us stronger demanding more of ourselves and others in order to make the vision a reality. 

Like I told Constantine that night ... we’ve seen many talented and well known actors but he had that “it” factor that I hadn’t seen before. 

Welcome Constantine we look forward to have you be a part of our adventure. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

We found our Eve!

Melissanthi Mahut, Greek Canadian actress, will play the starring role of Eve, the Hollywood star that after her father’s death takes on a journey to search for her roots and family home in the beautiful island of Crete!

Melissanthi, known for playing Kassandra in ASSASSIN’S CREED and receiving a nomination for BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CHARACTER in D.I.C.E awards that took place in Las Vegas this month has joined our Red Door and Lemon Tree Family!

Melissanthi’s other work include playing Tina, in IN TRANSIT, Pavlina in I GEFSI TIS AGAPIS and also known for playing in the film WORLD’S APART with J.K. Simmons and the film Notias directed by Tassos Boulmetis. 

My journey with Melissanthi has been incredible and I’m delighted to have her join our cast. I first met her in Athens in 2017 and I knew then that she had to be in my film. It was, of course, her audition late last year in Toronto, after a day’s work on Assassins Creed, that she blew us away with her authenticity and superb acting skills. She’s a brilliant actress and she will shine in this role!

Melissanthi, we welcome you and look forward to having you be a part of our journey!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I never forget!

I first met Simon Reynolds in 1988, on the set of Friday the 13th:The Series. He was already an established actor, playing Murray Amherst on the tv series Check It Out (1985-87) as well as having guest appearances on the popular 80’s hit show Night Heat and many others.

I was just an extra starting out in the tv/film industry, and doing background work and being on set with all the action was exciting. As time passed, I saw a lot of background people get called while others were waiting around reading a book and seemed to be just as happy to be called or not since they were getting paid regardless. I decided to see if I could create my own destiny and with permission I decided to walk around.

Filming was taking place at De La Salle College, a popular Catholic high school. As I walked around I noticed the director getting ready to film behind the school. I heard him instruct a few extras that were around to cry. “I need students crying ... someone just died.” I seized the opportunity. I jumped in and started bawling. The director pointed at me and two guys. “You, you and you “. I was in heaven! That’s when I met Simon. My very first scene was to cry while the two students consoled me and I had to walk right by Simon. It took only a few takes to my dismay (I was having too much fun and was hoping for more time doing what I love) and I remember the then 19 year old Simon who introduced himself right away was kind, friendly and very intelligent.

I was lucky enough to be asked to come back the rest of the week. I ended up doing a lot more scenes, from being in a prom dance, to watching a student plunge to his death from the school’s roof top while I, in the freezing cold, wearing only a dress, had to react to the fall.

The week was so much fun for many reasons. I got to reaffirm to myself how much I loved the tv/film industry and the people in it but most importantly I met this talented young actor that took time to sit with me and the other extras and even agreed to do an interview for my High School paper.

Weeks later he kept that promise and came for the interview.

Although we both became busy with our own lives and careers, I never forgot the wonderful and talented person that he is.

When I wrote the Farook character, a playful and interesting hotel guest, I came to realize how deep and complex this character was and I would have to get an actor of sufficient calibre, just like I did with John O’Hurley playing the director.

Having followed Simon’s career and never forgetting the kindness he showed that very first day on the set and the days that followed, I decided to give him a shout all the way to India where he currently resides and see if he would be interested.

He not only blew me away with how well he interpreted the script but his audition was one of my favourites exceeding all expectations. He even learned how to speak Finnish, committing to the character fully and passionately.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the very talented and memorable Simon Reynolds in the role of Farook.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The inspiration behind "Red Door and Lemon Tree"

By Maria Dalekos

Can a heart be in two places at the same time? For me, it is. Let me tell you how I discovered that there is more than one way to find your true self and define your identity, and (spoiler alert) how this experience became the screenplay “Red Door and Lemon Tree”.

From a very young age I struggled with the question of where I belong. I left my birth place twice. Once to São  Paulo, Brazil, and later to Toronto, Canada, where I have lived most of my life, with family, friends, my new home.

Despite the repeated bouts of emigration, I was raised to have respect for traditional Greek values and I was encouraged to pursue my dreams, in my new surroundings, however ambitious they may be. It was a remarkable dichotomy: experiencing the pain of diaspora, yet wide-eyed at the prospects of my new reality. Only one thing seemed certain: there would need to be some sacrifices.

“Red Door and Lemon Tree” is a lot of things but one of those things is an examination of this dichotomy. On one side stands Eve, successful, famous, established. On the other side Mary, restless, ambitious, ready for anything. Both are impressions of myself at different times and both searching to find their place in the world.

Mary is the younger, hungry me grabbing every opportunity that comes her way.

Eve is like myself at the height of my big moment of fame. A young TV reporter, biting off more than they thought I could chew, I found myself in the other shoe. First class air, limo, Presidential suite, champagne and flowers, reporters asking me questions, walking on the dais tracked by every television camera, reporter microphone and VIP glance while receiving a prestigious award from Konstantinos, Stephanopoulos, the President of the Republic. I felt like a Star! From chasing celebrities on the red carpet hoping for a quick quote to occupying column inches in the front pages of national papers, pictures and all.

The real honour, however, was that this supreme acknowledgement came from my birth country, the one I still felt I belonged to, for my work in my adopted country.

I came to realize how much my roots, my culture, and my heritage meant to me. I also realized that dreams can be redefined. It was at that moment that Eve and Mary were born.

I decided then, to send my two women in their own adventure in the screenplay. Eve leaves her Hollywood success and fame to delve deeper into her past, embarking on a Mediterranean adventure; Mary escapes her village lifestyle to pursue her dreams despite the risks, uncertainties, and showbiz high pressure.

Both women take great risks to have a chance to find their own truth. Neither is willing to take the easy path and they will stop at nothing.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Started alone, finishing strong

When I began my filmmaking journey, I wanted to create a great film about two women searching for their place in the world and looking out for each other. This was reflected in my screenplay, Red Door and Lemon Tree. But the hard part was turning it into a working production.

As a woman writer, I wanted to express my voice, tell my story. It wasn’t easy to get the financing. I had to face off in meetings with businessmen and try to prove that this story was relevant and worth the investment. Some laughed and told me to come back when I had some big Hollywood names. Others cancelled meetings, repeatedly. For a while, it was hard to ignore the feeling that the story was hard to sell exactly because it was about women. Especially when the financiers started to “suggest” that I change it into another version of “The Hangover”, with more male cast.

The first light came in the form of a woman investor who looked at the story and decided it needed to be told. After that, the rest of the dominoes fell in place. After a long struggle to secure financing, I am thankful to those who believed in my project, even before I had recruited my stars.

I started almost all alone. Along the way, the past three years, I have been fortunate to attract many interesting, talented and professional people who have either helped with the production or with introductions or advice. Even those who offered their ear late at night when I needed to vent or cheer.

The Universe has a sense of humour, after all. Without meaning to, and with an almost perfect confluence of random events and serendipitous meetings, I seem to have managed to recruit a brigade composed of powerful, talented and successful women, both behind and in front of the camera. It is now possible to make this film with a team where all the lead positions above-the-line are women: Producer, director, cinematographer, assistant director, costume designer, casting director, production designer, composer, and a few co-producers. This is unprecedented and would almost never happen in a large studio production. Not to mention that the top two cast salaries are both women.

When I founded my company, I put a mission statement on my website that I wanted to promote opportunities for women in film, and that is exactly what I was able to do, effortlessly. I gave the opportunities and these talented women took them. I couldn’t be prouder.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Casting Mary

Does every girl acting in this film have to be named Maria? No, but it helps (remember this, it will make more sense in the coming weeks...)

“We found our Mary!”, Irini Tzortzoglou, our persistent Location Manager, said in an email one quiet summer day last year. Between her and casting agent Chryssa Botou, emails like that were all too common. Their dedication in turning my vision into reality is strong, and I love them for it. So many beautiful women cropped up in our wide casting net: all stunningly gorgeous actors and models but finding “the one” was quite the challenge. 

The character of Mary is special to me. This was someone I created over the course of the past eighteen years. My Mary, beautiful Cretan village girl, is not only stunning, quirky, and fun but she also makes everyone fall in love with, instantly. She transcends the stereotypical “girl next door” paradigm. Men want to be her friend. Women are not intimidated by her incredible beauty. She wins over everyone with her warm and gentle personality. 

Had I created the perfect woman? Would I be able to find her? 

Then, I clicked on the attachment link… an image of THAT girl stared right at me. 

I started googling her furiously. Every photo, commercial video, and poster image was more bewitching and dazzling then the previous one. How is that possible? I dialled Irini right away. 

“Oh my God”, I told her. “You're right, this is our Mary. I love her! We have to find her.” Irini said she was “on it!” and, with Chryssa’s help, took her less than a day to track her down. 

Irini spoke to her personally and told me: “You're going to be impressed with her. She's smart,  she's a sweetheart and she's from Crete!”  

I was starting to see things come together. The one question on all our minds, including the Director’s, was: “Can she act?”  As we prepared for auditions in Athens, having already found many other beautiful and talented candidates, we were hopeful, yet determined to keep an open mind. We wanted to be fair, to look at all of the actors auditioning and give them all a chance. But I was really pulling for one in particular…

We had a fantastic week in Athens. We auditioned the best of the best, for that role and for others. We boarded the flight for Crete feeling confident that we had found at least two possible Mary's. I wondered about THE ONE that had captured my heart. The Cretan beauty we were about to meet. 

The location was the Radisson Blu in Milatos, Crete. A beautiful villa with the sea as a backdrop. It was a stunning, sunny, warm day, in other words, just another day in Crete. The hotel receptionist called: “There's a gorgeous woman waiting to see you, Ms. Dalekos.” 

She was escorted to my villa. I met her face-to-face for the first time and she instantly exceeded my expectations. TFW you meet your soulmate.

Maria Tsagaraki, model, beauty queen, student of literature, daughter of Crete, and soon-to-be feature film star, seemed perfect for the role. I held myself together … that question still lingering: “Can she act?” 

She killed the audition. 

I wanted to cry from the joy I was feeling. George and I knew — without a doubt — that we had our Mary. It's like giving birth to your child. Your creation right there in front you. 

For me, what makes this even more special is Maria’s own personality. A genuine, beautiful, kind soul that truly loves her Cretan roots. She has the Cretan looks, mannerisms, and understanding of Cretan culture. As I've gotten to know Maria over the past year, my love for her has only grown.  

I have been dying to share this experience with all of you who have been a part of this journey. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you one of the most beautiful women in the world, inside and out, our Mary… Maria Tsagaraki. 

Meet her at our Gala in Toronto on September 8 (venue and ticket info coming soon).