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). 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

About the casting

As we prepare to make our announcements and introduce the cast of Red Door and Lemon Tree, I wanted to thank every single person who participated in this process. The team, the casting and talent agents, the volunteers, the hotel managers that welcomed us, and most of all, the actual talent. There were so many of you and I thank you. We staged auditions in Athens, Crete, L.A., Vancouver, and back home in Toronto.

Everyone I met or auditioned made an impression. There were few disappointments. With some, I felt an instant connection; others inspired me to create, add, or change some of the roles in the script and include them because of their brilliance. Then, there were those that I could easily see in starring roles in the near future, in my upcoming projects. But all of you have made a lasting impression that I will cherish forever.

I don't believe in coincidence. Instead, I know that we all meet for a purpose. Sometimes it's not clear right away, but, with time, it becomes evident, and it is up to us to cultivate, cherish and establish what it is that we are meant to do together.

The important thing to remember is that with every relationship — personal or otherwise — there will be some disappointment. Often, we choose to walk away and never look back because, on some level, it is easier. But those that persist and those that trust, believe, and continue to explore the true meaning and purpose of the relationship are the ones that are blessed with the rewards that come with the knowledge learned from the struggles and challenges that's called the journey of life.

As I post my announcements everyone will see how it all came together. It is often true that choosing an actor is not so much about ability alone, but the vision of the creator, the chemistry between the characters, and that ‘something’ the actor brings to the character.

I thank you all for your time, your dedication, your individuality, and the passion you have shown me for this project. Till we meet again…

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Second Chances

Second chances

We've all heard the sayings about first impressions and how important they are. The first time you meet someone and there's an instant connection or the impression is so good that you want to get to know the other person even more. That happens often. Especially for me, being in an industry where you meet so many beautiful and talented people, I'm often told not to give second chances. If somebody screws up, they're late, unprepared, or come off snobby or give you any negative vibes... that's it. They blew it. 

My personality tends to wonder though and I question this famous but unwritten first impression rule we seem to have about people. I wonder how many people we could have become friends with, hired or allowed to enrich our lives but didn't because of that darn first impression that for some reason didn't go as well as it should have. Have we not all had a bad day and have come across people only to wish later that we should have behaved differently more like our selves towards them but didn't; haven't we all had a bad alarm experience and ended up being late because of it? Life happens and to think that you only get one chance; it's kind of sad. 

First impressions are important but they're not always accurate. We've all met people that we were impressed with at first sight only to be disappointed later; may it be a partner, an employee or even a friend. That's because sometimes the first time you meet someone they may not truly be themselves. Those that are really good at it give you their best version of themselves or put on an act to impress you because they know or think they know what you're looking for. So in my opinion first impressions are not always accurate whether they're positive or negative. 

I am happy to have given second chances to people after a very awkward, not pleasant and sometimes bad first encounter. One of my dearest friends would have never become my  closest and most cherished friend if I had allowed myself to go by her first impression on me. The same goes with work. Sometimes the first interview may not have gone as well but relying on that instinct and calling to see that person for a second time, because of that "gut" feeling, has proven to be a great thing. 

I tend to rely more on that "gut" feeling. Sometimes if we allow ourselves to see beyond the attitude and feel or understand what's underneath the surface that second chance can introduce us to some incredible people. 

Cheers to second chances.... sometimes they work out better than great first impressions!