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.