“If you look around you, there is reality, but there is also another parameter: the viewpoint.” I went to TEDxAUEB prepared to find in George ‘Skoumas’ Papanikolaou a creative, “no-budget” filmmaker and photographer. But when he went on stage he said this line, which overturned many of the things I had in mind to ask him.
The “viewpoint” is not just what tells a good director from a… not so good one, but also what tells the “gutsy” from the “miserable”. George thinks that it defines our stance in life. “It’s like the saying with the half-full and the half-empty glass. The viewpoint, the way we see things, is a critical factor. Television is a fine example. It’s easy to see how it can alter and distort reality.” George does not watch TV and describes his own viewpoint as “surrealistic, because there’s quite a lot of imagination in there…”
In purpose, I decided not to refer to George as the creator of ‘I dance to trance’ (a popular spoof video), but to present him as living proof that the lack of money not only does not kill creativity, but it can actually spark and activate it. With a lot of patience and persistence, with a humble DSLR camera and a - literally - nonexistent budget, he made the film “The Designer”, a project which began purely for fun, within a group of friends, and evolved into a 35-minute film. “Yes, it all began for the sake of fun, but the takes were quite good, so I thought we could do something more elaborate. Then I met with music director Nikos Salonitis, who advised me to take it slowly and work more methodically. So, I wrote a longer screenplay and we ended up with a 35-minute film. But, the fact that we started this just for fun, essentially means that I was really into it”, says George.
For obvious reasons the whole no-budget idea can only be extremely attractive. But is it feasible? “Of course it is”, George exclaims. “I think that money is a form of energy. If we can invest emotionally on people and give a different form of energy, I think we can make it work. There’s more to life than money, there are many more incentives out there. But people are driven by money and money alone. We need to seek another way of motivation and activation. But it is equally important to be patient. There is always a ‘dead’ period, where there is no reward; this is the time when our persistence is put to the test. But it is also a stage that we have to move over from.”
George looks for inspiration mainly in his trips but also in everyday simple things “like going running with my headphones on.” The film hero he’s been more intrigued by, is the dual main character at “Fight Club” – either Brad Pitt or Edward Norton. His favourite director is James Cameron “apart from the tension and the particular scenes that stay in your mind, there is always something indefinitely mysterious in his films. Something like a journey.” George’s love for action and on-screen tension is strongly manifested in his own flick. Another thing which motivates him is challenge. “What I love in making movies is the high difficulty factor.”
Along with his film-making activity, George is an avid fan of photography. “Photography is a more direct form of art. Its silence makes it interesting and mysterious”, he says.
George is currently working on not just one, but two new filming projects. The first is another no-budget venture. For the second, he’ll try to go “the commercial way”.
No matter which way he goes, George believes in his abilities and his art. As he says, it’s all about the right viewpoint.