Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Movie moments

Movie moments

Picking up where I left off… Over in Cyprus… The film filmed on Symi, ‘The 13th’, was shown in a programme of screenings on the Saturday night (17th) and was well received. I answered questions afterwards and then went for something to eat; it had been a long day. On Sunday, I was able to slip away during the morning to have a look around a tiny part of the Archaeological Park in the blazing sun for a couple of hours. (Today’s photos.) Later, rather red and sweaty, I headed back to where I was staying to prepare for another evening of films, this time, those being shown in the experimental film programme. It was on the way back from this event that what William Goldman (Screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among many others) calls a ‘movie moment’ happened. It is one of those stories where you had to be there, but I’ll try and tell it as I experienced it.

Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos, Cyprus

There are four of us in a car, two film directors and two comedy writers (me being one of the writers, in case you were wondering). We needed to stop at a shop to pick up some bits and pieces (beer) for later. The car pulls up, and Aris and I leap out, him from the driving seat, me from the back, and we both slam our doors at the same time, fall into step and march quickly into the shop.

‘I feel like I’m in a Tarantino film,’ I say as there was something movie-ish about the timing.

Inside the shop, I find what I need, pay for it and turn around to see the other three watching a TV screen up on the wall. A film is playing, and clearly, something major is about to happen.

Three separate gangs are arriving at a casino. There are long shots and close-ups, some tracking shots as the heavies walk through the casino, and the sound and colour, plus the action, are actually quite good.

‘What’s this movie?’ someone asks.

‘Not sure. Looks good.’

We watch a bit more as it’s quite a compelling scene.

‘Something’s about to kick off.’

‘Is it Tarantino?’

‘I don’t recognise it.’

‘Great shot.’

Remember there are two film directors here, no doubt studying the camera angles while the writers write the ‘black stuff’, the action/stage direction in their heads, wondering how they would write this scene.

The three gangs are meeting up on the roof of the casino, and it’s all getting very tense. The music is building.

‘It’s nicely choreographed,’ someone says, meaning the action.

‘Reminds me of West Side Story.’

Everyone is very impressed, and even though we’ve got our supplies, no-one is in a hurry to leave. The scene has us hooked, and we want to know what’s going to happen.

‘Is it a Scorsese?’

‘Might be.’

And then the screen splits into three.

‘What is this film?’ Frustration that none of us recognises it, we feel like we should.

The three gang bosses are shown in the split screen, facing the camera. They lift their hands to their faces, and suddenly they pull away latex masks to reveal…

‘Uh, Charlie’s Angels.’ All four of us say it in disappointed unison, turn and walk out. Another movie moment.

Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos, Cyprus

I found it funny at the time, it’s better when I tell it to you in person. Which is an interesting point. Telling stories is to the same as writing stories, and comedy is very difficult to write. It’s much easier to speak as you can keep the flow going, use expressions and gestures, leave pauses and so on. Anyway, that was my Saturday and Sunday night in Paphos. The next day I headed for home which meant a taxi to the local bus station. The taxi turned out to be more like a limousine, a rather grand way to arrive at a bus station. From there it was a journey to Limassol to change buses, and another one on to Larnaca for the plane. A one-hour 45-minute flight over Rhodes and Symi to Athens to change. Another plane, where I was flying with Yiannis Poseidon who had been in Athens, down to Rhodes, once more waving at Symi as I passed, and a taxi to the hotel before taking the ferry the next day. And that, in a nutshell, was my trip to Cyprus. Here are some more photos.

Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos, Cyprus

IF

IF

Jack, the Alarm Cat

This isn’t my usual kind of blog post, but I know that many people will want to know about this. I will be back with my usual blog on Monday.

I’m interrupting my trip to Cyprus with the sad news that Jack, the Alarm cat, died on Thursday night. He was 14 and had long suffered from his bad ears and skin. Despite treatments and care, they got to the stage where they would bleed and there was nothing we could do to stop them. We were unable to have them removed due to his heart condition and, in the end, that wouldn’t have helped him as he had other places around his head that were also bleeding. In the end, we had to take the decision to help him on his way; it was only a question of time and it was clear there was not much of that left. We are very grateful to Symi Animal Welfare, Claudia, Hazel, Suzanne, Philamonos, Steve and, Jenine who all gave advice and help in one way or another, and to Sotiris who, being very experienced in this kind of thing because of his farm, came to see to things professionally. We were both there, and it was very peaceful.

 

Jack will be missed and not just by us. He was a huge character (and a huge cat) and gave many people pleasure and lots of souvenir fur when he cuddled up to them. He’s the only cat I’ve been friends with that had his own fan club and Facebook page. Despite his deafness, he helped take production meetings for ‘The 13th’ back in 2013, appeared on mugs and T Shirts, attended sing-songs around the piano, parties and other events and, of course, carried out his early morning alarm call duties faithfully. He is now at rest within sight of the house.

Jack, the Alarm Cat
April 11th, 2003 – June 22nd, 2017

James Collins2012/11/25 09:38:33

A quick script

A quick script

Continuing the story from the Cyprus Film Festival… After the dancing, there came the buffet and a drink, but I had already eaten. I started chatting to a director called Samuel as it looked like we were the only people wearing the official festival badges, the other guests were organisers and interested parties. We, as people with films in the programme, were treated as the guests of honour and introduced to various people. That was all fine and dandy, and come ten o’clock I was thinking that an early night might be a good idea. I had been on the go since about six that morning. And then we were told that we should attend a meeting in ‘Suite 48,’ about the short film part of the festival. Why not? I thought, best to show support and I can keep awake another hour.

This is what a film script looks like after the first meeting (the book is here purely as an advert )

This is what a film script looks like after the first meeting (the book is here purely as an advert, the can of beer a necessity)

I imagined Suite 48 would be a suite of rooms in the university where we were staying and where screenings were happening. It turned out to be a Grill and Bar Lounge down by the seafront a short walk away. I just went with it not knowing what to expect. I ended up at a table with some of the volunteers and organisers and Samuel, the Belgian arthouse director. It turned out that part of the festival was given over to a short script competition and there were the scripts, around six or seven of them. The idea was to film one of them the next day. The idea being to produce and shoot a film in under 48 hours as a workshop. As people chatted, I looked through the scripts briefly. Little did I know…

Shoot meeting at Suite 48

Shoot meeting at Suite 48

I am not sure how it happened, and I’ll cut a long story short, but it ended up with Samuel being the director and me the writer of a short film inspired by an idea from one of the scripts. After much discussion, I thought, ‘I’d better write some of this down,’ and so the writer, me apparently, called for a pen and paper. I know; I never have one to hand when I need one. I jotted down some notes based on what the organiser/producer and the director had in mind, went over those ideas, they were then developed further and honed them down until I had several scraps of paper with a rough outline and the main ideas noted. Later, it seemed that we’d reached the end of the discussion and there was nothing more to do except chat and chill. It felt, to me, as if it was about two in the morning by then and I gave my apologies and left, promising to have everything ‘scripted’ by the next day. (It was actually only midnight when I got back to my room.)

The green room at the shoot

The green room at the shoot

Needless to say, the ‘script’ was a piece of paper with some notes on it, set out in a logical order. I’d listened to what Samuel the director wanted, as a good writer should, and then double checked that this is what we wanted and that all ideas had been incorporated or discarded according to the plan. The following day, we met up at the location, a garden centre in Paphos, where some extras had been called in to help out. After some chatting and organising we got to the stage of, ‘So, what are we shooting?’ and all eyes turned to Samuel and I. A further discussion ensued, we saw who we had to work with, gave the cast their characters, and set out an order for scenes. We’d already decided that the dialogue would be improvised; all I had done really was put the ideas into a structured form and made sure that what Samuel ended up filming was what he had seen as his vision for the short.

Shooting 'not for sale' in Paphos

Shooting ‘not for sale’ in Paphos

It was a long day, but an interesting one and good fun. Everyone worked hard and cooperated brilliantly, and we managed to film a decent amount of footage along the lines of the ‘script.’ There were a few unexpected extras moments, such as a member of the public coming up to Nikos (the lead actor serving behind the counter) and asking him where the toilets were; perhaps that will be in the outtakes. The film will be shown on Sunday night at the awards ceremony, I am told, though it itself is not actually up for any awards.

Shooting 'not for sale' in Paphos

Shooting ‘not for sale’ in Paphos

And that was Saturday up until four in the afternoon. Our film, The 13th, was due to be screened back at the university in the 5pm session and so I was keen to get back, wash and change and prepare myself to be there and answer questions about it afterwards. That’s a story for tomorrow.

Samuel directing

Samuel directing

Some of those involved afterwards (I am the one in the blue dress and no bra)

Some of those involved afterwards (I am the one in the blue dress and no bra)