Fandom Wanderers is very pleased to present an interview with Marcus Markou, creator of the film ‘Papadopoulous & Sons’. Marcus has previously made a short film, ‘The Last Temptation of Chris’, and is also the Chairman of BusinessesforSale.com. He kindly made time to answer a few of our questions.
Tell us a bit about your new film, Papadopoulos and Sons.
It’s the story of a wealthy London Greek businessman who loses everything in a financial crash and is forced to go back to an old disused fish and chip shop. So, it’s riches to rags. In the process, he learns who he really is and what is imporant.
How would you describe the tone of the film?
I describe it as a fairy tale. It’s a very old fashioned story with very clear archetypes. It’s very much in the bitter sweet territory – a comedy that aspires to being wise.
Do you think we need more films around the same themes, given the recession?
I’m surprised that there are not more responses to the crumbling world around us in the films we make. So much seems to be falling apart – things that have stood for 100s if not 1000s of years – like the banking system and organised religion. I have no doubt that we will see more films that are a response to this. The big question has always been, ‘how shall we live?’ I’ve tried to make a film that reaches outside of myself to answer that question.
How did you go about researching and writing the film?
As the son of a Greek immigrant I’ve had this story brewing in me for years. I wanted to explore the immigrants tale. I wanted to ask what is lost when an immigrant family improve their life and take on the culture of a host country. The financial crisis was really a structural vehicle for me to get a man out of a big mansion house and back into a chip shop. I had no idea that the real financial crisis would suddenly give the film added context.
Did your own experiences – like going into business with your brother – influence the film?
Yes. My brother and I come from a small business background. We are passionate about small businesses. Again, the financial crisis has put this passion into context. And for the film too. It is small businesses that will get us out of this crisis. This is where the creativity is and where the happiness can be too.
Why this type of story, as opposed to, say, a big epic fantasy story?
I think all writers write within certain genres. The best advice you get as a writer is to know your genres and write within them. I don’t imagine I could write an action story, a horror or a thriller. It’s not what feels right for me. I’ve always loved films by Billy Wilder or the late Nora Ephron. I’ve always felt inspired by them. Some Like It Hot and When Harry Met Sally are films that have stayed with me. They have a certain magic and those are the stories I have love to write. They are about the magic that can happen in your real life. The only genre outside of Love, Comedy or Drama that I like to explore is Fantasy. But again, it would have be a comedy fantasy in the vein of Groundhog Day or A Matter of Life and Death.
What’s the response been like to the trailer?
It’s been very good. People like the trailer. I believe it sums up the spirit of the film very well.
Would you say the people who follow you on social media/shared the trailer are fans?
I think so. People love to discover new music or films and social media is allowing people to do that. We don’t want to be told by the music or film industry which films we should watch. We like to find out from our social networks. And, more importantly, if we find something good we all like to be one of the first to say… “I found it”. I think this is why Social Media works. It’s the tool that allows us to say… “Look what I found!”
What’s it like having a fanbase for a film those fans have never seen?
I just hope they like it when they see it!
This is your first feature – how would you describe the experience?
It was stressful but enjoyable. It’s an unimaginable task because you are always up against a clock and you are spinning lots of plates. Thankfully, I was surrounded by an honest, hard working team of people who bought into the project.
How does making a full-length film compare to, for example, The Last Temptation of Chris [the short film, which you can watch here]?
Instead of two days of unimaginable stress, work, problem solving, great fun, laughter, insights and joy its 24 days of all those things!
You wrote, directed and produced Papadopoulos and Sons independently – what advice would you give to someone looking to make their own film?
I think you have to know why you are doing it. Is it because you want to or because you need to. And do you care about the outcome? Or is the telling of your story enough? Every one of us has a wounded child inside us with a desperate need for approval or acceptence. If you are making your film because you believe it will make you more acceptable or loved or special or cool or rich, then you will probably make a terrible film (the same applies to all professions).
I made this film because I had a story I just had to tell. I would have been happy writing it as a play or a novel but film seemed to click for the story. If you are a film maker with the same passion then you will be fine – whatever the outcome. You will meet the right people, you will find the money, the locations will become available and the sun will shine when you need it when you are filming. Miracles will happen because you are meant to be there doing that.
Every now and then my ego kicks in and starts to stress about festivals and distribution and money and then the wounded child in need of approval rears its head. At this point all sanity is gone! I’ve forgotten the beautiful process of making the film. I’ve forgotten the friendships. I’ve forgotten how this film has brought so much joy to my family. I’ve forgotten the joy it is bringing to people who have seen it. I’m just thinking of my ego and what others will think or are thinking of me. It’s pathetic but apparently, I am not alone in this thinking! Thankfully, something happens and I snap out of the illusion and remember that I’ve made the film I wanted to make. And that in itself is everything. And everything else is ultimately irrelevant.
It’s been a journey for my own self development too. I have no idea whether I will have the privilege of making another film. I have more stories to tell that I burn to tell and I will start writing again soon. But, I also accept that my job may be to help others to tell their stories too. I’ve always been a mentor to young people – through Young Enterprise. I’ve talked in prisons and schools about starting a business. I know that a big part of my life is to continue mentoring young people and I would like to extend that to film making too, working with people who have stories they have to share.
But obviously, yes, the process is such a privilege and it’s so much fun, I would love to make more films. But at the same time, they have to be films that need to be made. They have to be films that spring from my deeper self. They have to be painful to write. This was! Really, does the world need another Super Hero movie? If I wrote a script for the next Iron Man, would I find myself crying in the corner of my study asking myself “What is this life and living all about?” I doubt it.
So the advice I give to a film maker is simple. What story, at the very heart of you, is the story you need to write. The one that will change your life. The one that will challenge all the assumptions made by your ego. Write that story and I will also back it too! That’s the story I want to see.
When you were making The Last Temptation of Chris, you said you liked to work with people you know. Is that still true? Why is that?
When you work with people you know you are working with people that know you. Often, you have a developed a trust and shorthand that makes the doing of things quicker. And yes, it can be more fun too. You have a shared history that now has a new chapter. I would love to work with the Papa and Sons gang again.
Your actors will each have brought their own fans to the project, intentionally or otherwise – does it bother you that some people are there for specific actors rather than the film itself, or is it just a natural thing?
Not at all. I think it’s great to have people following the film because they are fans of Stephen Dillane or Georges Corraface or Ed Stoppard. I’m a fan too!
Why did you decide to invite people into the usually hidden world behind the scenes via social networking?
It’s the most natural thing to do. I like the idea of people taking ownership of the film.
When people mention the film on Twitter, you receive an interaction notification – do you find that helpful to gauge reactions or is it a nuisance? Would you rather fans used a #hashtag instead?
I try and engage with everyone that engages with me. The only irritation is not having enough time to engage more. I like meeting new people and I’m a huge fan of Twitter. I’ve made some lovely virtual friendships because of the film.
Currently, Papadopoulous and Sons is set to be released in Greece and Cyprus in late Autumn and in Germany at the beginning of 2013, with more distribution news expected to follow soon. To keep up with the latest, why not like the Facebook page and/or follow on Twitter?
Marcus Markou was talking to Eleanor Musgrove.
UPDATE: We reviewed Papadopoulos and Sons at Dinard British Film Festival 2012. You can find that here.