Q&A: Constantine Papanicolaou, When Freelancers Work Together
Constantine Papanicolaou is a Greek-American freelance filmmaker, who grew up in Ridgewood, NJ. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where he became interested in film and video production. In 1998, he produced and directed his first ski film, titled “Chapter Three,” which received strong reviews from the ski and snowboard community. In 2003, he returned to school to get an MBA at the University of Southern California, and to pursue his long-time interest in filmmaking. Since completing his degree, Constantine has gone on to produce and direct ski and outdoor sports films for companies such as Oakley, Red Bull, and ESPN, as well as a couple short films, The Flying Cross and The Massive.
Constantine’s new documentary, Frozen Ambrosia, is about his journey to make a film on winter sports in Greece — and the skiers he met, who are trying to rebuild the country’s winter tourism industry despite the economic crisis. He spoke to us about what it was like to collaborate with other freelancers while making the film.
Storyhunter: Can you tell us a little about your documentary?
Constantine Papanicolaou: Frozen Ambrosia is a story about a Greek-American filmmaker who travels to Greece to try to make a ski movie on Mount Olympos and in the mostly unknown Greek mountains.
SH: Why did you decide to make this?
CP: When many people think of Greece, they think of beaches and islands; they think it’s always warm and sunny. But 80% of the country is mountainous. The winters are cold, with occasional snow down to sea level, and there are ski resorts. For me, the idea of skiing and snowboarding in Greece seemed fascinating. Every summer as a kid I visited Greece, but I never imagined a winter season. Unfortunately, as I grew older my connection to the place began to fray. I was busy with other stuff and visiting less frequently. Doing this ski film project was a great way to get back to my roots.
SH: Did you work with other freelancers on the documentary?
CP: I worked with freelancers for music and sound. One freelancer was a composer and sound mixer. I also worked with a group of Greek freelance musicians in Athens. The experience overall was very smooth. At one point, I managed a live recording session at a studio in Athens using Skype from my place in California. It was very cool.
SH: Did you have trouble finding the right people to work with?
CP: Sometimes I’ve had trouble, although it seems to be getting easier with online marketplaces. For this film, I already knew all the people from past work, or I was introduced by a friend.
SH: What was it like to work with them on the music for the film?
CP: The music was very collaborative and has a big effect on the storytelling. I needed music that was both authentically Greek and matched the tone of the film. So I would play pieces of the film for the musicians, describe to them what I was trying to communicate, and let them come up with something. It worked out great. They took over and fully owned that part of the process, and it made the film a thousand times better.
SH: What are your plans for distribution?
CP: I believe primarily in self-distribution. Using social media channels over the past two years, I’ve been able to get the word out on Frozen Ambrosia and I have built up a great following, especially in Greece. In my mind, it doesn’t make sense to hand over this hard earned audience to a middle man distributor. Instead, I built my own online storefront from which I am selling the film, along with some basic merchandise like shirts and hoodies. This winter I will make a few more films to add to the store catalogue next fall. And again next winter, I’ll make a few more films, and so on and so on.
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By Lena Drake, Storyhunter Writer