My love of film started on the Aegean Islands…by Lana Lekarinou

My education and love of films developed in my early childhood and the precious summer months that I would spend with my Yiayia (grandmother) on “her” Greek island on the Aegean.

Movie theaters operate outdoors during the summer months in Greece and it’s hard for me not to be nostalgic when recalling those magical nights spent under black skies filled with stars, the air fragrant with the sweet smell of night blooming Jasmine.

As the waves of the Mediterranean gently lapped on the shore outside I sat transfixed by the images on that big movie screen.

There were two theaters on the island back then and we had it perfectly timed so that by going out the back door of one we would run down behind the “peroptero” (kiosk) and make it just in time to catch the ending of the film showing at the second theater.

You could walk in at any time as the featured film ran continuously from sunset to midnight and changed every couple of days. I did not mind missing the beginning or the end of the film, in fact, I preferred it as it allowed me to come up with my own.

In fact, in my mind, I was always creating my own films. I would lay awake at night carefully choosing the lead actors, (the lead was always myself looking like whatever leading actress I was enthralled with at the moment. I spent hours making wardrobe selections and creating the perfect interiors to fit the given scene.

If I feel asleep I would go back and pick up where I had left off the following nigh till my “movie” was finished. Some of my films took only days to complete, others took months, often forcing me to take time away from my daytime playtime. And what did I play when I was not in filmmaking mode? I gathered my friends and assigned them parts in production I wrote (in my head,) or I would have them play characters from tv shows that I recreated in the fields across the street from our house. Sometimes my friends’ lack of focus forced me to play several roles at once, and that was just fine by me.

It was many decades before I was able to return to my first love and no matter what I did nothing seemed to fill that void, and I vowed to myself that someday, somehow I would make my own film, for real. Unfortunately, that opportunity did not come till I was well into my 40’s but thankfully, come it did.

I had planned on taking classes in filmmaking, but time went by, life happened and it seemed like every time I took a class in this or that something would happen and I had to quit. I was waiting to meet the right person, to save some money, to take a course but sadly that never happened and the years were going by. At some point, I realized that if I didn’t “go for it,” it would never happen, so “go for it” I did.

I had taken an adult screenwriting class and my professor liked my script. I then met a super smart guy by the pool who like the story and offered to help me cast and produce it, he, in fact, became my associate producer and most trusted friend, (an absolute must when setting on such a monumental task.)

I had no knowledge no experience and no contacts. What I had was an undying, unyielding desire, a strong passion and an unceasing faith that somehow, someway I was going to make my film, and it was going to be good.

I got lucky when the very talented and experienced John Honore came on board as our Director of Photography.

A super and dedicated cast followed and serendipity provided us with excellent shooting locations and resources.

It took a little over two years to write and direct “The Sparkle,” (I also ended up performing in it when the actress designated for the role did not show up,) but that was nothing compared to what came later, something I now know as “post.”

In total it took six editors and a total of seven years to see the film from creation to completion and maintaining faith and momentum during that time was no easy task, in fact, during that time I found Jesus, and that was the greatest gifts of all, in making this film I found my salvation.

So it is in His name and in His glory that I dedicated this film and every other thing I do in my life.

By Lana Lekarinou.

About the Best Shorts Film Festival Award of Merit

Rick Prickett, who chairs The Best Shorts Competition, had this to say about the latest winners, “Best Shorts is not an easy award to win. Entries are received from around the world from powerhouse companies to remarkable new talent. The Best Shorts Competition helps set the standard for craft and creativity. The goal of Best Shorts is to help winners achieve the recognition they deserve.”

In winning a Best Shorts Award, “The Sparkle” joins the ranks of other high-profile winners of this internationally respected award including The Weinstein Company for Market Hours, Disney Interactive for Vinlymation: A Love Story and Oscar winning production Mr. Hublot from Laurent Witz from Luxembourg.

“The Maverick,” Expecting the Unexpected.

One of the biggest lessons for first-time filmmakers is to allow for the divine to come on set and co-create, for me that came in the form of the amazing actor Michael Andolini.

Fear and control will close the door to the unexpected and yet sometimes, collaborating with it can produce beautiful fruit. This is the story of one of those times and how the character of “Marvin the Mobster,” came about in front of the camera just hours before he was created.
It was the day of our big all night shoot and my male lead asked if he could bring his cousin on set.

This being my first film and all, I was weary of having people just show up – luckily, I had an awesome cinematographer in the form of John Honore who’s calm demeanor and expertise gave me the confidence I needed to trust the process and thereby allows for the unexpected to be explored, and even welcomed.

Michael Andolini is a delicious site for a director – that’s for sure. He was camera ready and appeared to have just stepped out of wardrobe with a classic Bogart/Goodfellas look. I thought he must have just gotten off a film set – turns out that’s just how he dresses, all the time!

This, combined with a great personality, kindness, cool, charm, and movie star good looks inspired me to write a character for him right there and then.

Again, I was fortunate enough to have a great AP who I could run the idea by and get the go ahead and a cinematographer who was not frazzled by my suddenly introducing a new character. And that’s how the scene between Marvin and Lyle came about, and it turned out to be one of my absolute favorites. In fact, I was so inspired by his work that I wrote an additional scene for him, one that became an integral part of the film.

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with a polished and rugged professional like Michael Andolini I hope you will take advantage of it, for few things bring a director as much delight as working with and being inspired by great talent.

Beware, however, as last minute character introductions and improvising are not generally recommended unless of course, you are working with top notch veteran actors like Andolini and Riquelme. Actors who appreciate the challenge of learning new dialogue, who take direction well and have had enough training to trust themselves and are comfortable with the characters they have created, even if it was just a red hot minute ago.

An actor with the winning combination of ease, authenticity, sizzle, and style is a director’s dream and not easy to find, mine just happened to walk on my set, and luckily, he has them in spades.

First-time filmmaker essentials: the trusted ally, or, “Finding your associate producer, the kismet way.”

“This is not bad, it has potential” was all my professor had to say for me to run with it. The “it,” was my script for the sparkle and the professor was teaching a writing class at UCLA extension. I had at one time hoped to go to film school but life had taken me away from that so a couple of classes at UCLA extension would have to suffice. I had a story line, a personal one of a woman finding her own voice, that had merged with a mafia caper of sorts after I moved into an old hotel turned apartment building on the Wilshire corridor of Los Angeles.

It was in this building that I first encountered my AP, no wait, in fact, I had heard about him before I met him. “This guy from Turkey is moving in next door to you,” the manager told me one day, “I hope that’s not going to be a problem.” Well, I do have a problem with this, for although I’m Greek I don’t like to stereotype anyone or anything. Also, when it comes to what really happened between the Turks and the Greeks I like to think I have the inside scoop from my Yiayia (grandmother) Anna, who was been born in Turkey. I know first hand that until the “great catastrophe” the Greeks in Asia Minor had no problems with the Turks, in fact, it was quite the opposite. “Una razza, una faccia,” (one race one face) Yiayia would say. “Our real enemies were hiding behind the Turks who were used just like we were in an international game of chess,” Papou would say.
Now, I’m not going to go into all that and the only reason I bring it up is to caution the reader from falling for that age old divide and conquer tactic used to separate us from one another. Had I bought into that nonsense I would have missed out on meeting one of the kindest, smartest and wisest people I have ever known, (and calm, did I mention calm? So important when one has a tendency to freak out) and who’s partnership and sound advice was indispensable when it came to making and completing, “The Sparkle.”

The first time I met him I was laying out by the pool working on my script. Like I said, I had a good storyline but at the time it was missing an important element, the ending. We got to talking when almost immediately something prompted me to say, “here’s a script for a short film I’m working on that needs an ending, want to see if you can come up with anything?” to which he replied, “give an hour and I’ll have something for you.” A nice answer I thought. So I asked him when his birthday was and went back to my place to consult “the birthday book.”
At the time I use to have this big book that would give you “insight” into a person based on their birthday. I don’t remember what it had to say about him except that he shared a birthday with Albert Einstein, and that was alright by me. When I got back to the pool he had already come up with a pretty interesting ending, and we really had a good time throwing ideas back and forth. It wasn’t the ending we ended up using, in fact, it was more like the beginning, as in Casablanca, to quote Humphrey Bogart “this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I will not be going into detail here about how instrumental he was in bringing the film to fruition, or how grateful I am for this, but he was, and I am. What I wish to impress upon you is how instrumental it is to have someone like this in your corner. When it comes to filmmaking I’m told that even with the biggest and best resources one should always expect the unexpected. So, when you’re making a film with a zero budget, it’s crucial to have someone in your corner who’s resourceful and crafty and who you can rely on 100% Someone who’s opinion and input you value. Someone who doesn’t laugh at your blunders, who stimulates your imagination, who supports and respects you and who has faith in you and the project, the kind of faith that never waivers or looses hope. For me, that person was my AP, and in my limited toolbox, he was and is, one of the most valuable of my filmmaking essentials.

Hairspiration, or how Sophia’s hair came into being…

In the 70’s when we arrived in Houston Texas the most glamorous woman in the world had to be my aunt Sultana, or at least she was in my eyes, and the thing that made her so glamorous was her “kotso” as we say in Greek or her big hair piled high on top of her head. Now I had seen women in Athens with their hair worn up, but never had I seen anything as grand and as glorious as this. Unfortunately, the hair fashion at the time was moving towards a more natural, long and straight look but luckily the women of Texans held on to their big hair long after the fashion had come and gone and certainly long enough to inspire me for decades to come.

I will never forget Sharon Stone’s hair in Casino, it was like an avalanche of Aqua Net hairspray washed over me, or more appropriately, “stuck to me” and forever cemented in my mind and heart what the ideal hairdo should look like. Years later, right before I made the decision to use up what remained of my father’s inheritance and my own fading courage to finally make my film, I woke up one morning in a state of sheer panic. “Hair, I need hair,” I said to myself and this was so powerfully impressed upon me that I did not question it but got up and immediately drove to the nearest wig shop on Wilshire Blvd. Now, not knowing what kind of hair you’re looking for in a sea of hair colors and styles does not exactly make you a gem of a customer so the girl was as annoyed as I was perplexed when I finally blurted out “I need something blond that I can pile really high on top of my head.”

The drive back home to my Korea-town flat was one of calm and contentment as if having achieved my goal I could now rest. Arriving at my posh and humble abode I immediately set about wrapping the hair in teal tissue paper and lovingly placing it into a beautiful gold box I seemed to have been saving for just such an occasion. I then stored the box on a shelf on top of my closet and declared it “done.” Was it strange that I did not try it on and play with it, creating a myriad of styles and looks? You bet it was, for few things gave me greater pleasure than creating new hairstyles, however, I had put it away with such a sense of conviction that I did not dare question it. It wasn’t in fact till a short time later when I realized that the hair had not been intended for me after all, but for my leading lady, Sophia.

Let me explain. After some time of a casting debacle, I knew that I had found my perfect “Sophia,” the character I had created, in the uber-talented Sarah Leners. Now, after having tried many options I was also certain that the dress she would be wearing was a 50’s inspired black and white number my mom had passed down to me for a play we had performed in Astoria, Queens that is. Yet the oh so vital question of what would we do with her hair had not yet been answered. Lori, our wonderful hair person had proposed a good many looks but nothing thrilled my loins the way true inspiration does. No matter what she did it I was left shaking my head with a “meh.” When suddenly, like lightning it hit me, “I have the perfect hair for her!” I screamed or maybe just shouted out loud, but whatever it was it sent me straight to the top of my closet where I eagerly tore into the box and through the teal tissue harshly jolting the blond hair piece from its nocturnal slumber and exclaiming “she’s going to have a kotso!”

I would like to say that we all fell on our knees in awe after Lori expertly piled, curled, teased, set and sprayed the most magnificent hair creation I had ever seen, but I would only be slightly exaggerating. What I do know is that the moment I saw that hair on Sarah I knew that Sophia was now complete and ready for her close up.