DNA hosts a well known, Los Angeles-based, film director Christina Diamantara. Originally from Thessaloniki, Greece where she obtained her bachelors in Philology from the Aristotle University, she has directed short films and documentaries while also working for the well known Greek production company, Lumad Productions. She later moved to LA in order to pursue a masters degree in film directing from the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory. Her latest short film Witchin’ is currently playing at numerous Oscar-qualifying festivals, collecting awards and nominations. She is now in preproduction of her first feature film, while also working as a voice director for popular Netflix shows.
1. What was the biggest challenge when creating your latest short film Witchin’?
The production design aspect of the film. We wanted the space that the story takes place in, to be a very theatrical and “manufactured” environment that would enhance the absurdity of the comedy while still being extravagant and interesting visually. The British comedy show “Mighty Boosh” was a huge inspiration for me and my biggest reference. Although I’m extremely happy with the end result, shooting it was a hassle. We had a very limited number of set pieces to replicate the “forest” that the character travels through. So basically every shot had to be very carefully designed and we had to get super creative with rotating and moving around the set pieces, so that we can give the impression of multiple angles and spaces. This meant that we weren’t able to just pick up a camera and shoot but instead, everything had to take extra time to be meticulously organized.
2. Witchin’ is now doing the festival round, already collecting many awards and entering prestigious festivals like LA Shorts, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Filmquest, etc. What have you gotten out of the festival experience?
Undoubtedly the pandemic has brought a very tough year for film festivals and for the films that are now doing their festival run. Having your film play in a room full of people is certainly a different experience than seeing a number of views online. However, I still feel tremendously benefited from entering all the festivals that have already accepted us and hopefully we will enter more. As filmmakers, I believe what matters to us the most is visibility of our work because an audience is the final step of making a film, and one can say that without it a film is incomplete. And the festivals have provided us with a great platform to showcase our hard work in. In fact, in many cases the digital edition of the festivals has been proven to reach more people than before, which is more than good news for us.
3. You also wrote the screenplay for Witchin’. Are you always this involved in the writing of a project?
Writing is something I enjoy and I’m very passionate about so it’s natural for me to write the stories that come to mind as random ideas. However, I also love to work with screenwriters when the opportunity is presented and getting creative as a director with someone else’s idea. But as a director, I feel that it is impossible to give my very best to a project that doesn’t resonate with me and so even when I work with someone else as a screenwriter, I’m still very involved in the writing, meaning I will be an integral part of the shaping of the story.
4. Was there a particular event that pushed you towards filmmaking?
When I was eight years old I read a learning book for children called “The World of Cinema”. I was so impressed by the random trivia about how films are made and the funny stories about famous actors and directors that I decided I will be a filmmaker. The next years until today, have been a constant reinforcement of that extraordinary impression I felt in face of what it takes to make a film.
5. You are originally from Greece. What did you do before coming to the US and how has this transition changed you as a filmmaker?
Before coming to the US I was working for the well known Greek production company, Lumad Productions, while directing my own shorts and crewing for other bigger and smaller productions. I worked on many television shows and commercial sets and that’s how I developed a sense of “practicality” when it comes to our profession. Filmmaking in Greece can sometimes be considered solely an artistic expression but I had felt that American films have very specific goals to satisfy such as being entertaining or educational. I admire the ability to be working from a place of intuition as an artist while also providing your audience with some graspable values, and that was the reason I came to the US, something that has transformed me completely as a filmmaker. Not only did I gain a great deal of knowledge from studying at the American Film Institute, I also learned how to be more intent, coherent, specific and disciplined with my decisions as a filmmaker, while working under a lot more pressure. Ultimately, I think both my actual work as well as the way I collaborate are much stronger.
6. What is your biggest goal as a filmmaker?
To open discussions through my films that people of all ages and backgrounds are interested in being part of.
7. Tell us a bit about your work as a voice director.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work as a voice director is the bond created between actor and director. Usually on film sets there’s so much happening that it may feel like you don’t have enough time to try all the things you want with the actors and to observe all the little details of their performance. But with voice directing, your complete, undivided attention goes to observing the performance and that offers a lot more opportunities to discuss the actor’s choices, to discover new ideas and try different versions. We just wrapped dubbing El Camino, a very creative animated children’s show, and it’s been truly moving how much intention and colour these actors can bring even in the smallest beats of their performance.
8. What are some of the future projects you’re working on?
Aside from my work as a voice director, I’m planning two feature films while also developing the TV series version of Witchin’. The first film is called Red Buffalo and we’re planning to shoot it in upstate NY in late spring of 2021. It’s following these two party girls who are newly college graduates full of wild energy, as they’re forced to spend quarantine in what seems to them like the most boring town on earth. So, they get into all sorts of crazy adventures in order to kill time. It’s a very personal film and my first feature so I’m very excited and anxious about it. The next project is a horror mockumentary about a bizarre figure that visits a rich family during their summer vacation. I’m also working on couple small commercial specs that hopefully will be easier to shoot.
9. Is there any advice you would give to new filmmakers that want to shoot during covid?
Keep in mind more than ever that you’re part of a group and try to be as protective and committed as possible of that bond of trust created between everybody. See it as a great opportunity to come closer as a crew, work with a smaller number of people, forget the big ideas and focus on creating simpler more doable stories.