Mar 31, 2013

Brothers in arms: Part 2

Nikolaos Kiannies

interviewed by Chris Vlahonasios
edited by Kyriaki Fuss

Click below to read  
Part 1: Kiriakos Kiannies

Like his older brother, Nikolaos is an enthusiastic and talented young man. With a great appreciation for the moving image Nikolaos’ artistic passion lies in filmmaking.

Constantly enhancing and refining his skills, Nikolaos seeks the world’s attention through enthralling story-telling. Having also enrolled in Bachelor of Creative Arts at Victoria University, Nikolaos will be majoring in performance and the visual arts.

From an early age Nikolaos has used the camera to capture his vision. Having made four short-films, each one has encouraged him to broaden his film palate and expand his knowledge base. With an acute eye, Nikolaos obtains inspiration and creativity from the great classics and modern-day masterpieces. But this realisation was only made possibly by his previous theatrical experience. With a solid background in performance, having done several drama productions and musicals, Nikolaos has a well-grounded understanding of human expression.

However, his talents are not only limited to the visual; Nikolaos also shares his brother’s ear for music. His foundation in music has been shaped by Byzantine chanting, which he has being involved in for the past eight years at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Yarraville, Melbourne.

At only 18 years old, Nikolaos is resourceful and innovative for someone so young. However, his greatest advantage to succeeding in the creative industry is having the support of his brother to guide him.

How does it feel to be doing the same course?
It’s frightening and fun at the same time. But we spend so much time outside of school, so we might get bored doing the same course, but it’s all in good spirits and it’s good competitiveness between us.

As brothers, how do you help each other?
With most of my films he was the key figure who supported me and was a good reference, as he had more experience, predominately with the editing and sound production and volume. He’s very good with the technical side, I’m not tech savvy.

Do you guys always get along?
We get along quite well as we are the last siblings in Melbourne. My other siblings, sister and older brother, live permanently in Greece. So I have my brother and he’s the only one I turn to for support, hang around with and experience things. We have a quite strong bond and he only lives a few blocks from my house.

What sparked your interest in filmmaking?
It came about quite casually because the school had a film festival, so I though it would be interesting to get a group of friends and do a small project. It all started spontaneously; I then realised it was quite fun to do. So I pursued it by doing more research and bought some equipment. That’s where it all started with my first film: Teacher and Us.

Which films had the greatest impact on you?
To be honest, Metropolis from Fritz Lang. We watched it in drama when we were doing actions and theatre style. I find it quite interesting because it was very ahead and different for its time. I like being different and doing things in ways that other people haven’t done before. I thought it was quite fascinating to see some of the effects that I couldn’t even get my mind around in 1923; I was like ‘wow’. So it was from that film that early influenced me and has impacted me ‘til this day.

Also, Inception, because it made me think a lot about how it was filmed, the shots and the cinematography was quite interesting and very diverse and distinctive in sense of style.

What are some of your favourite films?
Personally, when it comes to films I like more surreal and non-naturalistic and things that have a sense of fantasy and imagination behind them. I’m a big fan of thrillers, films that give you a good scare, so I would say The Women in Black.

Also, Nightmare on Elm St, the 2010 version, because it’s got 2 storylines: one based in reality and the other in the subconscious dream-state. It was interesting to see how the director went from reality to dream using cinematography and lighting. It was very visually appealing to me.

As for Women in Black, the music really got me. It created a lot of suspense and it was very different to a lot of films I’ve seen in the past.

I’m more with cinematography. When I go to see a film with my brother he can recall me saying ‘that was a really good shot’. I pay attention not only to the story but the technical side and the different shots the director used and the ones I could use in future films or see as inspiration to start when it comes to cinematography.

Tell us about your first film experience.
The first experience was difficult. When you’re working with people who don’t have the same passion or creative experience behind you – because they’re just a group of friends – it was quite hard to keep them focused and engaged. But it was good to get positive feedback and seeing the end product on the big screen.
I do see myself doing it down the track on my list of other things I want to do.

What is it about film you love?
Personally, it’s about creating a story and getting the audience engaged. When I go to the movies I like to watch the audience’s reaction to things and their expressions. I find it interesting to see how much they’re engaged or how fascinated they are. That’s what I like to create in films, taking the audience into a whole new world and making them experience things not only visually but also tapping into the other senses as well.

Cinematography is a big thing for me, especially when you’re trying to make the audience travel into a new world. If you’ve making a fantasy film you have to use creative shots and angles that actually involves the audience in what they’re seeing, I think it’s a big factor in keeping the audience engaged.

Which part of the filmmaking process do you excel?
Directing – and that’s just through my theatre experience.

What do you find challenging about it?
Trying to put your vision that you see in your head on paper or expressing to a point where others can understand and help you fulfil that vision.

Tell us about your theatre experience.
My drama teacher, Mr Collins, was a big influence and a mentor when he came to drama in year 7.

I saw drama as more of a career in the future when I was in yr 9-10 when we started to dive into different types of theatre, specifically non-naturalism. I found through non-naturalism you could do so many things than in naturalistic theatre which you were very limited, because the story has a beginning, a middle and an end and one main character throughout and one costume. But through non-naturalism, I became various characters and I saw the audience’s reaction as I got them through a major journey from past-present-future. I saw that as a major influence. And from that day forward I saw that through drama you could express and dive into different ideas and see what’s happening in the world from a more interesting and engaging manner than you would in naturalist theatre.

What sort of films do you hope to make?
From my first film they were very surreal and quite a lot of imagery and metaphor. I want to make great films in the future that are along the lines of Inception and films that make the audience think outside the box. I find them most interesting and most exciting to create. My genre is more along the lines of fantasy/thriller.

What stories or issues are important to you?
When I try to create a vision I get influenced through the various issues at present on the news in our society. Like the economy, or the economy in Greece or the struggle of the Greek people, or things in politics and social issues like abortion, gay marriage and stuff like that. So it depends on what the issue of the time is which affects my vision and what I want to create. Because usually I don’t wake one morning and have an idea, it usually comes to me when I’m watching the news or I see something that happens and I get an emotion from that. So through my art or through film I try to convene my message or express this issue through it.

What equipment and editing system do you use?
Because in the last 2 years I’ve taken things more seriously in regards to film, last year (yr 12) because I knew I was doing film and photography as a medium I discussed it with my parents they agreed to buy me a Canon 7D. It’s a very good camera for both photography and film.

For editing, I’ve been using iMovie but I’ve started to use Final Cut Pro and doing a lot of research into it. My drama teacher was telling me that people in the industry use Final Cut Pro to edit international short films and TV series.

I found when it comes to films the Internet was a big source of inspiration and a research centre. I use it to watch a lot of other short-films and go onto different blogs and forums for equipment. Over the course of school I built with my brother a DOY track dolly, which we used for my first film so that gave us quite a few cool shots and some nice, smooth tracking shots. And in my last film for Yr12 Art we made a duel-shoulder steady cam.

There’s a lot of insight on the Internet, especially on YouTube. There’s a lot of tutorials especially when it comes to editing or using the equipment especially when I first got he camera. I’m not a big fan of reading manuals - even though I started reading I found it boring, so I started watching tutorials on YouTube which helped give me a sound understanding of it.

Any films coming out soon?
I have two ideas I want to express so I’ve begun to write down the plot and put my ideas down on paper. Hopefully I’ll have the first project compete halfway this year.

The first idea is an action film. I decided to do something different and explore in more detail cinematography because I think action films are more fast paced and quite interesting.

The second is more of a thriller/non-naturalistic surreal film that I want to create inspired by Dali and by his artwork. I link film and art together in a sense that they get inspired by one of the two.

As I said earlier I first started with performance and acting but then in yr 10 I took art as a subject. As the years progressed I saw it more of an interest and I kept it as a VCE subject til yr 12. But I found my interest in photography and I found that I could express my interest of film through art. I did two photography pieces and one film for my VCE major. One of my artwork will be exhibited in May at Fed Sq at the Ian Potter Gallery representing my school in the VCE Art. I was quite surprised to hear that my art will be at be a proper exhibit for the public to see.

What are your impressions of the industry so far?
As everything becomes digitised I believe the arts have lost its “art form”. For example, photography back in 1950-1960s was with film and the whole process behind developing that picture was complex. But now these days with digital cameras we just snap away, upload and print it off. So in a sense, technology has improved the art but has also taken away the art form, where there is no process behind it anymore. It’s like anyone can pick up a camera and become a photographer but back then you had to buy all these different pieces of equipment and study the art form. You had to know the F-stop and all these technical things behind it. And photo was more appreciated and the art was appreciated as an art form because there wasn’t much of it. That’s what I believe.

Film is going to be quite a hard thing as we’re in Australia. The industry and the art, especially performance, acting and music are not that quite big in comparison to America and England and also India with Bollywood. We don’t make many films in a year and it’s quite sad that the industry is so behind, so undervalued and under funded.

A lot of teachers and friends are telling me to go to Sydney. But we’ll see how things turn out.

What do you find most challenging about the industries?
The industry has lost its substance and become quite sexualised. On TV there are a lot of reality series. I believe the problem with all this technology is we are not able to have a strong focus on story and we lose our art quite easily. So the industry has conformed to that, making simple plots and stories which are quite boring and repetitive. So it’s a shame in that sense.

What was a very difficult time for you?
I went to a boy’s school and the arts were not valued and quite negligent. Even though there were a lot of talented boys in music, art and drama but they were quite negligent I felt it quite difficult to break the ice. But from other schools we
saw they had big auditoriums with professional stages and lighting. I would always wonder why we couldn’t have that.

How has your Faith helped?
It’s more to a moral stance on things but attaching Faith. Morally trying to express things or challenge things that have moral value and what the Church conducts.

The industry can be quite ruthless, what advice would you give to young talent starting off?
Realise you will be undervalued. The arts are not being attended to and students are not being acknowledged for their successes. Institutions, such as schools, seem to spend more time on sport and not acknowledge the achievements of students in the arts and the awards they won. To prove to the school that the arts are worth their time and worth their extra funding.

Where do you hope to be 5 years after uni?
My dream is to make it into the industry. But, personally, it doesn’t bother me if I don’t break through. I believe all the experiences and endeavours that are encompassed from it will help me as a person. I also want to do teaching in drama and art. I see these as extra credentials which will make me a better mediator and teacher.

Also, later down the track I would also like to get my Honours and do a Masters in directing. I feel quite passionate when it comes to directing especially when it comes to theatre and film.

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The OFA blog would like to thank Nikolaos Kiannies for kindly giving up his time to do this interview. OFA wishes him and his brother every success.

To learn more about Nikolaos’ work, go to:

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