Laura Neri, a director of Greek origins is anxiously awaiting the premiere of her first feature film, Kill the Habit. The film will premiere at Cinequest next month. Neri wrote, directed and produced the film that was shot here in Los Angeles. The cast includes Greek actress, Katerina Moutsatsos as one of the lead characters. Check out the trailer, and read our exclusive interview below where Neri answers questions about her life, career, and her experience making her first movie.
Tell us a little bit about your career, and how you got started?
I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was in high school. I got my BA in Film Analysis and Screenwriting from the Free University of Brussels, where Palme d’Or winner Luc Dardenne was my teacher and thesis mentor. I then graduated from the University of Southern California with an MFA in Film Production. My thesis film was a short called “A Kiss on the Nose”. It was selected to play in over 50 festivals worldwide, winning over 15 awards. It was bought by Rete 4 in Italy, SiTV in the US, and United Airlines among others. I was also recently approached by KTLA5 about putting the film on their website, as part of their “Indie Profiles” series, which recognizes the most promising independent filmmakers of today. I then made a couple more short films, before writing the script of what would become my first feature: “Kill the Habit”.
Where are you originally from? What part of Greece?
My grandmother is from Nafplion in the Peloponnese. We still have her old house there, so I feel my roots very strongly. My grandfather was from Smyrna in Asia Minor. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to visit that part of the world yet. My father was Italian and I was born in Belgium, so I grew up in a very multilingual/multicultural environment – which I think comes out in my films.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium – with the exception of 1 year in Greece when I was in kindergarten, and another semester when I was 6 years old. But I used to spend every summer and Easter holiday with my grandmother in Greece, and I absolutely loved it – especially the warmth that I got from people there.
Does your Greek heritage have a large influence on your work? If yes, how?
My Greek heritage has had a strong impact on my work. “A Kiss on the Nose” was largely autobiographical and told the story of my difficult relation with my distant father, as opposed to the easy-going and very affectionate Greek side of my family. So far, in several of the scripts I’ve written, there has been a Greek element – whether a Greek character, or just a passing reference to the Greek culture, though I don’t consider myself as a “Greek director” per se.
You have a new film coming out, “Kill the Habit”. What is it about?
“Kill the Habit” is very different from everything I’ve done so far. It is a politically incorrect dark comedy about three women trying to get rid of a corpse.
I generally feel that there is a lack of films where women are the main characters and which do not rely on stereotypical roles. I like to see movies in which real, strong and acutely individual women are portrayed – so I made the kind of film I would like to see in theatres.
What was the best and worst day on set?
I think both the best and worst day on set is usually the first. Because you’re both very excited to finally get started on the project you’ve been planning for so long, but also very anxious that something might go wrong. I remember we were shooting in Downtown L.A. that first day, where people are generally fed up with film shoots, because they get them all the time. My nerves were constantly fraught because I kept wondering if some catastrophe would shut us down before I could get the shots I wanted. I gradually relaxed over the next few days. My producers Janeen Levin, Linda Pianigiani and Aldo Shllaku helped to take the pressure off a lot.
Do you plan to send the movie to any festivals?
“Kill the Habit” will premiere at Cinequest this year, and we do plan to screen it in other festivals, in Europe and around the world.
Do you have any distribution for the film? When is the release date?
We are in talks about distribution for a number of territories – but as this is ongoing, I am unfortunately not at liberty to reveal any details.
What is one word that most characterizes your films?
I would say they are fun.
Do you prefer to work with Greek or European actors? What is your experience working with them?
Most of my working experience has actually been with American actors. But I would say that as long as the actor/actress is talented and understands what the film is about, it makes little difference which part of the world they come from, unless of course they need to speak the language.
What is the difference of working with Greek vs. Non Greek Actors?
This is the first film where I have worked with Greek actors, so my experience in that regard is rather limited. But we had a lot of fun on set.
What are your plans for the new year? Any upcoming projects?
I am currently developing 2 scripts for the US and a TV series for Greece, which I hope to begin pre-production on in the near future.
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