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A Young Greek’s Journey to Hollywood

Alex Leontaritis at the Hollywood Sign

One day we received a message from Alexander Leontaritis who went from Greece to Hollywood determined to swim into the deep water of the film industry. His case is rather interesting while it reflects the dreams, the difficulties and the concerns of all those people who often want to start from Greece and later make a career in the film capital. Famous actors (in their homeland) together with unknown young starters – like Leontaritis- here become one. They are crowded in the same waiting rooms for the same auditions and face the same, huge competition. There are a lot of people who go for an international career and after 1-2 months, they come back in the safety of Greece, because they couldn’t handle the fact that they didn’t become “Celebrities” and for not having the privileges they have in their home country.

“It needs patience. You will go to your 150th audition and you will still not get any role. Maybe your 151st time will be your lucky one, and that’s why these people who are not disappointed, move ahead” told me once the President of the 20th Century Fox Jim Gianopulos in an interview. And that reminds me the case of Alexander Leontaritis, a young actor, director and screen writer, who doesn’t give up and goes back and forth between Greece and Hollywood waiting for this lucky day to come. Instead of us asking him the questions, we let him describe himself and talk to us about the good, bad and difficult time of a beginner in Hollywood. We believe his story describes what it takes to be here, and struggle for the American dream.

My first studies were in Deree College where I obtained a Bachelor degree in Sociology and after that in New York College where I got a Certificate in Film and Television Studies. Working  for a short period as a journalist in the “Cinema” Greek magazine and in the newspaper “Apogeumatini”, I got a small taste from the area of the film industry, writing about upcoming Greek movies and doing interviews with people from the movie business. While studying in New York College, I dealt with the practical aspect of making movies. I did my first short films and also worked as an AD and editor to theatrical shows and to television in the areas of News Reports and TV Shows. Having done as a director five short films (the last one with the title “10 Minutes”, won Special Mention in the category of Greek Competition in Thessaloniki Film Festival and also won the Gold Remy award in Worldfest Houston), I decided to make my dream come true and try my luck outside of Greece.
My first contact with the States, was in the summer of 2007. I went to Los Angeles in order to study in UCLA. There, I obtained a certificate in the area of Film Producing. The knowledge I got, helped me realize better the American system from insiders who worked in the Hollywood Film Industry. It was a rather unprecedented experience for me while in the beginning I didn’t know anybody and I was moving with a pretty limited budget, I wanted to achieve the best possible result in my short period of staying in the States.

After two months had passed, when I finished the certificate program, I started going to interviews for Internships in film production companies. The competition is huge while it is a common knowledge that most people who go to Los Angeles, want to become directors or actors. In the beginning I didn’t see anything happen, while everybody I met told me that they would give me a call regarding the intern position, but in the end nobody called. Suddenly, two production companies wanted me for the intern position!
Half days of the week, I worked for LB Productions, the production company of Lawrence Bender, who is most famous for producing Tarantino’s movies and the other half I worked in Kadokawa Pictures US, the department of a famous Japanese Company that opened a new branch in LA and deals mostly with projects that are remakes of popular horror movies (like the Grudge, One Missed Call and many others).

The experience I earned from there, was very important cause I dealt for the first time with the part of the development in movies. I attended meetings, was answering phone calls, did script readings and ran a lot of errands for the executives. I managed to get a better understanding of the criteria with which the scripts were selected and how the production companies closed deals with the new projects they selected.

After one month of education in the production companies and while my budget , was very much lower from the initial I had , I made the decision to go back to Greece. Before I left though, I shot
my last short film with the title “Hollywood Dreams”. Having brought with me a mini- dv camera with a good resolution from Greece, I rented the rest of the equipment in a lower price from a classmate I had in UCLA and then I gathered the actors and other people I met on the way, who were interested in participating in my short film. The movie was shot guerrilla style cause I didn’t even have the money needed for securing the permits. Almost once the police tried to stop the film shootings and having us arrested! The story of the movie was a little bit autobiographical and it presents the misadventures of a young actor arriving in Hollywood, who tries to get into the movie industry. After a year and a half, I managed to edit the movie and send it to Film Festivals.
Having stayed around four months in the States, I came back in Greece and started working as an AD in Commercials and then as a production manager in a feature film.

I started saving money again to go back to LA. The second time I went, in the summer of 2008, I stayed for about a year. In the beginning, I worked as an AD for Laura Neri’s independent feature
film “Kill the Habit”. It was a very useful experience while I had the chance to see in what way the American movies are made comparing to the one’s filmed in Greece. Most of the American movies have a bigger budget together with an experienced crew and they work methodically in a more organized way. Next, I worked a little bit as an actor in short roles and as an extra in a series called “The Starter Wife”. After that, a gig followed where I worked as a Production Manager to a thriller called “Where are you Sophia” directed by a talented young filmmaker from India called Nagendra Karri. A part of the pre-production was made in New York while the movie was shot in New Jersey. The collaboration with the rest of the film crew went very well while it was a challenge for me working for the first time in this position. The movie premiered in Tribeca Film Festival and was also screened in Cannes Festival last year.

This period I have started working again as a journalist in Greece and preparing also my first feature film. I am coming back in the States this year as an assistant director for the theatrical tour of “Oresteia” presented by the critically acclaimed theater director Leonidas Loizides. It will be an off Broadway way show, starting with performances in Kirk Theater in NY and will continue it’s USA tour in several other States. I believe Leonidas work is very important for spreading the Greek Culture in the US with theatrical productions of ancient Greek Drama, especially in a time of crisis for Greece, both in the areas of economy and art.

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