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Award-Winning Salesman Takes Childhood Dream to the Movies

John Marinopoulos always wanted to be in the film business. He’s had successful careers in the petroleum business and in sales, but he couldn’t quell the persistent calling of his childhood dream. About two years ago, he made that dream a reality. We caught up with John recently to discuss his life and his work with a unique production company called Thespis.

You have quite the family pedigree.

My maternal grandfather came to the US in the early 1900s. His destination was ‘wherever the train stops’. He ended up in Utah and worked on the railroad. Then he opened a tavern. He did very well and owned half of the town. They moved back to Greece in 1925.


The Marinopoulos side is also quite accomplished too. The Marinopoulos Group, established in 1893 in Athens, is now one of the largest and most diversified companies in Europe. I’m a hard worker, and I never give up. Guess it’s in the blood.


You were born in Greece.

In Patras. We moved to the US when I was a toddler. We lived in Milwaukee, but moved to Chicago when I was 18. I still live and work in Chicago.


Like many Greeks, you were in the restaurant business.

When I was 18, my brothers and I opened a restaurant. It was thriving, but I got burned out after a few years. There was no challenge. Then I went into the petroleum business. I bought my first gas station at 27. That’s when I began to reevaluate my life and my purpose.


You wanted to be a priest.

I felt a calling. I went to study at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Mass. The responsibilities of being a priest are enormous. It’s easy to say you’ll become one, but once you get in the game and see what those responsibilities are, it’s overwhelming. It was just going to be a little much. God has other plans for me.


How did you get involved with Thespis?

While seeking a Greek producer in LA for a project based on the life of John Cappas – the youngest drug kingpin – I met Andrew C. Mathews. He has extensive experience in the business. He’s is the award-winning founder of Thespis and is a knowledgeable producer, director, writer and actor.  We hit it off from the beginning. He has the passion and ethos of a true Greek and has an understanding of this business like nobody’s business. His film intelligence is off the charts. He’s honest, hard-working and I’ve learned a lot from him.


What’s your role at Thespis?

I’m the production manager. I assist with logistics; locations; fundraising; dealing with actors, producers, directors and more; I’m “the go-to guy” to get things done.


What are some of Thespis’ films?

Some are “Slightly Single in LA,” (2011), “Black Butterfly” (2010) and “Street Corner Sympathy” (2010). I like filming in Chicago, and we do so whenever we can.


What’s coming up?

“Frankenstein: Day of the Beast,” will be released in October 2011. Next is a horror flick based on “Vrykolakas,” a Greek version of Dracula. The true origin of Dracula came from Greece. We did some digging, and actual events took place in Greece. We’ll use these events to unveil the story. Another project close to our hearts is “Ayios” – written by Mathews, with a budget of $70 million – about the brutal Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. We’re working with some big names right now, and hope to announce our plans in the next year. We’re looking to grow the studio in the next few years, and we are always open to new investors.


Also, I’m working with John Cappas on the upcoming book – and movie – about his life. Cappas, who once served time in prison, is now a successful businessman who regularly lectures to and mentors kids, to get them off the street, and encourage them to follow the right path. We’re so excited about this project.


You still have a “day job.”

I’m a salesman with Kronos Foods. After 5 pm, my work at Thespis just begins. I’m a pit bull. I just can’t stop. I work seven days a week.


I always wanted to do this and I’m making it happen. Some said I was crazy. I’m stubborn. Don’t tell me I can’t do it. In fact, the only person who can stop you from your dream is yourself. You have to chase it.


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