By Nelly Abravanel
From South Korea to Nepal and from Singapore to Canada, the world map at Spyros Tsiounis’s San Francisco home is dotted with 70 pins -- one for each project collaborator.
Tsiounis, who works for a US production company, is currently using his spare time to coordinate a number of artists, producers and technicians working on an animated short called “Them Greeks.” The 6.5-minute movie tells the story of Norman, a miserable, anti-social man whose daily routine is seriously disrupted by a group of noisy, unruly Greeks in the basement restaurant downstairs from where he lives.
Featuring 27 characters, this is an ambitious project for its size and, naturally, it came with a number of challenges.
Money and time were both in short supply, so Tsiounis and his associates had to find a way to work together without the luxury of an actual shared working space.
“In the process, we realized that the Internet has the power to bring about a boom in independent animated cinema, in the same way that cheaper, smaller cameras and sound equipment brought about a boom in live action cinema in the 1960s. Until that time, making movies was possible only for a small number of studios. And so far, only a limited number of large studios have the power to make digital animation films.”
The core of the team behind “Them Greeks” is also based in San Francisco. This is no coincidence as, in contrast to Los Angeles, where “once you sign a contract with a company, anything you think or dream of within that specified time frame is property of that company,” the California mentality is different.
“First of all, anything you make at home is your own property. Secondly, you are allowed to work with colleagues as long as you agree that you will not do so during your office hours or using company equipment.”
With the help of voluntary work from professionals and animation students and using a virtual production process, the team has managed to complete half the production process at a relatively low cost -- just “a few thousand dollars.”
To put things into perspective, Tsiounis says, “for a studio like Pixar, a minute of animation film of this quality costs between 1 and 1.5 million dollars.” That means that had they taken the traditional path, their short film would have cost more than 7 million dollars.
The invitation to take part in the making of the movie is still open at http://www.themgreeks.com. If you wish to support the production, visit http://www.indiegogo.com/Them-Greeks-1.
The truth is the film is more in the style of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” than of Nomint’s “The Greek Crisis Explained.”
“Them Greeks” was not borne out of reaction to the Greek crisis, as the idea of Norman and the basement taverna were conceived before the crisis. As a result, “we cannot be sure what sort of connections people will make,” the director says.
On the other hand, Phillip Williams, the American producer of “Them Greeks” and a fan of Greek-American culture, likes to see things in more simple terms: “This is not a Greek tragedy, but a Greek comedy,” he says.
It’s too early to say if Norman’s story has anything new to add to the way Greeks are perceived by the rest of the globe, but the man behind the project certainly has something to add to the world of digital animation. The virtual production process could be an example for many Greeks who feel trapped, as it were, regardless of their professional background. Opa for that.