‘Wedding Party’ in Greece

Talent and skill are not easy to hide for too long and Christina Crokos seems equipped with both. The Greek-American filmmaker is currently in Greece shooting her first full-length feature, the road movie «Wedding Party,» although she already has a wealth of experience in the film industry. Raised in Brooklyn by her Kalamata-and Evia-born parents, Crokos lied to her parents at age 17 about working at a Banana Republic clothing store while, in fact, attending Robert De Niro’s Tribeca film school. One of her first jobs was with Joel Silver’s production company while he was producing «The Matrix» trilogy, followed by stints shooting Nike commercials, video clips and short films, which were then screened at major festivals, including Sundance. More recently she worked as assistant director to Oliver Hirschbiegel on «The Invasion,» starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Crokos has all the insider tips and, when it comes to her work, she knows what she’s talking about. She also appears to be unfazed by working in the big industry. «It’s easy to get lost in Hollywood,» she says. «It’s a weird place. You can wake up one morning and realize that 10 years have gone by and you still don’t know where you are. It’s a seductive place, an impressive place, with beautiful landscapes and beautiful people, but only a handful of them are nice. «New York, though, is a great city with great people. I like it better and I’m planning to go back. When you’re a director you can work anywhere. When you’re an actor, you have to live in Hollywood. I have lived between both cities these past few years because I can’t spend more than three months at a time in Los Angeles. In New York, I feel safe, at home, but in LA I feel like I’m in competition with a bunch of idiots. The good thing about it is that it is like a machine and it works. You say you want a movie and, bam, you make a movie. But, it is a very isolated city. You live in your car; no one can touch you. ‘Crash’ illustrated LA perfectly. You literally have to run into someone to have some contact.» What movies have inspired Crokos? «’Goodfellas’ by [Martin] Scorsese. I watch this movie and think: ‘This is where I grew up.’ ‘The Bicycle Thief’ [by Vittorio De Sica] thrilled me when I first saw it. ‘The Piano’ by Jane Campion is almost perfect and when ‘Thelma and Louise’ first came out, I must’ve watched it like 20,000 times. I’m a huge fan of Ridley Scott. But there’s another movie that moves me deeply whenever I watch it, ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I’m not touched by movies like ‘Titanic.’ To me that’s just Hollywood on a ship. I’m a great fan of Scorsese. He speaks to me, I get him…’ Her insider’s experience has also allowed Crokos to gain insight into how people abroad view Greece. «Greece could be used for so many movies,» she says. «Athens has many different faces. If David Fincher saw it, he’d make a thriller. But filmmakers don’t come here because it has such a bad reputation. They either came here before and were taken advantage of or they simply saw that the government doesn’t give a damn. When Doug Liman shot a scene on Myconos for ‘The Bourne Identity,’ he went back to the States and said that the working conditions in Greece were the worst he had ever experienced, with many difficulties and delays. Oliver Stone asked to do ‘Alexander’ here and they told him ‘no.’ So, he went to Morocco and made his movie. You can film any kind of movie in Greece, but I just don’t see it happening. Other countries welcome you with open arms and tax breaks. They are friendly toward the movie industry. Movies such as ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘My Life in Ruins’ by Nia Vardalos will be shot in Greece, but they will bring their own crew and their entire production team.» For her first feature film, Crokos has chosen to come to Greece to shoot a romantic comedy about a wedding in which everything goes wrong. For getting the project together, she relied a lot on instinct. «I didn’t know the actors here, so I just had to use my intuition and the weird thing is that they are, after all, the people I chose them to play. I don’t know what the end result will be like. Before I began filming I had a different plan, but now I’m trying to keep it more simple because the crew is not accustomed to complex takes. There are limits to what you can do in Greece. I had to bring equipment from abroad because I couldn’t make a road movie with the heavy cameras I found here. I was shocked when I saw that we wasted two to three hours a day recording the actors’ footsteps. When I asked why, they told me it was so we could add the sounds in the editing room. I have to transfer to the movie the sound of the sea, of doors opening and closing, of the street… I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’m probably going to have to steal sounds from other movies. But I do hope to make people laugh, to offer them a slice of life and for them to remember the characters.»