An interview with Cypriot film director Andreas Sheittanis
Making a career as a film-maker or a film director whichever you prefer requires painstaking determination, resilience and vision. It can be a tough road to travel. Film directors are typically hired on the strength of their track record making it very difficult for aspiring youngsters to get a foothold in the industry.
The only way in which young filmmakers can build up a portfolio of work to attract potential producers and investors is to start off as an independent filmmaker.
Today, we are introducing Andreas Sheittanis, a well known TV & Film director based in Cyprus who shares with us insights and experiences on his career path.
Read the interview below:
Q: How did you discover your talent for film and video?
Sheittanis: I was always interested in filming and making videos -from family holidays, to skateboarding with my friends or making silly skits with them for fun. I guess the first time that I felt that I could be kind of good at it was when I started uploading some stuff on YouTube and started getting some positive feedback from people watching them.
How did your career unfold?
Sheittanis: I studied Film Production & Cinematography at Bournemouth University and then I moved back to Cyprus. I started working in TV, but I was always trying to get some extra work in commercials and film. Even though I have spent most of my career in TV, I am glad to say that I have managed to work on feature films, short films, commercials and music videos as well.
Q: What has been your personal key to success?
Sheittanis:First of all, I feel that it is way too early to call my career “successful”. But what I have been doing so far is pretty simple: I just spent as much time as I can working and trying to improve my craft. Especially in the beginning, try to do any job that presents itself. Even if a job doesn’t sound too great or even if it’s unpaid, there is always something to gain out of it. You’ll get experience, you will meet new people, you will build a network and that will eventually lead to bigger and better projects. Just try to make yourself known in the industry. Make other people in your industry realise that you are there for good and that you are taking your career seriously. Make them feel confident that they can trust you, have good work ethic, work hard, be patient and I believe that everything will eventually fall into place.
Image Credit: Fish Bowl
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job, your career?
Sheittanis: The fact that every day is different. By the nature of my job, no two days can be the same and that always keeps me on my feet. Every day we have to shoot different scenes, with different actors, at different locations. We often get to travel and see placed that I normally wouldn’t even know that they exist. Every day is a different adventure!
Q: Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?
Sheittanis: I have been inspired by many artists and film-makers throughout the years, but the person whose work made me consider doing this for a living was Christopher Nolan. His work made me realise that films are only limited by ones imagination. A film can be about dreams, space, magic, war, comic book characters, the human mind, the possibilities are endless. It truly inspired me to be more creative and not to feel limited by what a film “should” be about.
Q: What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities?
Sheittanis: As a director you are basically responsible for every creative aspect of the project. That, of course, doesn’t mean that you do everything yourself. However, you are in charge of making sure that everything (make-up, wardrobe, lighting, actors’ performances and so much more) are following the same creative path. During pre-production, a director will sit with each department’s head and figure out how they will tackle the current project and what result they want to bring on the screen. When pre-production is over and the production moves on-set, a director will usually focus more on the actors and their performances, even though he is still required to oversee and approve the work that other departments are doing. To put it simply, a director’s main responsibility is making sure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that the work of every department will blend seamlessly when the film/TV show/commercial/etc will be viewed by an audience.
Q: Describe a typical day of work for you.
Sheittanis: Each production is different. And like I said before, even within the same production, no two days are ever the same. But usually we go in early in the morning, each department starts setting up (lights, cameras, microphones, props, actors put their clothes on and get their make-up done, etc). When everyone is ready we do a rehearsal with the actors and if everyone is happy, we shoot the scene and then we move on to the next one. We usually work 10-12 hours, but a difficult shoot can be much longer.
Q: Is it important to collaborate with your colleagues?
Sheittanis: The most important thing about film-making is collaborating. It is IMPOSSIBLE to make a film by yourself. There are so many things that need to get done, that collaborating with other people becomes essential. People who find it difficult to work with others don’t last long in this industry –and I’ve seen this happen many times.
Q: How have your professional collaborations benefited your career?
Sheittanis: The film industry mainly works through networking. People prefer to work with people that they have worked with in the past and that they know they can get along with them. Nothing ruins a shoot more than two people who always have friction between them or don’t seem to understand one another. Therefore, by trying to be a good collaborator, one job can lead to many others and then those jobs can lead to even more and so on and so on.
Q: What are some common myths about your profession?
Sheittanis: I am not aware of any myths about my profession, but I know for certain that people in the audience don’t always understand the effort that’s gone into every shot that they are watching. It is hard for someone to understand how many people work behind the cameras and for how many hours, because it is our job to make it look effortless. I guess one myth could be that our job is very glamorous, but the truth is that it’s not. Red carpets can be glamorous, but a film shoot is far from it.
Q: How is the life of a TV director that is based in Cyprus?
Sheittanis: The life of someone in this industry is pretty much the same, regardless of what their position is or what country they work in. You spend a lot of hours on-set (usually 10-12), then you go home, you prepare for the next day, you get some rest and then go back to work. During the filming of a project you very rarely get any time off and that’s why people in this industry tend to take long holidays between projects. It’s the only chance we get to rest and recover.
Q: Must a film and video professional also be a gifted artist? What are the specialties within the field?
Sheittanis: You certainly need to be somewhat artistic and be aware of the basic (at least) history of art and the work of some of the most important artists. But as a director, you don’t necessarily need to be a painter or a musician as well. Every film crew has an Art department, which is responsible for making the set, painting it, decorating it, etc. There will also be a composer with a bunch of musicians who will do the music for the film. Fashion designers who will do the wardrobe and make-up artists who will be in charge of make-up. There are many artists working in this industry, but as a director you are not required to master any of these arts. You just need to be in a position where you can understand and fairly judge what each artist is doing, give them appropriate feedback and help them realise and understand your vision. There are also many people who work as Producers or Technicians or in many other positions that are not artistic whatsoever. So, no, you do not need to be an artist in order to work in the film industry.
Q: What factors should prospective students consider when choosing an art school? Are there any different considerations for those who know that they want to specialize in film and video?
Sheittanis: If you know where you want to specialize in, then yes, choose a school that has a course focused in that subject. A good school will give you great foundations to build on, but it doesn’t guarantee a successful career for you. I have seen people graduate from great schools and then do nothing with their education. But on the other hand, I have seen people doing great in this industry without even going to a film school. I believe it comes down to something I mentioned before: your work ethic and whether you really want to be part of this industry. The experience you get by working in the industry will teach you things that no film or art school is ever going to teach you.
Q: What gear do you mainly use? (lenses,camera, lighting, stabilizers etc)
Sheittanis: I own a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera and I have used BlackMagic’s cameras a lot (I have shot 3 of the 5 short-films I directed on BM cameras) and I am extremely happy with it. I have used it in films, music videos, experimental videos and even in some events and it always gives me great images to work with. The norm in the film industry however, is to use equipment that you rent out, because the needs of each project are different and therefore the equipment you use each time differs quite a lot. I see a lot of people buy all sorts of stuff –from drones, to stabilizers, to lighting kits, lenses, etc- but they never get enough use out of them, because the way they think is usually flawed. They often see a new fancy bit of equipment online and think “I could do some cool stuff with this if I had it”, but most of the time they don’t actually have a project lined up. It’s just a hypothetical: “If I had this, I could use it in my next project”. But how can you know this if you don’t actually have a project in mind? ALWAYS let the needs of a shoot dictate what equipment you will use. DO NOT buy the equipment and then think about how you could actually put it to use.
Q: Which is your favorite project you did so far? Are you currently working on anything?
Sheittanis: It is hard to answer this question because of how close I feel with most of my projects. Even a short-film could take more than a year to get written, funded, filmed, edited and then distributed. Spending so much time on a project, naturally gets you emotionally attached and you eventually end up loving it as your baby. They are far from perfect, they all have their flaws, but they still are my “babies”. I am currently working on my sixth short-film, which I would like to shoot in early 2019.
Image Credit: Fish Bowl
Q: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed in film and video?
Sheittanis: If you want to work and be successful in this industry then be prepared to put in a lot of hours into it, make sacrifices and spend a lot of time learning before you feel any kind of “success”. It is a very tough industry and it usually doesn’t work out for those who enter it for the “fame” or the “money” or the “glamorous” lifestyle they see on TV. Do this only if you truly love it and you can’t imagine your life without it, otherwise it probably won’t be worth it.
End of interview
We would love to thank Andreas for his time. His ideas and experiences clearly show a person of talent and strategy. His ideas and thoughts are of great interest and we would love to see and listen more about them. We hope that his career unfolds in front of him the way he wants it to. He deserves it. Make sure to visit him on Andreas Films and follow him on Facebook to stay updated with his latest work and projects. You should also subscribe on his Youtube Channel.
From all of us here at Geargreed, until the next one.