Mapping an artistic odyssey

An aspiring filmmaker relishes collaboration, travel and taking the time to explore artistic expressiveness.

By Stergios Dinopoulos ’17
2016 Artist Development Fellow

Stergios Dinopoulos ’17, an affiliate of Dudley Co-op concentrating in Visual and Environmental Studies, film production track, was awarded an Artist Development Fellowship to create an ethnographically researched short film about Greek anarchical and revolutionary traditions in rural villages. Dinopoulos has served as a Research Assistant to French film director Philippe Grandrieux at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies working on a triptych video installation project entitled Unrest. Last summer Dinopoulos attended the Berlin Film Program offered by the Harvard Summer School. He plans to pursue a career in filmmaking. This is the second of his blog posts about working in Greece this summer; read his first post here.

Stergios Dinopoulos ’17, 2016 Artist Development Fellow
Stergios Dinopoulos ’17, 2016 Artist Development Fellow
My goal for last summer’s Artist Development Fellowship project was artistic collaboration, as I often feel that making movies at Harvard is a solitary experience. Because of busy schedules, it always feels difficult to co-create with peers. My first few forays into filmmaking relied on me doing all the tasks – directing, cinematography, producing, costuming designing, etc. While it was invaluable to learn all these skills by jumping into the deep end, it became clear to me that filmmaking is a social art, one that needs constant collaboration. I wanted to embark on a project where I would have to work with others on a creative vision. Not simply to collaborate, but to co-create.

I have never made a movie in Greece. So I started with that location. I wanted the challenge of setting up a production team and a cast without the institutional support of Visual and Environmental Studies studio classes (through which I have made all my film projects).

I set off collaborating with a friend of mine who studies filmmaking in Athens to write a script. My initial inclinations for making a film about Greek mountain villages shifted. Spending time in Athens brought me back to the modern social concerns and anxieties of Greece. I decided to write a script that focuses on my own social milieu: frustrated Greek youth, living in the face of economic uncertainty and waning self-determination.

Another good friend of mine from Harvard, an excellent photographer who graduated a few years ago and whose art I greatly admire, read my script and decided to fly to Greece to collaborate on cinematography. I think of myself as more of a photographer than a director, but lately I’ve been wanting to get the chance to actually direct – to work closely with actors – something that’s almost impossible if you're stuck behind the lens of the camera on set. This is why I was very excited to get the chance to hand the cinematography off to someone else; it would literally and metaphorically free my hands so that I am able to focus on direction.

Map of Ancient Thessaly in Greece
These past weeks I have gone away to my ancestral village in the mountains of Thessaly where my grandmother keeps our family house. In the midst of the evergreen forest that surrounds our house, I have been organizing the casting session for the film, and continuing to refine the script.

Because of the staggering youth unemployment in Greece (more than 40 percent), most young engineers and lawyers cannot find work, let alone young actors. Because of this, my initial casting call brought 20-plus emails per day. I was as scared as I was excited, but I was also thrilled to get to meet hundreds of young Greek actors and ultimately work with them. I’ve only held one other casting session before, and this seemed to be on a different scale.

Mounting responsibilities and a short film whose scale seemed to be exponentially expanding everyday led me to another change of plans. I’ve wanted to take a semester off from college for some time now. I wanted a change of rhythm so that I could travel and focus on taking photographs for a while. 

The film that I’m preparing provided the perfect opportunity to make the decision to take off the fall semester. I am spending the first two months of the semester working on the production of the movie. This will leave me another month-and-a-half to travel around Greece and Europe to photograph and write. Meanwhile I’m starting to write profusely and collect ideas for my thesis script. I feel the creative juices flowing, and I’m terribly excited to have four extra unstructured months to explore my artistic interests – directing, photography, writing – in a free-form manner.

The Artist Development Fellowship program, jointly administered by the Office for the Arts at Harvard, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and Office of Career Services, awards 10-15 fellowships annually to promising and/or accomplished student artists and creators who have an unusual opportunity for artistic growth and transformation. The program is open to all undergraduates currently enrolled in Harvard College, and applications are evaluated by the Council on the Arts, a standing committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. For more information, visit the OFA website or call 617.495.8676.