Film director Stelana Kliris

I am often asked what it’s like to be a woman working in the film industry; but the answer to this question requires context. While I am aware of the dismal statistics of gender inequality in Hollywood and what perhaps awaits me as I grapple my way to the ‘promised land’, I currently belong to the small but eager film industry of Cyprus. The good news for me as a female filmmaker is that we’re so busy trying to get our little Mediterranean island on the map, that nobody cares about your gender.

I have spent the last ten years working in the commercial and film industries in Greece and Cyprus, and I’ve seen their pre-crisis potential and momentum, followed by sudden economic crippling and, in the case of our neighbour Greece, the emergence of remarkable work known as the ‘Greek Weird Wave’. The crisis has just recently hit the shores of Cyprus, slashing local film funds and forcing filmmakers to seek alternative routes and perhaps follow in the footsteps of the Greeks.

This is how my debut feature ‘Committed’ was born. Our only option was a micro-budget, guerrilla-style production made possible through crowd-funding and an angel investor. The film is an English-language road-trip comedy about a chance meeting between a man and a runaway bride. It was shot across 25 locations with a core crew of 12 people in 17 days! We had to contend with a series of challenges ranging from unprecedented banking restrictions at the peak of the crisis to the blistering heat; special mention has to be made of our cast Melia Kreiling and Orestes Sophocleous, who had to perform in these conditions while wearing an overflowing wedding gown and a suit respectively.

We also had the kinds of unexpected visitors one finds in rural locations, like watermelon trucks and herds of goats passing through our set. It sounds cliché, but it’s a part of the charm that a place like Cyprus still has and something we tried to capture on film.

‘Committed’ is the first post-crisis independent feature film to be produced in Cyprus, and thankfully not the last. We seem to have inspired a ripple effect of maverick indies that will hopefully bring our industry back to its feet.

I should also mention that while being a woman hasn’t affected my working process, it has certainly influenced my content. Unfortunately, Cyprus is still a place where your marital status is the main source of validation; you could win an Oscar and still be seen as a failure if you’re single. So I took all my questions and concerns about love, marriage and commitment, and put them into my film. I also wanted to start with a film that was fun and light-hearted, while retaining its substance. Hopefully this will be something that audiences, especially women, will find accessible and relatable.

So while Cyprus may be a traditionally patriarchal country, our film community is made up mostly of young, progressive people and we have a decent balance of male and female directors. Personally I have found that if you put your head down and focus on your work without making gender an issue, then nobody else will either.

You can see the film’s trailer here:

As the film has just been completed, we have no set release dates yet. We expect to start our festival run in 2014. All screening updates will be posted on our official site and facebook page.

Stelana Kliris is a South African Cypriot filmmaker with a background in production on international film and commercial productions in Greece and Cyprus.

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