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Yiannis Daskalothanasis, GSC Interview

Yiannis Daskalothanasis, GSC was born in Athens, Greece in 1954. In 1976, after graduating Stavrakos Cinema School, he started working as a Cinematographer lensing various documentaries, commercials, TV series and Fiction films. Designing Cinetools is one of his passions and he serves the Cinema community as a member in various boards and societies.

In March 2013, Yiannis was elected to be the 1st President of the brand new Greek Society of Cinematographers (GSC). The official non-profit Greek association of Professionals Cinematographers.

Yiannis' various awards include the Audience Award Seven Art for best Cinematography (2013), Personalities Award (2006), Golden Knight for best Cinematography - Moscow Film Festival (2002) and the Greek state Award for Best Cinematography (2001).

I had the pleasure to first meet him during the Screening of Keanu Reeves' doc Side By Side in Athens back in February and since then we had several talks discussing cinematography and filmmaking. The following lines are extremely interesting so make a cup of coffee and enjoy the talk.

Alex Maragos: • So Yianni, talk to me about the founding of the GSC.

Yiannis Daskalothanassis: This is not the first effort to establish the Greek Society of Cinematographers. We started more than 10 years ago with difficulties and problems which we finally managed to overcome. We learned our lesson from the mistakes of the past and this exchange of ideas and common effort between us in the difficult period of crisis in Greece made as better friends.

Agelos Viskadourakis, Yiorgos Frentzos, Ilias Adamis, Dionisis Efthimiopoulos, Yiorgos Argyroiliopoulos, Dimitris Theodoropoulos and me, are the protagonists of this effort. We've spend months planning how to establish a society of persons inspired by the same dreams and ideas. We also tried to avoid all bureaucracy and formalities of a typical union because we are a group of friends and we like to act as friends.

But to legalize our relationship we had to establish a legally correct scheme which needs to have a board. So we had the first elections and the result of this was that I had the pleasure of being elected as a President, Vice President is Yiorgos Frentzos, Secretary: Dionisis Efthimiopoulos, Treasurer: Vasilis Klotsotiras and Member of the Board is Argiris Theos. But our main concept is that none among as is more important than the rest.

The management of this society should not be carried by presidents and boards so we decided to have a manager who is responsible to run the house and every year we evaluate his ability of doing so. It is not necessary for him to be a DP. He organizes the activities and with the help of committees of our members we try to function in a more effective way.

Panos Stamboglis who is not a Cinematographer but a very experienced person in making things happen, voluntarily offered his cooperation. Now in 2013 we are a solid group of 29 DPs and good friends among us Viskadourakis Agelos, Yiannis Daskalothanasis, Yiorgos Frentzos, Yiorgos Argyroiliopoulos, Ilias Adamis, Dimitris Theodoropoulos, Christos Voudouris, Theodoros Michopoulos, Epaminondas Zafiris, Vassilis Klotsotiras, Kostis Gikas, Stelios Apostolopoulos, Polydefkis Kirilidis, Olympia Mytilineou, Argyris Theos, Spyros Pagonis, Fotis Mitsis, Stamatis Gianoulis, Dionysis Efthimiopoulos, Simon Sarketzis, Giorgos Gianelis, Dimitris Kasimatis, Giorgos Michelis, Philipos Koutsaftis, Kostas Stamoulis, Claudio Bolivar, Katerina Maragoudaki, Alexis Grivas, Christos Alexandris, and we are ready to accept more Cinematographers, so we can fulfill our purpose, to represent the body of the top Greek Directors of Photography. We are part of the ex European and now International Society of Cinematographers (IMAGO).

• What are the main goals and objectives of the Society?

The main goals of our society include several issues that are crucial for us. Educate the new generation of filmmakers by organizing seminars and trying to inspire the young enthusiasts to try and gain deeper knowledge of the art of cinematography. Educate the general public about the importance of a director of photography together with the director in transforming a literary project (the script) into a visually expressed art form.

Keep the level as high as possible by educating our members constantly. Organize workshops running equipment tests exchange information about the development of the visually story telling art of cinema. Contribute in the cinematographic art and industry as much as we can.

We have already helped two young graduates from our national film school, Nikos Apostolopoulos and Katerina Gerothanasi, to produce a short film by providing them the equipment and the help of Adamis Ilias and Frentzos Yiorgos. We intent to help students in any way, who have talent and interesting stories to tell, to produce their short films.

• What is the Society's vision?

Every member should find his or her potential. In a world that is rapidly changing the cinematographers must keep inspiring the audience. We want to keep ourselves informed and updated by learning from the global community of visual arts and also by communicating our knowledge to others.

• What does it take to be a GSC member and what are the criteria for being accepted into the Greek Society of Cinematographers? Talk me through the procedure.

To be a full member is a honorary distinction about the artistic value and the authorship of every Director of Photography. One can apply to the GSC board by providing a CV and the proposal by two full members of the Society.

The General Assembly then evaluates his/her work according to the International standards. At least three feature films must be provided (short films are also accepted) which are already released in public theatres. The acceptance of the 8/10 of the full members is important.

GSC Show Reel

• What are the key-benefits of being a member of the GSC?

To be a GSC member and as a result an IMAGO member is a honorary distinction. It is also a certification to the international cinema industry about the artistic capability and quality of the person that carries the GSC title.

• What advice do you have for film producers and Directors about finding the right Cinematographers to collaborate with them?

For the producers I think that an expensive Cinematographer is the best investment. For the directors you should just follow your heart.

• How do you see the future of Cinematography & Filmmaking?

As the media is getting more and more democratized we need talented authors to pop out from the mass and visually produce the unexpected. Technology has given to all the ability to express ourselves through images. With the help of affordable tools like cellular phones and photo cameras the internet opens new horizons to people. The continuity of the craft of cinematography is very important because every one might have a pencil to write but this doesn't make him a good writer.

• In 2012 you shot "What If...", the highest-grossing Greek film in recent years. Why did you decide to go with RED and what is your opinion on Digital Cinematography?

Digital cinematography is undoubtedly the future but is also the present of the cinematic language. Film is probably the best media to shoot but digital is gradually and drastically improving. And if you think the benefits on manipulating the recorded image on the set most of the times digital is better.

DIR: C.Papakaliatis | DP: Y.Daskalothanasis

I didn't decide to shoot with RED camera it was an accidental meeting. The production company had access to a RED camera set so the decision was not mine. I had to adapt to this but this was not bad at all. I found the way to work with this camera with the help of experienced crew (Panagiotis Vassilakis, Vassilis Kasvikis and Yiannis Vikias).

The problem with the modern tools is that we don't have time to fall in love with them because they change every day. Before you familiarize yourself with them, new are arriving and those you decided to use a year ago are old. I still have my Aaton film camera which I bought 25 years ago and the only part I have to replace is the film in the magazine.

One very interesting thing about using the digital media is that it resurrected in me the interest of self manipulating the image. There are programs on Pc's to professionally finish the look of your final product at home.

Y.Daskalothanasis, GSC & Director Christopher Papakaliatis

I remember myself working in the darkroom on every detail on the printed paper by manipulating the contrast and exposure digging out the best of my black and white print and I am very satisfied with the fact that I can do the same and even better in digital.

• At the beginning of April, Fuji announced the discontinuation of Motion Picture Film production. Kodak is still making motion picture film and they should be coming out of bankruptcy this year. What is the future of film in general and what does this mean for the industry?

Photochemical technology recorded the face of humanity for two centuries. As the papyrus preserved for thousands of years the spirit of the ancient people, film will preserve also for the next generations the spirit of our era.

Film is human heritage and we have to respect it as such. Just think in the future if there is not a theatre with analog equipment how difficult it would be for someone to have access to all these wonderful films produced in the past.

Digital archiving for the moment is not a safe way to store images for more than 5 years and is more expensive than film which has been proven for more than 100 years. I am sure that the industry will find the way to preserve the digital archives forever but film must be kept for its unique look which represents this period of human history.

• What is your advice to aspiring Cinematographers?

Be in love with visual storytelling and let your passion grow. If you do it for money, to get rich, there are other easier opportunities out there for you.

Visit: Greek Society of Cinematographers
"What if..." BTS stills courtesy of Christos Mavridis

Interview: Alexandros Maragos