Lance Nielsen- Writer, Actor & Director has very kindly agreed to take time out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk to me about his latest screenplay The Journey.
You wear a variety of hats at any given time: screenwriter, ghostwriter for biographies, director, actor. Whilst they’re all different, is there any particular role you most favour
Being a director is the most challenging, and probably my favourite. With some roles you really never stop learning, and that’s never truer than when you’re wearing the Directors hat. Working with each actor can be very different, they all have strengths and vulnerabilities and you have to patiently learn how to get the best out of them and their performances and the nicest will bring the best out of you too. Plus in the digital age there’s always new cameras and technologies coming out, so much so that I can’t keep up. So I like to surround myself with strong technical people as I am very much an actor’s director, but I always want to know what we can achieve with the technology available. I find writing the most enjoyable and also easiest. I have written four scripts in the last 16 months and treatments for three more and a book so at the moment I am having a burst of creativity, when it happens like that its very enjoyable. When you sit down and nothing comes out or it all comes out wrong (As the Greece script did when I first tried to write it a couple of years ago) then it can be very frustrating. Producing and Directing at the same time is definitely one I would always try and avoid.
Your bio tells us that ‘social and political dramas are my strenghts’ – is this what attracted you to make Greece the location for Jason (the protagonist)?After all, he could have gone to Italy or Spain to escape his problems.
No, my choice of setting this film in Greece was not motivated by politics or its social changing state that it is currently experiencing. I chose the location because it’s where I went to get over bereavement and that place of truth became the root for this story. Greece also seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons at the moment and I really wanted to remind people what a beautiful and spiritual place it can be. At the moment I think that is totally forgotten in the media at large.
The story of ‘The Journey’ really excites me as I am in the middle of my debut novel which, ironically, is along a similar vein: girl comes to quiet village in Greece, gets sucked into the way of life. Have you experienced Greece and had her wand cast over you?
Well my first visit to Greece was in 2009 and I went from having no plans to go anywhere at all on a Sunday afternoon, to being on an island in Greece on Wednesday morning (I arrived in Piraeus on Tuesday night, so I got to Greece pretty fast from making the decision) One of my best friends had just died on the Friday, and then a close relative died on the Sunday, so I wasn’t in a good place when I arrived all I knew was I needed to get away and I am certain if I had not got out of the UK at that time I would not be sitting here typing this now. The first night on the island, the hotel I was staying in organised a beach party and I saw the most wonderful sunset and felt this gentle wind on my face, the sky was a mixture of the most beautiful mix of reds and purples. That was the first turning point on a long road to dealing with what had happened in my recent past. Ironically that hotel is now also one of the main locations in the film and some of the characters in the story were inspired by people I met at that hotel but the story for the film and the people in it are entirely fictional. My first visit to Greece was the catalyst you might say for me to write a script that I would film there one day.
You may have guessed by now that I’m a Greekophile – have you spent any time in Greece location scouting and what’s your favourite place so far?
Yes we did a lot of location scouting and we knew from the start that there were certain things that we needed. I went back to Greece again in 2011 with a friend of mine and again in 2012 for a recce of where we might shoot. It wasn’t possible in 2010 as I was directing two plays and at that time this film wasn’t even being considered, but by the time of my second visit, the idea for the story, the beginning and ending scenes were forming in my head so I started looking at it from a film maker’s eye and not just that of a tourist. Even though I know some of the most beautiful islands are considered to be those in the Cyclades and of course Santorini I knew because of our budget and for logistics, being close to Athens would have a lot of advantages for us, as our film is so small we can’t solve problems with money, we have to be more creative. On the recce we went to Kea first then I travelled up to Thassos, two islands which couldn’t have been more different from each other. Thassos in the end was ruled out primarily because it was too much of a risk, weather wise and too far from Athens if something went wrong. In the end our island in the film will actually be filmed on three islands in reality in order to get the look and the feel of the place right for the story. I actually plan on spending my honeymoon in Santorini, assuming I am not totally broke after the movie. It is one of my ambitions to visit all the main Greek islands in my life time, I hope one day to live on one of them.
If anyone has any tips or suggestions for you – how is it best to get in touch?
As our film is very, very low budget we are always looking for help and assistance. We are looking for free or very cheap office space or a small apartment someone could donate to us for a week on either Kea or Agistri which would double as our production office during shooting. Local businesses who want to assist us can get in touch. We have had a lot of cafes and restaurants offer free food for our cast and crew, and the same with accommodation too. Anyone who wants to help with any of these things or sponsor us movie or even become an investor should get in touch with Kiki Fotiadou, who is one of the main Greek Producers who is responsible for securing these things–[email protected] It’s probably important to say that we are all working on this for free (Or deferred payment which is the same thing for now) so every little bit of help counts.
Thanks Lance, I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to answer these questions and I’m sure my fans will be very keen to see the finished result. Anything that helps promote Greece in a positive light these days is welcomed.
Header picture courtesy of www.londonscreenwriters.com