Two years ago on January 27th I had just posted a story on my Huffington Post blog commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. My thoughts on that day were not only about the victims who perished during the darkest days of the 20th century, but also about those who tried to stop it.
In my post, I referenced several Greek examples of bravery and heroism— average men and women who risked their own lives to save those of their fellow citizens, friends and neighbors.
One of the examples I mentioned in that post was the incident on the island of Zakynthos when the entire community of that island’s Jews were saved by the defiance of the mayor and archbishop— incidents that went down in history leading to the complete survival of 275 Jews— every single member of the community— something that happened nowhere else in Europe.
That day, I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard with a new friend— Steven Priovolos— and chatting about films, life, bring Greek and other relevant matters to both of us. Almost instantaneously, my iPhone erupted with those dreaded notifications— the “beep” sound that goes off when someone “likes” or “retweets” something you’ve posted on your own social media.
Beep, beep… beep the phone went, much to Steven’s dismay.
Ironically, we were in the midst of a conversation about the importance of “being present” with people. I was anywhere but present, as I kept looking at my phone every time it beeped and vibrated.
I explained to Steven the subject of my post and attempted to make amends with him for “not being present” by sharing the subject of my post and trying to justify my rudeness. When I told him the story of the Zakynthos Jews and how they were saved— he was visibly moved that such an act of goodness had happened in his homeland.
The ensuing conversation included everything from WWII history and my own father’s years as a teenager there, as well as the irony of the Golden Dawn Neo Nazi phenomenon that was making headlines and sweeping Greece at that time.
And from that conversation came the magic words— “let’s make this into a film.”
That was two years ago— and what has ensued since can only be called “the greatest journey of my life.”
Chance and coincidence brought Steven and I together in London on the two year anniversary of that car ride in Hollywood in 2013.
Appreciation and gratitude was all I could feel when walking across the Waterloo Bridge with Steven a few days ago, thinking back at the past two years and how the short film has evolved into the project that is today.
It started as a short film to share the timeless story in these troubled times we are living in, where injustice and intolerance are running rampant. It was a story about goodness over hate that emanated from a tiny corner of our beloved Greece.
That short film concept was supported through direct donations and various crowdfunding campaigns supported by hundreds of people— friends and strangers— and eventually evolved into a full-length feature film and a documentary, both of which are in various stages of production and pre-production now, two years later.
Steven and I met survivors who shared their remarkable stories— In Athens, in Tel Aviv, in Zakynthos— and their stories became the basis for the two films we are working on today.
We also met numerous talented people— writers, directors, producers who have been involved and have added their own voice and support to the project.
We made mistakes and learned from them, hoping not only to better ourselves, but our experience and know-how in filmmaking and story telling.
For me personally, the evolution of the project has been an opportunity for personal and professional growth like no other experience in my life.
Two years later, we are closer to sharing this story with the world, thanks in large part to the support and patience of so many people. Two years later I have learned a lot and through this project and all of my experiences, have begun a new professional path in my life as a film producer.
Two years later I find myself in the most creative and productive moment of my life, living in a new city, with new opportunities and a new outlook on life, on the people I choose to have in my life and what I expect from them. Two years later, for a number of reasons, I was able to walk across the Waterloo Bridge in London and feel nothing but gratitude.