Last week, California-based action filmmaker Constantine Papanicolaou launched a major campaign to complete a film showcasing Greece as the perfect winter destination. He has already shot stunning video from various mountains around Greece, including Mt. Olympus— where he found inspiration for the same of his project. We spoke to CP, as his friends call him about Frozen Ambrosia.
Before you read the interview, watch a clip CP published on his Kickstarter fundraising page introducing the viewer to some of the most amazing people he interviewed along the way. CP needs the support of those outside Greece to help him complete this film and we are proud to share his efforts and support him. If you’d like to support the project, click this link and donate and/or share the Kickstarter page.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CONSTANTINE PAPANICOLAOU
When did you first discover Greece’s mountains?
I always knew Greece had mountains. Every summer as a child, I would spend a few weeks visiting my YiaYia and Pappous. But this was only for summer vacations. When you visit Greece in the summer months, you see the mountains everywhere, but it’s hard to imagine them with snow. So I never gave it much thought. Fast forward in time, to mid 2000’s, around the time that video went online, with sites like Youtube popping up. I had been making these ski videos for a few years, but they were small circulations of VHS and DVD. With the internet, all of a sudden, they were available globally. Some guys in Greece saw the vids, they saw my big huge Greek name in the credits, and they started emailing me. That’s when I started to become aware of something snow related in Greece. Then Facebook came around. I started getting friend requests from more Greeks, and I started to see their skiing photos, from Greece. Some were so amazing I couldn’t believe it. So I went on Google Earth and started scouring to see where these photos might have come from. I was blown away, because I could see the topographical relief of the country in 3D. That’s when I realized the potential.
What made you want to make this movie?
For years I imagined the idea of doing a ski video in Greece. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to commit to it. It takes a lot of time and money to make a good video, and I didn’t have the courage to risk it. The economic “crisis” changed that. Every day you see disparaging news coverage of Greece, and it starts pissing you off. Also, with my name, it’s impossible for me to hide from the Greek identity. Every time I use my credit card or show my ID, I have to answer a question about it. More and more, I found myself answering questions about the crisis. One particular incident stands out for me. I was going through airport security at LAX, the TSA guys looks at my ID, and of course he asks me what kind of name this is. I answered him that it was Greek. Then he replied, “Oh Greece. Isn’t that the place that’s destroying the world economy”? This sort of thing keeps happening, and you begin to feel the urge to do something about it. But how? Well, I decided to do the only thing I know how to do; to go to Greece and make a ski movie.
First, because of the crisis. I’m so f**king tired of listening to the media trash Greece. I’m tired of listening to people who have no clue about Greece bloviate about Greece’s problems. As a Greek American, and as a media professional, albeit in an ultra niche area of media, I felt a responsibility to go to Greece and make an effort to report some truth. I felt that if I could make an awesome ski movie, and show people a side of the country they never knew existed, perhaps I could have a small impact on the discourse.
Second, because it was an amazing opportunity to reconnect with my roots. I never learned to speak Greek as a child. My dad is Greek, but my mother is American, so English was the language we spoke at home. Also, I didn’t grow up in a Greek American community. My only contact with the Greek language was the 3-4 weeks every summer I’d spend with my YiaYia and Pappous. That’s not enough. Doing this ski movie project was the perfect way to make up for lost ground. I can tell you, when I first showed up to start filming, I sat a couple guys down to interview them, they started speaking in Greek, and I understood absolutely nothing. I had one of the guys who spoke English translating, but I was thinking to myself, “This is completely insane. How am I going to pull this off”? Long story short, I kept the camera rolling, and when I got back home and started going through the footage and transcribing the interviews, bit by bit I learned the language, and now I can speak it. I don’t speak like a native mind you, but I know enough to order another beer!
I see that you’re teaming up with local entrepreneurs. Tell me more about your experience.
Yes, this is something that’s very important. The Kickstarter campaign and the film are about promoting and supporting a great business opportunity for Greece. One of the central themes of the film is this storyline about a group of Greek skiers and snowboarders who are struggling to create an industry of winter tourism in Greece. In the film you will see their spirit and you will be amazed to see how they overcome challenges. But you will also see how the deck is stacked against them. When we look at the crisis, a big part of what we are witnessing is a huge mass of smart people, young people especially, with strong entrepreneurial instincts, who try to create businesses in Greece, but who get wiped out for completely absurd reasons. They fight to hang on, but ultimately they leave the country for opportunities abroad. The same thing will happen to this group of skiers and snowboarders if something is not done to help them. That’s what I hope to achieve with the film and the Kickstarter. The odds are against these guys, but if we can get the word out on what they’re doing, we can give them a fighting chance.
In your opinion, what do Greek mountains have, that other well-known ski areas don’t?
Greece has a special magic. It’s a place that inspires the human soul. You feel it everywhere. For skiers and snowboarders, to be high up in wild, snow-covered mountains, the same mountains you learned about as a child reading the great myths of the ancient world, it’s an experience that’s completely unique. Imagine spending the night on Mt Olympos, the mountain of the gods, sleeping in a refuge high up at 8500ft, waking up at sunrise, sipping a hot cup of coffee while you take in a brilliant view of the Aegean sea, buckling up for a ski run right next to the Throne of Zeus, followed by a big long run down to the base of the mountain, then topping it all off with a dinner of fresh fish right next to sea. It’s magical! It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.