My first attempt in the production field started through the screen of a computer, back in 1993. Especially after watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which inspired me to start putting the stories – that were forming in my mind – onto actual paper. I still remember coming back from the movie theater, feeling nostalgic of not being able to live inside the world of a film. There was way too little I could do with the Amiga 500 I had fought hard to attain a few years before, even though I was able to create several 2D animations. The first obstacle I saw was that anything visual would take an awful amount of time to build, since my mind would speed significantly faster than my hands – and computer – could handle. Hence I took my first go at storytelling.
January of that same year I wrote my first hand-written manuscript. A full story of 72 pages long, which I named “Oblivion”. A science fiction fantasy story about an apocalyptic event and alternate universes. Naturally you might ask: “Why write it by hand? Did you not have a word processor?” The answer is no, I did not. Add the fact that I was allowed to use my computer only during vacations, pen and paper were my only resources. Again, I would sneak out of my bedroom, sneak into my “warehouse creative” room when everyone was asleep, and dedicate a few hours night after night, until it was done. “Good, I did it!” I said to myself. “Now, how on Earth am I going to get it to the screen?” That was the billion dollar question. Without a camera, without any contacts, without any mentors or guides, plus living in a small town that I could easily be considered “insane”, any attempt would be crowned with failure and laughter by everyone. So, what did I do? I gave it my best in the school national examinations and secured a place in the National Technical University of Athens. So, a year later, I found myself away from everyone, down in the capital of my country and in the middle of 4 million people – as opposed to the 30,000 my birth town had.
One thing to keep in mind, is that the education system of Greece – at that time – did not offer any solid options for someone to follow their dream. It was a mere scale of multiple choices that could easily go astray, given the end score of the exams. Basically, the system would throw a student at an educational institute that derived from the score of four 3-hour long tests. That was it. The upside was that there were no tuition fees, so I would not be burdening the finances of my family as much as students of other countries.
Upon arrival, I decided to play “smart” with my professors. It did not work for most, but it did for one that mattered. Given my experience with computers, I was invited as an assistant in the laboratory of informatics, where my professor wanted to groom me for telecommunication research. A great man indeed, who I hold to a very high esteem, the same with a mathematics tutor who literally taught me critical thinking in a system of “parrot training”. “You must learn to carve your own path,” were his greatest words of wisdom. It was those years that mathematics and computer science took a powerful hold on me and helped through every aspect of my artistic pursuits, believe it or not.
By the second year in the university, I discovered that the second professor in the lab I was assisting in, had a partner who was a communications specialist and worked in a production company. Bingo! That was the break I needed. Not to get produced. I had absolutely no idea how to do that. My goal was to start building my network and offer a type of unpaid service that almost no company had at that time: multimedia support, computer graphics and some visual effects.
It took approximately three years to begin getting the hang of a field that was still in development, even for a city as big as Athens. I remember building a team in a new-found company, which I would train with internal seminars in order to bring them up to speed with the technological application of art. Who? Me! The person who taught himself because of passion. Did I feel adequate? Heck no. But there were no other resources, no money to go abroad and study, so everything relied on studying from magazines, a bit of internet and a lot, I mean truly a lot of experimentation and personal project goals.
As things started to settle a bit, or at least that was what I was hoping, my partner and I thought we had actually found someone to finance the project I had built a while back. Little did I know that all these “financiers” wanted were to sell us hardware and software. I will never forget the way one of them held the synopsis of the project. As if it was absolutely nothing compared to what he wanted. Indeed, he did not want to produce, he wanted to sell something else.
At that point I knew that I had to learn a lot more. Also, to tell the truth, it was my first big disappointment that almost made me give it all up. The year was 1999, I dropped my dream and went out to teach seminars about computer science and applications.
Until a few months later, when a new idea dawned on me…