Interview with screenwriter Stelios Koukouvitakis

  •  What is the first story you ever wrote?

I used to make original comics as a teenager, so I guess those were my first fiction stories.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

It was always works where drama and character go hand in hand while they are still visually intriguing – the films of Hitchcock, Truffaut, Kazan, Scorsese…

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

That’s a tough one – because it’s different for every person. Some may start in film school since this is where you write your first screenplays. Then there are other filmmakers. If they like you as an artist and writer they may offer to read your work, advice you or even offer your first screenwriting job. This is how I started although since I am a writer/director it was a little easier as I already had my first short film to show. Another way is through screenwriting labs and competitions – I haven’t taken part in any but there are some very well-known ones.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

My stories always come from a very personal level – an experience or a thought I had and then it stuck with me in a way that was worth exploring further. It may not be in the characters though, it may be in the main story. This first flame who initiated the whole writing may change down the line, be reshaped or fine-tuned but it was there from the beginning.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

It’s all about action and reaction – as we know from Physics, which is my first degree, you can’t have the one without the other, this is how the universe works. So something happens to a character or they do it themselves and that causes a reaction. It may be external or internal or both but it’s a domino effect. And if you’ve done your job properly, then at some point the characters become alive and they choose their own actions and reactions. Then you just need to step aside and trust them.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

At the first outline I don’t but, there is a moment, as the story moves further I would stop, go back and write short bios for their life before we met them, their goals and ambitions. All this becomes very helpful later down the line, during the rehearsals with the actors.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

I love them – with all their good and bad choices, their traits and errors no matter if they crash or fly free in the end. As we move on to the editing process, I become a bit more distanced, it’s not about my favorite moments of them, or their best shots in the footage, all it matters is the final film. It’s the “kill your darlings” moment.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

I believe you need to master it and then make it yours. Structure is there for a reason but at the end of the day you are responsible to make a story which is emotionally engaging. Otherwise, your characters may follow a “join-the-numbers” pattern and end up with something dull and boring.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

I always outline. At some point the step outline has merged into a lengthy treatment, which may even include key dialogue, a ‘scriptment’. Then I do the formatting and that becomes the first draft of the script.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

I don’t really know, I don’t think there is a recipe or a set of instructions which you can follow and make a great character. For me it’s all about the end result: If they carry the story from beginning to end, so the viewers empathize with them as if they were real, then that’s a great character.

Sunday 11.00-12.00 trailer from CineFoss on Vimeo.

The Wise Toucan
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.