This week's A.P.T.- is George E. Stephanopoulos who is producing the movie Swing Away, which you'll read all about below. I recently had the chance to sit down with George and hear about the stellar cast he is assembling, the amazing perks he's providing on his Rockethub campaign, and the awesome location he is planning for the film. Have a look below and if you love Greece, Golf, or Georges feel free to contribute!
George has assembled a dynamic creative team – Steven Kampmann (Back to School,Stealing Home), who is also the director, and Paul Lingas (Wide Awake in Nothing) – to write the script, produce and distribute the film and help him realize his dream, which is to bring newfound respect, as well as business opportunities, to the country he adores.
Also on board is John O'Hurley (best known internationally for two very different roles - J. Peterman in the comedy series Seinfeld and King Neptune in SpongeBob SquarePants) for the role of Heinrich, the smarmy, antagonistic entrepreneur in the film. John's recent YouTube hit, a hilarious golf parody, crossed 1.3 Million views: Rangé Golf Balls with John O'Hurley
Swing Away will be co-produced in association with 57th & Irving Productions (the production company behind the award-winning documentary American Teen and feature films Auguststarring Josh Hartnett and Cake Eaters starring Kristen Stewart) and distributed in North America by Picturehouse – this means Bob Berney and the successful distribution team previously behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
GET INSPIRED AND CHASE YOUR DREAMS
A maverick streak has always defined lawyer and independent film producer George Stephanopoulos. So he imagined his golf comedy set not in Pebble Beach, but in a remote village in Crete.
"A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free." - Nikos Kazantzakis
Not only is this tale a moving, audience-friendly small town story like Local Hero, Waking Ned Devine or Bend it Like Beckham, it’s also a classic underdog drama pitting charming locals against rapacious developers. Using the backdrop of contemporary Greece, George found the perfect dynamic to tell an entertaining story that touches upon these and many other themes that will be incredibly relevant to a broad audience.
Our journey to make Swing Away has been its own Greek odyssey, and we now need supporters like you – supporters who want to get inspired to chase their own dreams.
LET’S START WITH THE BASICS
Swing Away is an engaging romantic comedy and a unique coming of age story filled with laugh out loud authentic characters. Set in a small, sun-drenched Greek village nestled between majestic mountains and the blue azure sea on the island of Crete, Greece, this film will bring joy, laughter and wonder to any audience.
With present day Greece and golf as the backdrop, Swing Away uses humor to tackle a variety of stereotypes while at the same time addressing other universal themes relevant in Greece and the world at large -- such as competition for land, resources and respect. In other words, the movie will create a new narrative that counters the current, often far too negative public image of Greece and the Greek people – and to show you that there are things worth fighting for!
We all know what it’s like to have dreams; dreams that challenge us at various points in our lives to think big and rise to the occasion against the greatest of odds. This is part of Greek heritage: from Thermopylae to Alexander’s outnumbered troops to the partisan fighters in WW II, the nature of the Greek spirit is to overcome insurmountable odds. The creation of this film, as well as its plotline, also reflect this simple, timeless, and very powerful idea.
FEELING IT TO YOUR CORE (isn’t that what movies are all about?)
Swing Away has the spirit of Zorba the Greek, the warmhearted comedy of Tin Cup and a dose of the whacky (yet in our case family friendly) comedy found in Caddyshack. It invites an audience to escape mundane, everyday reality for an hilarious romp in the magical Greek isles. It’s a story of underdogs – of a village held in the corporate grip of a greedy entrepreneur, of a Greek boy hoping to follow his golfing dream against incredible odds, and of a humiliated Greek-American pro golfer rediscovering her love for the game, her family, her very self. It’s a tale of friendships, values, and golf gods. It’s an endearing, lighthearted love story between a woman and a boy, between a game and a village, between a granddaughter and her grandparents, between and man and a woman. Yes, Swing Away may feel like an easy-breezy comedy, but is also tugs at the heart and pleases the imagination like a delightful dream.
PERKS AND OPPORTUNITIES
RocketHub will help us raise awareness and rally the global Greek community and general public. Moreover, RocketHub not only allows us to build community, but also empowers supporters like you who believe in the project and want to participate in its creation.
So how do you get involved? How do you help bring this vision of a resilient Greece to life? Well, you can do it right here on RocketHub, of course. And true to the Greek spirit of generosity and welcoming all, we’ll even offer some cool perks for those who donate to the project.
Like these unique opportunities to directly participate in the making of the film. For various donations, you can actually have an input in the movie’s creative process. For instance, you can:
• play the part of a background extra.
• play a limited speaking part.
• name the town, golf course, or church where the story takes place. Or even the mythical Greek golf god that will resemble the Minotaur, the wild beast of Crete.
• receive associate producer credits for hosting a screening of the film prior to its release but this is limited to only 20 cities in the U.S.
The map below will be updated with the name of each host city that commits to a promotional screening of the film in 2014 – Congratulations to Boston Greeks as the 1st host city thanks to the generous contribution of Drake Behrakis.
The first 100 to donate at The Golf Cart funding level will receive as a bonus an ebook of the best-selling novel "Golf in the Kingdom" by Michael Murphy (link to more info at http://openroadmedia.com/golf-in-the-kingdom) or an ebook of "Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes" by Stephen Goodwin (link to more info at http://www.algonquinbooksblog.com/dream-golf/). "Golf in the Kingdom" - the movie -- was Executive Produced by George Stephanopoulos and filmed on location at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon.
All backers will receive casting and production news first including regular updates throughout the production process.
PROGRESS TO PRODUCTION
We will shoot Swing Away on location at the Crete Golf Club and surrounding villages in Hersonissos, Crete. The course is a championship golf course – the only 18-hole golf course on the island of Crete and one of the most impressive golf courses of the Mediterranean. The course has a mountain-style layout with panoramic views of both of the mountains of Crete and the Aegean Sea.
We intend to start production this fall with a shooting schedule of approximately 20-25 days, if we raise sufficient funds. Here is where RocketHub and you can help. Our aim is to exceed our goal of $200,000 so that we can deliver a finished film of the highest quality and marketability that will show the world that the Greek character is stronger and more resilient than ever.
We expect the film to receive an MPAA rating of PG-13 or PG like Bend It Like Beckham and My Big Fat Geek Wedding. These films have been huge successes, and so can we... especially with our carefully orchestrated combination of writing, casting, directing, editing, marketing, etc. and supporters like you.
When a Greek-American golf pro named Nikki is suspended from the LPGA tour, she escapes to the village of her Greek grandparents on the island of Crete, hoping to get away from what has become a disastrous career and hopefully get herself back on track. What, and who, greets her when she arrives, however, are a young boy who already hits the ball better than she ever has, his protective (and handsome!) father, feisty, well meaning grandparents and a village bent on doing everything it can to ignore the beautiful golf course that lies nearby.
Once Nikki arrives in the village she is confronted with two distinct yet equally baffling facts: her grandparents, while happy to see her, seem bent on lecturing her back to health and a young boy who she sees whacking golf balls all over creation with the purest, smoothest, most effortless swing she’s ever seen. It’s the perfect combination to get her mind off her own playing and putting troubles. Or not. Nikki soon befriends the boy, Spiro, more at his prodding and urging than anything else, and they soon form a bond of old-washed-up-has-been and never-going-to-make-it-off-the-island-wunderkind. Nikki also befriends the manager and groundskeeper of the local course and shortly after she is convinced to be the resident golf pro.
Nikki, now with a mission in life that doesn’t have to do with making the cut, qualifying for major tournaments, and dealing with the daily grind of the pro tour, sets out to convince the entire town, who up until now have looked at the golf course with a mixture of bemusement, hatred and utter apathy, to begin playing golf and bring some local life and flavor to a course that seems bent on only catering to wealthy foreigners. Her initial efforts are met with mixed results to say the least, and she soon discovers that the course itself is under threat from outside influences.
Determined to save the golf course, and with it the town, Nikki pulls out all the stops to enlist the help of men, women, young and old, to embrace this inherently Greek game of golf, take renewed pride in everything Cretan, Greek, and anything else she can think of, in order to save the town from becoming just one more boring, corporately run, homogenized European vacation spot. It won’t be easy though. She has to navigate not only the townspeople, but the local course manager, Spiro’s growing talent, his handsome and wonderful single father, the loving yet often meddling ways of her grandparents, the impending threat of a foreign takeover and her own mess of a life. What's a girl to do?
What we get is a thoughtful, heartfelt, sometimes irreverent, always family friendly, hilarious adventure of Greek people, Greek golf gods and modern Greek heroes that will change the lives of Nikki, the villagers and everyone who sees Swing Away forever.
NIKKI BAGOTZIS is a veteran LPGA pro suspended from the tour for fighting with a heckler. Her game suffers from a lack of confidence expressed by the curse of the putting “yips.” She is a strong woman and a fierce competitor who possesses both a sizeable temper and great sense of humor. She is a voracious reader but only for material that inspires or teaches her something. She feels like an alien in the modern culture and seems incapable of making lasting friendships, especially given her chosen profession, one that keeps her mostly on the road living the antiseptic life of motels and restaurant franchises. She loves to trash talk jerks of any sex, size, or color and usually wins. When she returns to her ancestral Greek village, she has lost her purpose in life as well as her love of the game of golf. But all that is about to change.
SPIRO KAPANEUS, 10, is a self taught, self-confident Greek golf prodigy who dreams of becoming a professional golfer, despite his father’s disapproval. He loves to trash talk and has found in Nikki both his match and his mentor.
MARCOS KAPANEUS is Spiro’s father, a widower and English teacher at the local school. He’s a good man but a man whose life has taught him to be skeptical of dreams – especially his son’s golfing dreams that he fears will be crushed by the harsh realities of Greek life.
Marcos - Manos Gavras is a Greek actor and film Producer who was born and raised in Heraklion, Crete. His acting credits include "The Back-up Plan" (2010) with Jennifer Lopez, "Kings of Mykonos" (2010) from the producers of the Oscar winning film "The King's Speech", the Swedish box office hit "Sune i Grekland" and numerous successful Greek films such as "I-4 Loufa & Apallagi"(2008), "First Time Godfather" (2007) and others. In 2011 he was a co-producer in the action thriller "Stranger in Paradise" shot entirely in Thailand staring Colin Egglesfield and Oscar nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno. Manos along with Adonis Hadjiantonas, his business partner at On Global Productions , are executive producers on the upcoming film "The Butler" directed by the Oscar nominated director Lee Daniels, starring Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Melissa Leo, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz and others. Manos is based in Los Angeles.
PANAYIOTIS, known as Pano, is the manager of the local golf course. He sweats like a banshee, hyperventilates, and constantly crosses himself, beseeching the deities for help; maybe he’s in such a state because he is hated by the locals for working for the “foreigner” Hans Heinrich and at the same time is horribly abused by Heinrich for his failure to find a suitable pro who can attract more customers. Thinking he is making a brilliant move, Pano hires Nikki to be his pro, only to discover she gives lessons to the locals and wants to open the course for the villagers - an act for which Heinrich would fire Pano on the spot; if he knew about it. Thus, poor Pano sweats even more, hyperventilates more often, and seems to cross himself every other minute.
Pano - Renos Haralambidis is an award-winning Greek actor, director, screenwriter and producer who was born in Athens. He wrote, directed and starred in No Budget Story (1997), Cheap Smokes (2000), The Heart of the Beast (2005) and Four Black Suits (2010) and has appeared as an actor in numerous other film, TV and theater productions. Renos is based in Athens.
HANS HEINRICH is the German “foreigner” who owns the golf course. He loves profit margins and his low golf handicap but hates people and any sentence that doesn’t begin with the letter “I.” Needless to say, he’s our villain.
Heinrich - John O'Hurley is an American actor, voice actor, author and television personality. He is known for the role of J. Peterman on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and was a host of the game show Family Feud from 2006 to 2010. John is also renowned for his excellent voice work, having voiced dozens of characters in animated TV shows and movies, including for the hit show Family Guy.
KETI, Nikki’s grandmother, doesn’t suffer fools and is on record as being the oldest Greek yiayia willing to take up golf.
HARALAMBOS is Nikki’s papou and one of the fools Keti won’t suffer.
THOMAS is the English club “handyman” who appears to have a long-term relationship with alcohol and sarcasm. He has a deep-seated aversion to work and to any kind of sentiment or emotion for, or from, other people. He’s cut off from his feelings and is damn proud of it.
FATHER ISAIAH is the local priest and golf enthusiast with the lowest handicap of any priest or monk this side of Mt. Olympus.
ANASTASI AND VASSILI are two old trash talking village friends and novice golfers who view a golf club more as a weapon to use against enemies than a place where a sport is played.
Steven Kampmann, Writer-Director
The picture was taken on the set of Second City's "BuzzKill" with lead actor Daniel Raymont ("Ray Wyatt") who is in the upcoming film "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn" starring Robin Williams and Mila Kunis.
Steven began his career as a comedic actor/writer at the legendary Second City Theaterappearing both in Chicago and Toronto. He wrote on and produced the hit television seriesWKRP in Cincinnati before co-starring on the successful Newhart show two years later in the role of Kirk Devane. He has appeared as an actor in eight movies including a featured role inClub Paradise with Robin Williams and Analyze That with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal. He co-wrote the hit comedy Back To School with Rodney Dangerfield and co-wrote and co-directed the film Stealing Home starring Jodie Foster and Mark Harmon. Other film credits include The Couch Trip with Dan Aykroyd and the cult classic Clifford starring Martin Short. His latest project was Second City's BUZZKILL, the first feature film from The Second City in over 40 years, starring Daniel Raymont (The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, The Good Heart) and Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B ---- in Apartment 123, She's Out of My League), which was released on Valentine’s Day, 2013
Paul Lingas, Writer
A native of Portland, Oregon, Paul received a double BA in English Literature and Spanish at the University of Oregon before earning his MFA at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television. His award winning film Wide Awake in Nothing has screened at numerous festivals worldwide and on the Independent Film Channel. He has produced, written and directed a number of other award winning films, many episodes of a web based sit-com, as well as a commercial for a New York based social media company. His screenwriting work includes original screenplays, as well as working as a freelance screenwriter, script doctor and editor. Paul has been commissioned to write and/or rewrite feature screenplays for a variety of production companies in Los Angeles, New York, London and Athens.
Paul continues to develop a number of feature film writing and directing projects and is currently co-developing an internationally financed TV drama to be shot this coming fall and winter as part of his work as a co-founder of Crosswalk Pictures. He is currently in preproduction as writer-director of the romantic comedy The Politics of Dating to be shot this summer, as well as in development for a drama to be shot in early 2014.
Paul recently directed and shot a documentary about Byzantine Choral music and chant in London, England; Regensburg, Germany and Athens and Patras, Greece. In addition, Paul is a Professor of Critical Film Theory and History at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy.
57th & Irving Productions
57th & Irving Productions, founded in 2005, has produced five films, all of which have been distributed to audiences around the world. Partnering in 2010 with the 7th Floor Productions to form 7-57 Releasing, the company has also distributed two films, La Soga and their own The Cake Eaters, theatrically and worldwide via DVD and Video on Demand. The company is currently producing its first short film.
57th & Irving Production's first film, The Cake Eaters, marked the directorial debut of award-winning actress, Mary Stuart Masterson, and an unforgettable performance by Kristen Stewart. The company then produced festival favorite documentaries, Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love and the Sundance 2008 winner for Best Director of a Documentary, American Teen.American Teen was purchased by Paramount Vantage at Sundance that same year. 57th & Irving Production's third film, August, starring Josh Hartnett was also a Sundance 2008 favorite and secured a theatrical and DVD distribution deal shortly thereafter.
The company again partnered with the 7th Floor Productions to produce its first horror film,Choose starring Kevin Pollak and Katherine Winnick. The film is thrilling and sending chills down the spine on DVD and Video on Demand now.
Based in New York, Picturehouse is a full-service independent film marketing and distribution company started in 2005 with founder Bob Berney at the helm. Picturehouse's new release will be Metallica Through the Never, a feature film starring members of the iconic rock band and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). DeHaan plays a young band crew member who is sent out on an urgent mission while the band is playing a rousing live set in front of a sold-out crowd and unexpectedly finds his world turned completely upside down. The film, written and directed by Nimrod Antal (Kontroll, Predators), is due in theaters August 9. One of the bestselling rock acts of all time, Metallica has sold over 105 million albums worldwide. Picturehouse will acquire, market and theatrically distribute independent films from the U.S. and around the world. The company expects to release two or three films this year, increasing its output to four or five in 2014 and six or seven in subsequent years. The company recently signed an exclusive, multi-year output deal with Netflix, the world's leading Internet television network. Picturehouse films will come to Netflix exclusively in the United States shortly after theatrical release. In addition, Picturehouse has secured a first look relationship with Warner Bros. Pictures International for films to which it has international distribution rights. Mr. Berney headed the company when it was originally formed in April 2005 as a joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema. Under his leadership, Picturehouse acquired and released such acclaimed features as Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth(winner of three Academy Awards); Olivier Dahan's La Vie en Rose (winner of two Academy Awards, including best actress for Marion Cotillard) and Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. Mr. Berney, who has founded and operated some of the most successful independent film distribution and marketing companies of the last decade, has overseen the U.S. theatrical releases of blockbusters such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, as well as critically hailed films including Christopher Nolan's Memento, Alfonso Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien and Niki Caro's Whale Rider. Most recently, Mr. Berney co-founded and served as President, Theatrical Distribution of FilmDistrict, a multi-faceted acquisition, distribution, production and financing company, and also served as President and Partner at Newmarket Films, releasing numerous features including Mel Gibson's $370 million-grossing The Passion of the Christ and Monster, for which Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Academy Award. Before that, Berney ran IFC Films, where he acquired and oversaw the release of films including the $240-million surprise hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Y Tu Mama Tambien.
WHO ELSE IS ON BOARD?
EURIPIDES "RIP" KASTARIS is a creative director who has designed the graphics for the project. You can also look forward to seeing his designs on the wearables on offer in the “Goods” section.
Euripides “Rip” Kastaris is an internationally recognized four-time Olympic artist and an adjunct professor of Greek History at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Born in Greece, the son of an Orthodox priest, he came to the US as part of his father’s mission. He received his BFA at Washington University in St. Louis and the valedictorian of the School of Fine Arts at graduation. He is masterful in the use of ancient and modern art techniques from fresco to Photoshop. He has done work for the rock star "Sting," painted monumental murals like a four story Steamboat Landing on the Great River Road along the Mississippi in Alton Illinois and KYKLOS-Circle of Glory, an epic Olympic panorama permanently installed at Athens Olympic Stadium. He has been sought out create images for a host of Fortune 500 corporations like Anhueser Bush, Ralston Purina, 3M, Monsanto and NBC Television.
Kastaris was featured on the PBS documentary, “The Greek Americans” and European satellite television such as ERT, Mega and Antenna networks broadcast out of Athens. He has been recognized with numerous awards including the Artist of the Year award from the Elios Society of San Francisco in 2003. In 2007 he won the National Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press.
In addition to his creations, Kastaris teaches any workshops in Byzantine Iconography and a university course using the art of antiquity to guide students through Greek History. His curriculum presents lessons for an authentic life he challenges them to pursue. He understands the power of images and how they can be used in modeling the contemplative life of character and virtue. Through image making he believes people find focus and transformation.
Swing Away TM & COPYRIGHT 2013 Ancient Game Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Photo of Kastelli, Crete courtesy of Mary Polemarhakis.