Interview with Greek-American Evan Spiliotopoulos, writer of the 2017 remake of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
By Anna Spyrou
Los Angeles, July 2017
Greek-American Evan Spiliotopoulos, screenwriter of the 2017 live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, spoke to SEEfest about the Disney hit movie and his writing career in Los Angeles.
SEEfest: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in screenwriting.
Evan: I always wanted to be a writer and I always loved movies, so screenwriting was the natural combination. Growing up in Greece, I would write short stories and watch every movie I could get my hands on. When I finished high school, I attended the university of Delaware and then American University in DC where I got a degree in screenwriting.
SEEfest: What brought you to Los Angeles?
Evan: Greece has no competitive film industry and certainly no structure in place to cultivate screenwriting. Since I wanted to specifically be a screenwriter, my best option was to come to Los Angeles. For theater and some television, it’s New York. But for film and the rest of TV production, it is L.A. The move was intimidating since I didn’t know a soul, but I had won a few writing awards in festivals and had built a portfolio. So, in 1995 I made the trek to California. I was fortunate enough to very quickly get a job writing for the Sci-Fi Chanel, which launched me.
SEEfest: When do you know an idea is worth writing, and what is your process of getting it there?
Evan: If there is a great conflict, an interesting plot and a unique angle into a story – and if it is cinematic – it’s worth pursuing. My process consists of writing a paragraph of bios for the main characters to get to know them, then laying out the screenplay in a beat sheet. Usually I can see plot holes and structural flaws in an outline before I start writing. With this prep, a first draft takes me around three weeks.
SEEfest: How was your experience working on Beauty and the Beast with such a star-studded cast?
Evan: Fantastic. As thrilled as I was with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, it was being associated with the incredible supporting actors like Kevin Kline and Ian McKellen and literally everyone else that blew me away. It also made me feel very confident that with people of that caliber, the script and dialogue would sound golden.
SEEfest: Had you worked with Stephen Chbosky before? How did that writing partnership work?
Evan: I had not, but I loved his work in Perks of Being A Wallflower, which he also directed. We actually did not write Beauty together. But our work, and director Bill Condon’s contributions, overlaps throughout the film.
SEEfest: We get noticed because of our successes, but we create them on the back of our failures. What failures (of your own) have you been able to learn from? How did they change you and your process?
Evan: In film, failure is married to success. Getting a script produced and made into a movie is a success unless the film fails at the box office, in which case the entire experience is perceived as a failure. The catch with applying what I have learned in a bad experience is that there’s very little I can do to avoid it next time. Once the script is done, there are a thousand things that can go wrong that the writer has no control over. That’s why films like Beauty are a bit of a miracle.
SEEfest: Are you on social media and do you use it in your work? Why or why not?
Evan: Not really. I have yet to engage with Instagram and Twitter. Other writers have had bad experiences with social media where strangers will pop up out of the blue and try to push scripts on them. It’s happened a couple of times to me. So my social media presence is sparse.
SEEfest: We are all here because we LOVE cinema. How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we, as a Southeast European community, do to help others discover a similar pleasure?
Evan: As the story goes, my parents took me to see an Asterix and Obelix cartoon when I was three. I stayed absolutely silent during the film and started crying when it was over because I wanted more. That was my addict’s moment. As far as what Greece can do, well I think people have plenty of
opportunity to discover a love for cinema without help. There are theaters and DVD stores all over the place, plus Greece unfortunately has a big piracy problem. So the real question is how to cultivate film production and how to encourage foreign films to shoot in our country. Local film production explodes when both the state and independent producers have a lot of money to invest in films. The way they get a lot of money is by doing everything possible to attract foreign films and get them to spend cash in Greece. Since every consecutive Greek government regardless of political leaning has ignored or discouraged foreign film production, we will not be making a ton of movies in Greece and the success of our filmmakers overseas will be confined to rare examples.
SEEfest: Do you have a project in the works right now? Would you share some details about it?
Evan: I do have a science fiction thriller that seems to be in a good place. But the plot, as they say, is under wraps.
SEEfest: What words of wisdom would you share with an aspiring writer?
Evan: To quote Ray Bradbury: “Writers write”. Every day. Without fail. If it’s one page or ten, write.
Anna Spyrou is an award winning writer-director passionate about storytelling and living in Los Angeles. She has been involved with SEEfest social media team since 2016.
Our friends from the Valley Film Festival have organized a Panel with festival programmers on Saturday, 6/3. This event is FREE to attend. Tickets are available at FilmFreeway. Location: Columbia College Hollywood, 18618 Oxnard Street, Los Angeles, California 91356. Moderator: Ken Storer, Writer, Law and Order, Special Victims Unit.
Dances with Films (@DancesWithFilms) June 1-11, 2017 @ TCL, Hollywood
DTLA Film Festival (@dtlaff) September 21-30, 2017 @ Regal Cinemas, Downtown LA
Hollywood Shorts (@hollywoodshorts) Monthly @ The Attic, Hollywood
LA Film Festival (@filmindependent) June 14-22, 2017 @ ArcLight Cinemas, Culver City
SEE Fest (@seefilmla) April 2018 @ Various Venues (West Hollywood & Beverly Hills)
The Valley Film Festival (@ValleyFilmFest) October 25-29, 2017 @ Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood
5:00pm – Network with peers & colleagues over complimentary tea, coffee, and green drinks from our generous sponsors:
Pete’s Coffee in Tarzana – @PeetsCoffee
David’s Tea in Woodland Hills – @davidstea
Troy Casey in Los Angeles – @Mr.Healthnut
5:30pm – Panel Discussion on Programming + Screening of Selected Shorts
7:30pm – More networking over pizza, courtesy of The Valley Film Festival (@valleyfilmfest), and salad donated by Stonefire Grill (@stonefiregrill)
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Nebojša Glogovac. Photo by Hà Kin
The Constitution by Croatian director Rajko Grlic is the Opening night film of the 12th edition of SEEfest on Thursday, April 27 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, at 7:00 PM.
Winner of the Grand Prize of the Americas at the Montreal World Film Festival, and Best International Feature Film Award of the Santa Barbara Film Festival 2017, among other awards, The Constitution has enjoyed critical and commercial success wherever it was shown.
Tickets are now available for SEEfest Opening gala and screening of The Constitution.
April 27 at the Writers Guild Theater
135 South Doheny Drive, Beverly HIlls
Doors open at 6:00 pm
Film screens at 7:00 pm
Reception immediately following the film
Tickets – $20 includes screening and reception
*SEEfest Members get a 20% discount on Festival tickets.
Los Angeles, March 30, 2017 — On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Cinema Without Borders, online portal for international cinema in Los Angeles, SEEfest will honor its founder and editor-in-chief Bijan Tehrani with Ambassador of International Cinema Award. Mr. Tehrani has worked as director, film critic and writer and taught history of cinema at colleges in Los Angeles. He is a long-time champion of international indie cinema and through Cinema Without Borders has supported countless international film festivals in Los Angeles. He has given a much-needed media platform to independent movies and foreign language films, and advocated for stronger presence of foreign language films in U.S. theaters. Says Vera Mijojlic, founder and director of SEEfest, “Our festival is proud of the long-standing collaboration with Cinema Without Borders and Bijan Tehrani. It will be my pleasure to present this award at the Opening of SEEfest on April 27.”
During his long career Bijan Tehrani directed short animation films including, among others, Children’s Olympics, winner of Diploma of Honor at Leipzig Festival, Germany (1982), and Children of Jaleh Square, winner of Special Jury Prize at the TV Festival in Herzeg-Novi, Yugoslavia, as well as Prix Danube in Czechoslovakia (1981). He wrote and directed numerous documentaries, and documentary series for Iranian National Television in the 70s and 80s. As a prolific children’s books writer he enjoyed considerable success with Mashti’s Rooster, A Flute Telling You a Magic Tale, and The Yellow Leaf which was voted Book of the Year at the International Book Fair of the Middle East, Tehran, 1992.
You can read more about international cinema and festivals on the web site Cinema Without Borders.
We invite you to join us at the 12th edition of SEEfest, April 27 – May 4. Buy your festival pass today!
NOTE: SEEfest Cine-Fan Members get a 20% discount on Festival Passes and tickets. Click here to join and get your promo code.
SEEfest Staff Writer | March 28, 2015, 11:37 AM
Dear friends and supporters, we are so proud to share with you the latest recognition given to the festival which we have built together with all of you. It comes from the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, in recognition of all those many years of hard work, great films, discoveries of new talent and scores of volunteers and supporters across diverse demographics of Los Angeles. Thank you Los Angeles, and thanks to all of you who helped us build SEEfest and carve out a place for the cinema of South East Europe in the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.
Support international cinema in Los Angeles and new film talent from South East Europe. Donate here!
Vera Mijojlic | August 28, 2014, 2:49 PM
Balkan – L.A. Cultural Crossroads is a GOOD initiative to increase awareness of Balkan culture in LA.
What is GOOD? Good is an initiative to make LA the city of our dreams in 2050.
Our challenge: How would you use $100,000 to make LA2050 the best place to play?
Our idea: SEEfest will put on a yearlong program that showcases the cultures of the Balkans through film and live performance by Los Angeles artists. To achieve this, we will partner with KLCS-TV and the Los Angeles Unified School District, specifically LAUSD’s career technical education divisions. These partnerships are two-fold, contributing toward development of our programs and ideas, and channeling student integration in the programs with job training.
Our Plan: No less than 10 multi-disciplinary programs, including original production of performances by California-based artists, providing audiences with a vibrant snapshot of the art, music, film, popular theater and dances from South East Europe (SEE). The program will also serve as the training ground for our partner’s career technical education students to apply their skills and get access to creative industries, jobs and marketplace. Our Project will promote social cohesion among Americans from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Georgia in the Caucasus, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey (and other ‘pockets’ of smaller ethnic/linguistic groups from Eastern Europe) and will achieve this with programs that are representative of these cultures and possess qualities that can attract more mainstream American audiences at large.
Here’s how YOU can help: Come September 2nd, we need all of you to vote come. Every person can vote once; all you need to do is create an account. We need your help to expand Balkan Culture in LA.
Let’s make LA the best place to play! #BalkansLA
For more info about our initiative, click here.
Support international cinema in Los Angeles and new film talent from South East Europe. Donate here!