Interview: Georgia Chioni
Interview done by Helen Wheels
A well-known psychiatrist wakes up in the bathroom of an unknown apartment. She discovers she is poisoned and must solve a series of riddles to find the antidote to save herself. Georgia Chioni’s script, “The Riddle,” is a study on panic. I watched a forty-six-second trailer that left me with a few questions, and I’m excited to hear from Ms. Chioni as we dig deeper into the concept behind this new production.
Chioni is an award-winning author, screenwriter, director and producer. She was born and grew up in Kavala, Greece, and has twenty-three screenwriting credits to her name.
1.I did some research into your background and found that you have studied law, psychology and theater as well as filmmaking. You hold several degrees including a Ph.D. How does your diverse background inform the films you produce?
GC: At the university we were sometimes obliged to write essays on an interdisciplinary approach, for instance using a combination of sciences and this has helped me a lot. Now I have the chance to combine and use a lot of information and look into the issues in a much deeper way. It’s a matter of use and information flow (sometimes it’s also a matter of budget as well, but this is another topic of discussion).
2.A few of your films revolve around the theory of panic, an excellent choice for a psychological thriller! What fascinates you about panic and how people respond to its’ pressures?
GC: The deepening into human psychology may include a number of issues related, among others, to subconscious, experiences at an early age that might have been traumatic and thus repelled into unconscious, as well as strong desires. All these topics are so fascinating and provide us with a lot of material to think about. Panic has not been an exception. It describes a situation where the mind actually “tortures” the body and may have, for the person that experiences it, dramatic consequences. To this end, it has always been extremely interesting to look into the power of human mind and will. For many people phobias exist and are developed at an early stage. They stay hidden until the time comes and some stressful situation appears in their lives and turns their emotional world upside down. And the question that arises is: can they impose on themselves? Can their mind prove to be stronger than the reactions of their body?
3.”The Riddle” trailer I watched was ultra-short, but I was able to gather that the story is about a woman who is trapped, with no electricity. The longline gave me some background. She is a famous psychiatrist who has been drugged, and she must solve a riddle to save herself.
GC: “The Riddle” is a dark, claustrophobic psychological thriller that inspires fear for something dark, something without a face, I would say. Something, thus, much more threatening. A much more, I would add, tyrannical game of our deeper ego, as if our own self is trying to punish us for what we did or did not do, for what we chose or not, and for what we allowed to happen to ourself or not. At the end, each one from the audience that watches the movie, is left alone in a difficult trip of the mind and the soul to approach his/her own fears and insecurities.
4.How long is the movie? Without any spoilers, can you give us a little more insight into her situation?
GC: It’s a feature length film, we estimate it will be about 80-90 min long. This movie has been actually based on a short one we filmed in 2015, called “Antidote”, which won a lot of awards in various film festivals abroad. It’s actually based on the same idea, but we have added more information and did certain important changes. For example, in the initial short film the psychiatrist needs to search and find the antidote in the apartment, whereas in this film she needs to solve a series of riddles, where the first leads to the second etc.
This trailer-teaser is the first, film’s representative we have just issued and contains the basic info. However, we give some more info at the begging in the movie, and I believe that even the most suspected audience will not be able to guess what has happened, not until the last 5 minutes, where everything is revealed in a very subversive way. And I don’t think anybody can guess the end.
So the main character is a well known psychiatrist, very dedicated to her career. She has just published a book on panic and how to heal it, as she firmly believes that phobias and panic can be cured. She wakes up dragged in a bathtub of an unknown apartment and finds a post it on the mirror of the bathroom that there is a message for her in the living room. She finds, further, out that she is locked, with no electricity and has a little time to find the antidote and save herself -as she has been poisoned- by solving a series of riddles, hidden in the apartment. The last riddle will lead her to the antidote. The rest… on the screen.
5.How many people are in your production team? What are their roles? Do you hold any additional roles beyond writer and actress?
GC: With my team we are not just associates, we are friends. With most of them we have been working together since the first short movie we did. Actually up to now we have shot 10 short movies and one feature length one. “The Riddle” will be our second and we are really happy for it. So, besides myself, there are people for sound/light/camera (1), photography (1), location manager (1), production assistants (3) and graphics/editing (2), so for every production there is a fixed small starting team of 6-8 people that gets bigger, according to the needs of the production. There has been, although, one award winning documentary short film, done only by two people, me and the team’s camera/light/sound expert, Thodoris Kanellopoulos. We are all part of JnG Productions team, very dedicated to film making. Besides, everyone dealing with this art knows how difficult it is to make notable independent films, films that have something to say. And we are really happy for our work. Myself, I stay always behind the camera, never in front! Normally I write, direct and produce. I also need to thank the actors that have been working with me in various films during the past years, Mrs. Vicky Driva, Mr. Agis Siounas, Mr. Giannis Dimitrakis and Mr. Stefanos Foufopoulos, Mr. Christos Loukakis who have been holding leading roles.
6.”The Riddle” has already won an award for Best Cinematographer. Could you tell us a bit about the cinematography? What choices did the director of photography make that induce the feeling of panic?
GC: Actually the short film that won the award for best female cinematographer was “Incubus” (Nightmare) and this will be the initial scene of our film. We shot the scene in a forest in Athens. I must admit we had a lot of difficulties that we could not have foreseen, we only found out during the filming. I did the cinematography myself. I experimented quite a lot, we were not sure if we should refilm it, however at the end we were very happy. So, it was a mixture of music, natural scenery, editing, sound design and quick scene interchangeable shots.
7.According to your biography on Film Freeway, you have also written several theatrical productions. Would you describe the difference in approach when you are writing a screenplay, versus being a playwright for theater? Do you hold any other roles when you are involved in a theatrical production?
GC: Besides writing, I have been twice involved in theatrical productions as co-director. It’s different. You don’t have the ease of the camera, where you can cut and shoot as many times as possible. Actually the biggest difficulty we had to face was related to the text. It was a quite complicated text and the actors needed a lot of time to learn the lines, so we had to postpone the premier. In addition, there were some issues related to acting, which were difficult to hide with a clever camera move. But finally it all went ok! So, when writing a theatrical play (especially if the writer is to be involved in directing), one has to take into account the fact that there is only one stage and nothing can be hidden! Everything is exposed to the audience.
8.How does the team function differently on a theatrical set as opposed to a film set?
GC: From my experience I have not observed major differences. However, I have to point out that I have not been involved in theatrical production, like in the filmmaking industry.
9.Other than “The Riddle”, do you have anything else in the works?
GC: As far as “The Riddle” is concerned, we are now in the stage of editing. And as said we are very enthusiastic. There are a couple of good ideas, we have started slowly talking about a new possible production, but first we need to finalize the script. I am also involved in the screenplay of a comic graphic novel and there is also a book (literature of fantastic, science fiction) that I am finalizing.
1O. Where can your fans find out more about you and your current projects?
GC: A lot of info will be available on the site of our production company (JnG Productions, https://www.jngproduction.com/), which however needs a serious update. Info can also be found on ImdB, on the Greek Screenwriters Association, on the Greek National Book Database, as well as the Greek Directors Society.
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.