Dimitrios Karas was born in Serres, Greece. He has written and directed short films and trailers for theatrical plays. He has worked as the 1st Assistant Director for the feature length film “The Spirits” (2016). He also plays the piano and the cello and has contributed to the soundtracks for the theatre and for short films. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and a PhD in wireless communications security.
Filmography as director: In Memoriam (2020), The Riemann Hypothesis (2020), The Bureaucrat (2019), Still Life (2017), Blue Moon (2015)
Hello Dimitrios, thank you for granting us this interview,
[MIS] From a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and a PhD in wireless communications security to Filmmaking, what caused this shift?
[Dimitrios] Throughout my childhood, I have always been interested in computers, and I always tried telling stories by making simple video games using my rudimentary programming knowledge. As I grew older, I discovered filmmaking as a form of storytelling and I quickly became passionate about it. I pursued an education in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, which is my source of employment to this day, but throughout the years I have never lost touch with my filmmaking side.
[MIS] How would you describe your short film in two words?
[Dimitrios] Tense, but also emotional.
[MIS] Athame is a very mesmerizing story , in which you talked about memory loss and difficulties in pregnancy, why did you choose this title, knowing that the meaning of the word Athame is a double-edged dagger.
[Dimitrios] As you said, the titular knife is a double-edged dagger, and in a way this represents the multiple facets of motherhood, which often contradict each other. It can be a source of happiness and fulfilment, but it can also take a physical and mental toll on the mother’s wellbeing. These facets are embodied by the film’s two characters, whose conflict represents these clashing emotions. What I found very interesting is that these emotions often coexist within the same person, no matter how contradictory they are. Unfortunately, I can’t go into much more detail without spoiling the ending of the film!
[MIS] You also composed the music, from where did you get inspired?
[Dimitrios] For a large portion of the film’s duration I chose to not add any music, since the strength of the performances shines through and carries the emotional weight of the film. The music is only present during the scenes where supernatural elements are involved, and I had in mind an ambient tone similar to the sound of boiling water. This is not only a major narrative element, but it also represents the tension that escalates throughout the film. With this starting point, I finally settled on an otherworldly ambience in order to achieve the desired unsettling feeling.
[MIS] Which famous director have you been influenced by and what films have been the most inspiring to you while working on this short?
[Dimitrios] The film that triggered my interest in filmmaking is Mulholland Dr. by David Lynch, and all his films remain a major source of inspiration for me. Specifically, for Athame, the films that are closest to what we were trying to achieve are Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth, since they are largely character driven films that explore complicated relationships between two women. Another film that inspired the film was Yorgos Lanthimos’ Killing of a Sacred Deer, with its cold and clinical tone and the strained family relationship it portrays.
[MIS] You finished your short film in 2021, how did you managed to shoot during the pandemic?
[Dimitrios] Shooting during the pandemic has definitely been more challenging than under normal circumstances, especially given that vaccines were not widely available in Greece at that time. However, we were able to complete principal photography in three days by following all safety protocols and measures. All cast and crew members were tested before each day of shooting, and the crew was wearing masks throughout the shooting process.
[MIS] How did you choose your leading cast? And how can you describe the combination between Sofia and Chrysi?
[Dimitrios] Both Sofia and Chrysi are fantastic actresses, and based on their previous work, I had no doubt they could portray their characters with skill and emotional depth. What was not certain at first was which actress would play which part. To decide this, we did table readings where Sofia and Chrysi switched between the two roles, and we got very interesting results in both cases, with a completely different dynamic between them. I believe it would have worked either way, but we ultimately went with the choice that better portrayed the simmering hate and jealousy between these two characters.
[MIS] What was the reasoning behind your choice of lighting?
[Dimitrios] Our DOP Maria Kontovounisiou played a major part in choosing the lighting of the film. Our intention was to give the visuals a sort of dreamlike, hypnotic look, to reflect the mental state of the characters, particularly Anna who feels like she is in a situation where she can’t really tell what is real and what is not. The choice to make the lighting brighter than natural was deliberate, since it makes the visuals more unsettling to the viewer, creating the feeling that something isn’t quite right.
[MIS] Tell us a memorable and interesting story during the shooting of “Athame”.
[Dimitrios] I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a little disappointing here, since the shooting process went entirely according to plan! On this note, I would like to give a shout out to our boom operators, Lena and Anastasia, who had no prior experience related to sound recording, but nevertheless did an amazing job. In fact, Anastasia is Sofia’s sister who was more than happy to help, and we met Lena just a few days before shooting started through a mutual friend. I’m really grateful to both of them!
[MIS] If you were to shoot “Athame“ again, what would you do differently?
[Dimitrios] Honestly, not much. Everything went according to plan and I’m very happy with the result. However, at some point during production, I envisioned the film shot in black and white. After trying it out in post-production, it was an interesting result and it worked well, but I felt that the final choice and color palette was more effective and more visually interesting.
[MIS] What’s the biggest challenge of shooting an independent film?
[Dimitrios] Aside from the issues of funding and budgeting that every independent filmmaker is familiar with, I would like to highlight a creative challenge of shooting an independent film. When writing, storyboarding and planning a scene, you create a mental image of the scene, but there is really no way to tell if it will work and if it will be as good as you imagined. If it doesn’t work, due to time and budget constraints, it might not be possible to shoot it again. So you really need to get it right the first time.
[MIS] What is the best advice you’d share with new filmmakers?
[Dimitrios] In my opinion, new filmmakers shouldn’t be afraid to speak their mind and be daring in regards to the films they make. As long as the film comes from a place of honesty, it will resonate with its audience. The early stage of a filmmaker’s path is the ideal time to tell stories they are passionate about, since at this stage they have the freedom to be as creative as they feel like.
[MIS] What are your future projects?
[Dimitrios] I am currently trying to find funding to start shooting my first feature length film. It is a psychological thriller set during the 1967-1974 military junta regime of Greece, and it will showcase the life of people living in rural areas during this time, as well as the challenges they faced. The script is complete, as well as location scouting. Hopefully we can get into production soon!
[MIS] Any final thoughts at the end of this interview?
[Dimitrios] A big thank you to Monthly Indie Shorts for the opportunity. It is a truly fantastic and very well organised event, offering independent filmmakers the opportunity to showcase and promote their work. I’m looking forward to participating in future editions of the festival!