Senior’s Short Film Premieres at London Greek Film Festival

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James Marios Ellinas, featured above, wrote and stars in “Sleep.” (PHOTO BY HANNA KEININGHAM/THE OBSERVER)

By SRI STEWART

Theatre major James Marios Ellinas, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC ’16), recently had his short film that he collaborated on with his older brother, Peter Ellinas, premiere at the London Greek Film Festival on Oct. 19 as a nominee for Best Short Film. “Sleep” is directed by Peter and stars James, who also wrote the screenplay. The category that it was nominated in is one of the qualifiers for festivals such as Cannes and Sundance. It was a great achievement to learn this news, according to Ellinas. Before the film premiered, Ellinas and I sat in the Ildiko Butler Gallery at FCLC, where I interviewed him about the film and what’s next.

What is your short film, “Sleep,” about and where did the inspiration come from?

Basically, the premise of “Sleep” is about a man who has come to the end of his rope. He feels like he’s come to a point of no return. The thing about “Sleep” is that he is all alone. At the same time, he is not. He is now considering all of his options and considering everything that has gotten him to the state he’s in right now. The most plausible option becomes very evident to him.

I wrote “Sleep” in the second semester of my sophomore year. I started off writing it as a monologue just for the sake of wanting to have a really good monologue to do and practice with, as far as acting. It seems that sometimes at this age, it’s hard to find deep monologues to connect with. A lot of the best monologues are written for older roles because maybe more complex things happen to you when you get older. A lot of things were happening in my life at the time that I was concerned about.

Would you say the movie is kind of abstract?

Yeah, it is not a traditional narrative. There is no beginning, middle and end. It is one moment in time. You never get a clear sense of what got him there, and you never really get a clear sense of what’s going to get him out of there, but you do go from A to B.

You wrote the screenplay, and your brother directed it. How was the dynamic between you two during the whole creation of it?

My brother and I had worked on things a lot together throughout our whole lives because we’ve both always been interested in theatre and film. The dynamic was interesting…this was the first time that he was the director, and I was the writer and actor. Coming into it, it was something that was a lot closer to my heart just because I did write it and I was acting in it. The dynamic for me started off rocky in a way just because I needed to divorce myself from caring about it in a sense. For him to direct it, he needed to do his work. It’s not going to come out exactly as you write it because the director also has some artistic room to tell the story in the way that he or she envisions it. Once he had storyboarded and done everything that he does, from then on out it was just very [much] a business mindset. We are both very happy with the final product.

Are you nervous about it premiering in London?

Actually no, I’m not very nervous. My brother and I had worked on things before, and we’ve done other film festivals. We sent a bunch of films that we made when we were younger to this one in Echo Park, California, and they screened there. It doesn’t worry me because I don’t really know who’s going to see it there. It’s faceless people for me. If I was going to show it to a room of 25 people that I know, I’m going to be nervous because I can expect what their opinions are going to be. I do have a few friends that are going to go that live in London, but I’m not really nervous about it. I’m excited more than anything else.

When will it be public for everyone to see, besides in London, and through what medium will you make it accessible?

[That’s] TBA. It came from a very personal place for me writing it, so it’s not something that I necessarily want to be published everywhere. Those who want to see it can contact us, and we can send it to them. We will upload it on one of the video streaming websites, whether [it’s] Vimeo, YouTube or what not, at one point. But we definitely won’t upload before the film festival. [It] ends Oct. 24.

Can we expect any upcoming projects soon?

You never know. I’m a senior now, so right now I’m really focusing on finishing school and writing things. There will definitely be more in the future. I’ve written like three or four scripts since then, so I definitely have more work that I want to produce. It’s work that I want to keep working at, and it’s bigger. These are bigger worlds with more actors.