Elia Petridis is a writer/director and founder of Filmatics; an award-winning film production company based in Los Angeles and London offering technical and creative production services.
Filmatics is known for exceptional work on music videos and films, including "The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vincent Fernandez” starring a performance by Ernest Borgnine, June Squibb, and Barry Corbin.
After directing Californian singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop’s first music video “The Kingdom”, Petridis recently collaborated on Hoop’s latest music video for “Red White and Black".
“I want people to be thoroughly entertained, motivated and inspired to continue the discussion on the ideas put forth in this video. I want them to feel empowered to explore their layers. I want them to have that word of mouth sort of getting up and go, in terms of wanting to share this awesome fight scene with these two incredible females protagonists,” explains Petridis.
Jesca Hoop will be releasing her new album "Stonewall" via Memphis Industries on July 5th.
The music video for “Red White and Black” is now available on Youtube.
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
Hi, my name's Elia Petridis and I'm a film-a-holic. I'm half Greek, half Lebanese, raised in Dubai from 1980 - 1998. I've seen that city come up from the dust and I still go back once a year. I consider myself an ex-pat, part of the diaspora.
What's your story?
How much time do you have?
Could you describe us your childhood a little bit? Any favorite memories?
There used to be this really long, very tall peer at the Chicago Beach Village in Dubai back in the 80's. I was around 13 I think at the time when this peer was the "in" spot in town. And I had a crazy crush on this girl. Like bat s#&@ crazy crush. She was older than me. Claire Whiteman her name was, or something like that. Actually, that sounds like the memory of a name, doesn't it? We once did a duet of "Anything you can do I can do better." in school. Such a loaded song to sing with someone you're bat s@*# crazy about. See, I was already living the rom-com back then!
Anyways, there we are, The Persian Gulf, just before sundown, all of us hanging out on this peer in our swim trunks. She wore white swimwear (I think?). Dunno, that feels romanticized and poorly written. Anyways, ANYWAYS. First, I was lucky to have gotten onto the compound. I had been invited. She had invited me. So that was a good thing. It only took me two centuries and some change to get noticed enough to have been invited by her! And THERE we are, on the edge of the peer. Now it was a running dare, a big deal if you could jump off it and fall into the water below.
I wasn't that type of kid, you know. Not an adrenaline junkie or into extreme sports, let alone jumping off of this crazy high peer. But she dared me, and it made me nuts and scared the bajeezus out of me, simultaneously. Actually, come to think of it, it's that same feeling I'm looking for when I'm trying to decide whether to undertake a creative project. Holy moly! This just got Freudian. ANYWAY! I jumped. While all my friends watched. I jumped! And soared! And plunged hard and fast into the warm waters below, only to rise to the surface, reach my hand up the sun for the embrace of Claire Whiteman, only to find out...she was gone. The whole group had gone. And hence my abandonment issues began, diving off a tall peer at sunset, in Dubai in the mid-80s. Great question. Damn...you're a good journalist.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would you say?
Make more things, more frequently and learn as many lessons as you can. Make as many mistakes as you can to get better at your craft because that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
How would you describe yourself today?
Ever evolving and moving forward. Following one foot in front of the other in terms of what stories I want to tell, where I want to go next, what I may want to explore in the medium. Immersive entertainment is also interesting, it’s captivating my attention and opening my imagination. I’m interested in seeing where the two meet and what they’re going to do in synthesis together in the future.
When did your love for videography/filmography begin?
It began at the age of 11 when I fell in love with film. My parents were cineasts and they are to this day, they consume an incredible amount of content. So I’m always exposed to all sorts of things, like Danish Noir TV, British dramas, American cinema, musicals, horror, domestic melodramas. I used to watch a lot across the board. I consider myself an ex-pat, part of the diaspora and for me the NPAA rating, the ratings system, it didn’t catch on to me, it wasn’t that important. So the minute I can tell the difference between make-believe and reality, my parents let me go and watch any and all sorts of movies. I was watching the Postman Always Rings Twice, Basic Instinct and all genres. It was my pure love of film that made me decide that I wanted to make them and not just watch them.
Do you remember the first project you ever directed? What lessons did you learn since then?
The first project I directed, I was 16 and it was in the living room of my house, with a camera out of high school. That first project seemed second nature to me, very natural and easy to do. An incredible amount of fun. I really love the problem solving of filmmaking.
The first real film I made was when I was on 16 at The New York Film Academy, that really changed my world and set some real fundaments on how I approach film. I really love handling film, cutting on a guillotine, developing film, I love worrying about changing film in the dark. Those types of things I still carry through with me even though we’re shooting on digital these days. That hands-on approach to film makes you commit to things and I still carry that attitude of commitment and problem-solving in real time to produce a product or to leave with your day in the can as part of the fun and challenge of filmmaking. I also really like being limited as to how many takes you can do. I don’t like endlessly rolling, endless takes. I like committing to the shot and committing to the decision. That’s where I am today as a director, so I think that’s something that caught on very early with me at by shooting 16mm at a very young age. Shooting 16 at 16.
How did your collaboration with Jesca Hoop come about?
Well, I directed “The Kingdom” off of “Haunting My Dress”, that was the first video we did. I pitched on a video for money for “Kismet” but I didn’t get it.
We met at one of her shows, it was completely enchanting. I met her at Temple Bar in Santa Monica, it was Halloween and I remember that “Good Night and Good Luck” was in the movie theatres because I came out of that theatre and a friend asked if I wanted to go to a show. It was beautiful, Jesca was wheeled out onto the stage like a marionette and wound up to come to life and it just made me feel like she makes music that I want to make films to. There was something about each of the songs that were embedded into my sub-conscience and it was really nice to come out in song form, very genre driven, especially in her early days. If you listen to “Kismet”, a lot of those songs are like worlds unto themselves and then from “Hunting My Dress” onwards, each album becomes a world unto itself. I just really wanted to tell stories that took place in those sonic worlds. From there one thing led to another and “Kingdom” followed up with “City Bird” followed up with “Hospital” and each one of those videos are different, they are of different genres. City Bird is a ghost story and Hospital is a middle grade musical and Lost Sky is like a Hitchcock thriller. Red White and Black is a one take fight scene inspired by Atomic Blonde. Now Outside of Eden, which is coming up next is shot on 16mm (there I go again!), a live take in a park. So each one has been totally different and I like that the music takes me to very different places visually, it’ s really exciting.
What can you tell us about the Red White and Black music video? How did you come up with this concept? What was the inspiration for this particular video?
I came up with the concept when we were sitting there as a creative team. We were trying to figure out how to convert the social undercurrent and commentary of the song into a visual expression. We were trying to create a piece to invite everyone in, to join the conversation as the song did as opposed to push everyone out or offend anyone or make people feel unwelcome to discuss. I was sitting there with my diverse team over at Fever Content and Amanda Shelby, this incredible African-American creative director, said: "I wish people could see how much struggle and oppression we’ve had to go through just to get to this point of having this discussion and asking these questions and birthing this conversation." I had this quick moment where I literally converted that idea into a visual premise which was oppression and struggle visually expressed. For me, the one take fight scene came right there and I asked my team if they’d seen “Atomic Blonde” and I showed them the infamous one-take fight scene from that film where it was a very simple idea of her trying to get someone safely out of a building. I thought it was the perfect visual match for the idea that had been hatched in the room. So I started watching things like “Hanna” and “Munich” and close combat fight scenes, which had always been my favorite kind of fight scene. The rest sort of went from there but the creative problem solved was how to take a very complex idea and make it into a very broad form of entertainment.
Could you describe to us the work you need to do before working on a music video like this one?
You need to choreograph the fight, cast it, do an emotional blueprint and match it to the music so that it’s really serving the song, make sure the artist is represented properly, in terms of what’s authentic to her, make sure people can eat on set, find a great DP, find the right camera and the format you want to shoot on.
When it comes to fighting scenes, for me, it’s all about pushing the story forward and turning moments in the sequence.
There are two things that I care about and prep for the most; why do I care about every moment and what happens next? That was my lead up for shooting this, I let those pillars guide every decision I make.
What makes your collaboration with Jesca Hoop work?
Sense of humour, the fact that I love the music, the fact that we’re such good friends, the fact that we mutually respect each other's art, the fact that we’re evolving and growing alongside each other, the fact that we can be candid with each other and we protect each other from making stupid mistakes.
What do you want people to feel when watching this music video?
I want people to be thoroughly entertained, motivated and inspired to continue the discussion on the ideas put forth in this video. I want them to feel empowered to explore their layers. I want them to have that word of mouth sort of getting up and go, in terms of wanting to share this awesome fight scene with these two incredible females protagonists.
What can you tell us about your company Filmatics?
Filmatics has been around since 2007, it was started to maintain the rights to my thesis film instead of my school and then it went on to serve me as a director. Now joined up with its sister company Fever Content to serve as its production arm, whereas Fever Content is an immersive entertainment agency. We are proud to be a boutique production company that offers full service but is also linked with an innovative group of creatives.
What do you like the most about creating art?
Problem-solving. The ability to provide escapism. The ability to serve a role and a purpose in the larger fabric of society by giving other people an avenue through which to escape, explore inwardly and the world around them, to feel safe to continue conversations. Also to explore big ideas, to laugh, to cry, to scream… that’s what I love about art. I love popular art in general.
As a director, what are the biggest challenges?
Setting an environment where you are motivating people to get behind you to help you carry an idea through. As opposed to barreling through a barrage of people to get it over the finish line. It’s always more fun to get people behind you to push in one direction than to have to go through people in order to deliver an idea. That’s the real alchemy of real filmmaking when it comes to the craft as opposed to the product.
What advice would you give to young video directors?
Make as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, watch as much as you can. If you ever stop watching you’re dead in the water. Watch anything and everything that moves you or interests you. You must always be a part of a conversation with other artists in terms of what you’re contributing. You must never leave the conversation unless it’s intentionally by design to hermit and go through a metamorphosis and come out as a different artist. Solitude is sometimes great but you must always make besides your fellow filmmakers.
What message do you want to convey through your art?
Anything is possible.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a big part of your life.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
What biggest life lessons have you learned so far?
Anything is possible.
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