PICKASTORY - Interview with winner Minos Nikolakakis

PICKASTORY - Interview with winner Minos Nikolakakis

PICKASTORY is the Logline Audience Award at FilmFestival Cottbus is that focuses on the basic idea of a film and involves the audience from the very beginning - a crucial aspect of filmmaking that is often overlooked. The audience of the FilmFestival Cottbus can choose their favorite film idea from a short list that contains only loglines of projects that have not yet been developed: Which of these ideas should be filmed?

The winner will receive expert feedback and advice to develop the idea into a complete package (film story, production dossier) within the following year and will have the opportunity to present it to producers during the 2023 edition of connecting cottbus' East-West co-production market.

Last year's PICKASTORY prize was awarded to Greek director and screenwriter Minos Nikolakakis. We talked to him about his logline and how the project has developed since winning the award.


What was your logline for Pick a story 2021.

When a curse makes an authoritarian President “pregnant”, his wife must quit her submissive role to run the country - and save her once-exemplary family. 

Did you have it in mind for a while or did you come up with it for this award?

The idea of a conservative family re-configuring their values after the father becomes “magically” pregnant was hovering in my mind for years. This being an audience oriented project, I didn’t know how to jump start it as I was focused more on finding my narrative voice and going through smaller arthouse projects. PICKASTORY being a competition where the audience decides what story they would want to see, I decided to go ‘big’ so as to grab their attention directly. Adding to the weird current world situation where political leaders play around with peoples’ fates, what a better set up than an autocratic prime minister learning their lesson, when a deus ex-machina causes this change to them.

How did it feel to win the first Pick a story award?

I was taken by surprise but also comforted. In our line of work one spends many years developing a project before they even have a change to see how the audience responds to it so we sometimes get too cautious when developing and maybe a bit skeptical about radical choices. The logline option gave me the freedom to be as wild as I wanted and get first reactions, so it felt really comforting to know that my gut instinct led me to the right path. From then on I have tried to incorporate that spontaneous process to whatever I do, regardless of the time it takes to bloom. Mainly if an idea gives a big smile to my face when it surfaces I try to protect that as much as it takes during the whole creative process.

What was the next step for you? How did you develop your project with the help of connecting cottbus?

Guided by producer Claritta Kratochwil and writer Ognjen Sviličić, we fleshed out the logline to a synopsis, then a treatment. We talked back and forth about how the story would expand and develop in an interesting and unexpected way. Also with something that would resonate with the world as we know it now. Great ideas came out of this process and we talked both about story, producing goals and the visual style. Their significant contribution helped me to stay on track throughout and mainly support me on developing my viewpoint on the story, despite of the unconventional paths and ideas. As we speak, I am midway through completing a first draft. And to go from a logline to a first draft within a year is a very happy outcome. Working with the Connecting Cottbus team was an absolute pleasure in a creative and friendly environment where we also shared the same sense of humour.

And what do you expect from the pitch of your project now, one year later, in Cottbus?

Now that the story has expanded to full length, I am eager to see the industry’s but also the audience’s reaction to it and possibly attach the proper collaborators that would love to embark on the journey of the creation of the film. I think we’ve got a timely story in our hands, funny, hysterical at times that also manages to resonate with modern politics and a human story of finding your true self. I don’t want to forget that cinema is a medium that can at the same time entertain, inform about important issues, get you in the shoes of the characters and their problems and maybe even call to action. This is the type of cinema that I grew up with and I hope I managed to bring back some of this essence with “First Lady”.


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