The 64th Berlin International Film Festival is about to commence on the 6th February. With over 300,000 tickets sold and 20,000 professional visitors from 124 countries about to descended on the city, we are proud to announce that Mike has been selected as one of the 400 films to be shown. Mike was filmed in collaboration with The UK Film Festival, as their winning script from their 3 minute short script competition.
Before he heads to Berlin, we caught up with Mike director, Petros Silvestros, to see what it means to be selected and discuss the film and his inspiration.
Mike has been selected to be shown at the Berlin Film Festival, how does it feel to be selected?
Nowadays, when virtually everyone has a camera and can shoot and edit their own film, big festivals are absolutely inundated with thousands of submissions. Therefore I feel very flattered to be selected. It’s recognition for everyone who has worked hard on this, but more importantly it’s proof that the film has the quality to compete at a high level.
How would you describe the film to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
A ”slice of life” psycho drama, embellished with a bit of mystery. It’s the story of Mike, a sulky teenager who has to do a boring job- to take his little brother Jack to the hairdresser on a Saturday afternoon. Waiting for him in the car Mike starts to get worried when Jack takes too long to return. Mike is that anonymous everyday person we all see in our daily lives, who behaves very normally, but we have no idea what could be lying behind that mask.
What initially attracted you to the script?
The script was literally three pages long and I was very impressed with how much it contained and how quickly and efficiently it was making its point. The characters were believable from the first two lines and I really liked the fact that it treated a very dramatic idea with so much subtlety. When after only three pages you feel compassion for a character, who on page one was almost dislikable, then that’s more than enough to make you love a script.
What challenges did you face during production?
We were casting a mother and her two sons and for me it was vitally important that they really look like a family and therefore resemble each other. Add the fact that their accents had to match and at the same time they all had to be good actors and here you have a very challenging puzzle.
Furthermore, it is always hard when you have to cast a teenager as your protagonist, since their talent has to be great enough to cover their lack of experience. But casting director Shakyra Dowling provided us with lots of interesting choices and after seeing more than 40 people, we found Lucian Charles Collier who was the perfect Mike.
Who influences you as a director?
What I am looking for in a director is not really what story he tells, but how he tells a story, how he treats filmic time; his film language.
It will sound like a massive cliché, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the director that has taught me more than anyone else is Steven Spielberg. Again it’s not his stories or the spectacle, but it is his storytelling technique that I really admire. It’s his lens choices, the way he cuts, the way he moves the actors, how he creates drama from nothing, how he delivers emotion and information at the same time, and so efficiently. Whether you like or hate his stories, his themes and his sentimentality, for me he is undoubtedly the most complete storyteller in the history of cinema.
I have also been influenced a lot by Orson Welles and Roman Polanski in terms of staging actors for the camera and I have learnt a lot about narrative economy from David Cronenberg.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a director?
I am a great believer that in cinema and generally in art; there is no right or wrong way, therefore there is no great advice or bad advice. There are so many different ways to succeed. Tips and advice vary so much depending on who you are and what you want to achieve. So the only general advice I can give is simply don’t listen too much to any advice, even if it comes from Spielberg. Do question all the ”musts” and experts’ guidelines and create your own path. As Frank Capra wisely said: Don’t follow trends, start them.
Mike was screened daily at the Berlin International Film Festival from the 10th to the 14th of February.