Cinema and literature, two interconnected versions of a profound need for communication and contact
Thessaloniki-born director, writer and TV host Panagiotis Kountouras does not miss out on even the faintest stimulus, grasping every trace of inspiration that comes his way. He confides in us how and when it all started: “The defining moment was when I got my hands on my first MiniDV camera. I was 13 years old or so and we became almost inseparable. I was instinctively trying to recreate frames and scenes that made an impression on me at the movies. Space and time gradually obtained a whole new meaning after having been familiarized with the rules of the cinematic language, through the courses at AUTH’s School of Film. If I were to name my latest points of reference that helped me develop the ways I’m perceiving time and space through the camera lens, that would be performing arts and architecture.”
Graduating with honors from AUTH’s School of Film, Panagiotis Kountouras went on to have his Master’s Degree on Creative Writing, with major on Film & TV Script, at the University of West Macedonia. Kountoura’s writing ventures did not settle for any kind of one-way street, as the multifaceted nature of his character led him to adventurous and fascinating pathways. His debut short story, titled Countdown, was published in 2014 and attained a series of awards. In 2015, his theatrical musical I Have a Dream was staged at Vergina theatre. After this flying start there was no turning back as the visualized tales Stone Christmas and Memento Mori, co-written by Kountouras and Tasos Angelides, came up next, followed by the novel Come to Me, the most recent fruit of the duo’s collaboration.
Cinema and literature have always worked as communicating vessels in Kountoura’s mind, as two interconnected versions of a profound need for communication and contact. “Literature is an inexhaustible window to the world, and endless parade of images, feelings and characters. It is my firm belief that all artists who remain consistent readers throughout their careers have only to gain from literature. My goal is to experiment in terms of form, structure and the factor of time. As I write I draw inspiration from cinema and I when I shoot a movie I always resort to literature. Some of the stories nestling in my head will end up as pages of a book, while others will serve as the narrative foundation for a fiction or documentary film.”
Panagiotis seizes every chance he gets so as to expand his horizons and travel in uncharted territories. “I have a long working experience in the fields of television, advertising and music videos. I devote myself wholeheartedly and I aim at unfolding every single story selflessly, with fresh ideas and artistic diligence. I feel this activity of mine is in constant discourse with my experiences in cinema. Two joined tanks that supply one another.”
Kountouras has so many achievements under his belt at such a young age that it is nearly impossible to briefly summarize them. His short films Heroes of the Flicks (2012), A Box Made of Wood (2014) and Emoticon Man (2017) have been screened at dozens of national and international festivals, while he has directed more than 60 commercials and 120 TV episodes, as well as music videos, alongside distinguished Greek and foreign artists. He has also participated at the European program EUFORIA, in collaboration with the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, having created a series of 15 education documentary shorts. Moreover, he was the director of the documentary series My Name is not Refugee (TV100), which was admitted at the International Public Television Screening Conference (INPUT 2017).
Up until 2018 Kountouras served as head of the Mandoulides Schools’ film related programs, earning first-place awards in the most acclaimed student film contests, while his project Teaching History found itself among the six finalists of the MEDEA Awards (2018), bestowed in Belgium. During the previous TV season he was the man behind the show Selfie, aired in the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), serving as both director and broadcast, whereas in the forthcoming season he will take on directing a new show titled Frames with tails.
His latest short film, IVAN (2019), featuring Christos Stergioglou as the lead man, holds a special place in Kountouras’ filmography, as it embarked on a beautiful international journey. The movie celebrated its world premiere at the Leeds International Film Festival, with a follow-up of about 100 festivals and 14 awards, worldwide. “IVAN’s frenzied course allowed me to envisage my future steps that need to be taken carefully. Apropos, a recent and truly edifying experience was my participation at this year’s Talents Sarajevo program, as one of the 12 young directors selected in the Director’s Summit section. I had the chance to meet some of the most charismatic and gifted directors of my generation, with whom we shared our common love for cinema, but most of all we contemplated on our role as artists amidst the peculiar times we’re living in. Another milestone worth mentioning was my partnership with the Los Angeles-based production company Media Distribution Partners, with which I teamed up to complete the post-production stage of the music video Welcome to the Empire that I directed. It was my first acquaintance with Hollywood’s production standards that felt like a match made in heaven to me, at least as to the working methods.”
Panagiotis’ future is undoubtedly deemed bright and seems to be paved with challenges and goals, as he wisely chose to leave the best for last in this interview. “I am very happy to be sharing with you some exquisite news that just arrived from overseas. The script for my future short F*CK NETFLIX qualified for the top eight projects of the short film script competition at Orlando Film Festival, and I will be given the chance to present it to the public for the first time.”