It’s taken more than five years to bring Life Will Smile – the inspiring true story of 275 Jewish people who survived the Holocaust on the Greek Island of Zakynthos – to the screen.
Nomadic’s Director of Photography, Steve Priovolos, and COO/Head of TV & Drama, Stefan D’Bart, worked alongside Nomadic founder and the director of Life Will Smile , Drey Kleanthous, to bring this unique story to life.
We spoke with them about why they got into filmmaking and why the story of this small Greek island struck such a chord…
Let’s go back to the beginning. What first inspired you to get into filmmaking?
Steve: “A big moment for me was seeing Schindler’s List when I was 15. It completely changed the way I saw the world and made me appreciate the value of a human life like nothing had before. From then on I wanted to be a part of a creative process that took an important story and put it into people’s lives.
“When I first heard the story behind Life Will Smile – which is another incredible and inspiring story from one of the darkest times in our history – I had the same feeling I did as a 15 year-old.”
Stefan: “I loved television and film as a kid – especially the Star Wars films. As I got a bit older my dad introduced me to Hitchcock – North By Northwest is still my favourite film – and other amazing films like It’s a Wonderful Life.
“They made me appreciate the importance of great story-telling and made me want to tell stories of my own. Life Will Smile is a story that deserves to be told and I’m delighted to have been a part of it.”
Together with Drey, you’ve been immersed in bringing Life Will Smile to the screen. How has that process been for the both of you?
Stefan: “It’s been an incredible project to work on. Steve has been working on this for five years and Drey took the story and created a vision for the documentary, so it’s been a huge part of their lives for a long time now. Since the start everyone has been on the same page and we all wanted to ensure everything we did serviced the story in the right way.”
Steve: “It’s so unusual to work in a team with so little ego – especially in this industry! – but this is such an amazing, inspiring story that everyone wanted to do justice to it.”
You must have felt a huge sense of responsibility to get this right for the people whose story it is?
Steve: “I’ve been working on this project for five years now and got to know the people who were involved and affected by this story really well. It was so important for us to ensure they were 100% happy with the way we were telling their story.
“How our narrator, Haim Konstantini, would feel about our work was always at the forefront of our minds. He is one of the last remaining survivors and he image of him as a smiling 10-year-old boy during these horrific events was the inspiration behind, not just the title, but the whole project.
“We did a screening of the film in Zakynthos which Haim and his family attended and they were thrilled with it. To see them so happy with what we’d produced together has been the highlight of the whole process so far.”
Stefan: “It was so important to us for them to be pleased with the result but we also had to keep the audience in mind – without an audience it would be nothing.
“The story inspired us so much and our goal was to ensure the people who see the film get the same feeling we had when we first heard it – and we feel we’ve achieved that.”
Next time Steve and Drey discuss the technical challenges they faced while making Life Will Smile and explain what’s next for the film and Nomadic…