Best Cinematography Award Interview: George Tampakakis


Something that may seem beautiful to me, could be uninteresting or even ugly to someone else. So, winning the award gave me the confidence that the decisions we made while shooting “Pledge” were communicating with the viewers, because for me that’s the essence of cinema.

George Tampakakis, the cinematographer of Pledge, altcineAction! 2015-16 Best Cinematography Award, talks to us about the difficult lighting conditions while shooting the film, the importance of the award as a filmmaking tool for his professional life, the idea of a “first-come, first-served” online festival, the 5C project program which gives to the viewers the opportunity to become active and more involved in the whole process and his future expectations.


George Tampakakis

George Tampakakis, cinematographer of the Pledge


How do you feel about winning this award?

I feel rewarded and lucky at the same time. Rewarded because we shot our movie for next to nothing (budget wise) and worked very hard with Christos, Rosa and the whole crew and cast to finish it without artistic compromise. And lucky, because I believe that there comes a point where subjectivity comes into play when you have to make a decision, even more so when you have to “judge” a work of art. Something that may seem beautiful to me, could be uninteresting or even ugly to someone else. So, winning the award gave me the confidence that the decisions we made while shooting “Pledge” were communicating with the viewers, because for me that’s the essence of cinema.


What do you think about the rationale of the Jury, regarding your cinematography?

I believe it’s spot on. Of course my main goal was to serve the story Christos wanted to show, in the best possible way. And by that I don’t mean choosing the best equipment there is or just shooting beautiful images, but knowing the story, the characters and their needs, choosing the correct locations, studying the intensity and direction of light, deciding on the use or lack of color and last but not least compositing the frames in a way that suits the storytelling. I also have to agree (with the jury) that the lighting conditions were very difficult, especially in the fishing boat where the use of bounced light from a second boat nearby was a one way solution. I think that in many shots we touched the limits of our camera’s technology.


Tell us what you plan to do with this award?

Well, the award itself sits next to my beloved Arriflex 16ST (which unfortunately hasn’t been used for a lot of time…). It’s there to remind me that with patience, good collaborators and constant study of one’s field, great things can be accomplished. The prize that came with the award (Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro) was a very welcomed addition to my filmmaking tools, and I’d like to thank Altcine and Mc Manios for making my professional life easier. As a matter of fact, I’m counting on using the EVF for a challenging upcoming project.


How helpful do you believe is an Online Festival for the filmmakers?

Whether we like it or not, online is the future. The traditional film festival circuit is so saturated in our times, that lots of new filmmakers and lots of really good movies get left out, sometimes without even being viewed by the preliminary committees. This is were online festivals come into play, and I really like the rationale “first-come, first-served” of altcineAction! You have a finished movie, you submit it, they upload it and people from all over the world can watch it, rate it and talk about it. This kind of immediate feedback is really precious in my opinion. Reading what viewers had written about our film was very interesting indeed! My only complaint as a cinematographer is the quality of online streaming material, and the nightmare of literally endless viewing conditions. It just doesn’t compare to the screening quality of DCP and a calibrated cinema projector… But we’re getting there!


What do you think about the audience involvement – votes and critiques – in choosing the winning films?

I think it’s a great idea! This way the viewers become active and more involved in the whole “process”. It’s common knowledge that we’re bombarded with images and video whenever browsing the net and as a result we’re getting very picky with what we decide to watch (at least I do…). Engaging the audience is a difficult task these days and this is for sure one way to do it. Writing a proper critique for a movie is not easy, it’s time consuming and requires the viewer’s full attention when watching it.


What is your opinion regarding the Best Critic Award and its prize “The 5C Project”?

I believe it’s a very original idea with significant benefits not only for the aspiring critics but for us, the Balkan filmmakers as well. In order to continue making the kind of films we love making, we’re in need of people that care watching them and promoting them to the public. I see it as some kind of “give and take” relationship, a bond that needs to be constantly nourished. AltcineAction’s Best Critic Award and and its prize “The 5C Project” can play a big part in that “nourishment” by providing an incentive for young people to study and promote Balkan films and culture. I also like the idea of the critic being critiqued himself (or herself), because I believe this cultivates a sense of “duty” to be careful and truthful when expressing an opinion concerning someone else’s work.


Besides the short you worked in, were there any other films in the competition that you particularly enjoyed the cinematography and why?

Yes, of course! I particularly enjoyed watching “Diving-In”. In my opinion it was one of the most aesthetically and technically well-made films of the festival. Especially the lake scene is a very solid cinematic piece, greatly shot and executed. I also have to mention “Libelula” for the intriguing camera work and framing. As a matter of fact, I’d say that a large number of the competition’s films had very interesting bits and peaces of cinematography, but lacked in visual consistency which is indeed a really difficult thing to achieve (even in a short film).


What are your plans and expectations for the future?

Too many to list here…
I’d love to continue getting involved in interesting projects.
Meet and collaborate with passionate filmmakers who love cinema and inspire me as an artist.
I’d really like to work with directors from other countries as well, travel there and get to know their culture.
Definitely shoot a feature film as soon as possible.
Learn everything I can learn about the art of cinematography!