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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 March 2018
18 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 MARCH 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Nikos Andronicos and his search for fantastic truth Neos Kosmos spoke to prolific director Nikos Andronicos about an animated series he is producing for US TV network FX, and the difference between Greek Australians and Greek Greeks CON STAMOCOSTAS ikos Andronicos is in the Indian city of Rajasthan near Jaisalmer riding a camel in the middle of the desert oblivious to a life-changing event happening thousands of kilometres away. It's 2014 and while N Andronicos is traipsing around like Lawrence of Arabia, his film Ad Nausuem is being shown in Los Angeles. But at the time the Sydney filmmaker has no interest in how his movie is being received despite the fact it took five years to make. "I submitted it to all the festivals," the 36-year-old says when he meets Neos Kosmos at the only non-hipster pub in Sydney's Surry Hills. "But I had no energy left. I was just a coconut husk, I was a cicada shell, I had nothing. So, the desert was a great place to go and reset. "Making it was very satisfying creatively but once I finished it I had to go and put the salesman hat on. I knew that was going to be exhausting. So, I went away indefinitely to India to think about something other than myself because I was bored of myself." Despite being deep in the desert, Andronicos somehow found out that his film had won the Best Foreign Feature at the 2013 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. "I managed to find some internet cafe and logged in one day on a crap computer that they had and saw my other producer Jack in LA getting the award for the film," he says. "It was wonderful to read about that and it was equally wonderful not relying on that to feel worthy. It's such a risk making something like that. It can go wrong in so many places and so many stages along the way that you have to be a little bit zen about what happens with it." Andronicos got his big break in show business in the noughties when the producer of Channel 10's Ronny Johns Half Hour show saw him perform at university with his comedy group Nice Guys. He was offered a full-time job writing for the show and ignored the fact he finished his law degree by penning various comedy skits including the famous ‘Chopper Does the Weather’. After what Andronicos describes as a slow build of writing for TV shows and making short films, a number of years passed before he decided to make Ad Nauseum. The film is a quick-paced satirical comedy that critiques the advertising industry, savages the arts world, and asks whether artistic integrity is possible in our modern-day world. While the film didn't create any box office records, Andronicos says it had a major impact on his career. "What that movie did for me here in Australia, even though it did not come out on screens or anything, was that people still saw it and it threw me headfirst into quite a lot of corners of the business," he says. One of those corners was making the SBS documentary, Greeks Of the Sea which saw Andronicos travel to numerous Greek islands where he met mariners, ferry captains, fishers and traditional boatbuilders. His grandfather was also a mariner from the island of Kythera so for Andronicos the three-part series was a project close to his heart. "It was an amazing experience," he says."Talking to Greeks in Greece was very familiar to me, I felt like I was talking to family members. I felt some responsibility to do a good job of it and to make sure it was going to be an interesting show to watch and thought-provoking." Andronicos got his wish and while contemplating his time in Greece he discovered something quite profound. "By doing Greeks of the Sea I learnt there is quite a big difference between Greek Australians and Greek Greeks," he says. "Greek Australians have an attitude, energy, and enthusiasm that is optimistic. Greek Greeks also have a lot of that but are much less optimistic and a bit more melancholy and I also found they had a little less self-belief. "My papou's generation worked hard and got rewarded. But economically and socially they have had a much harder time in Greece than Greeks in Australia. When I was there the global financial crisis was banging away. So, I don't blame anyone for being pessimistic or depressed, the whole country was." Along with making films and documentaries, Andronicos has also been creating animation with school friend Dave Carter for over 15 years. In 2007 they were commissioned by Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butthead, to create short films. Since then their short animation Fish with Legs has been broadcast on ABC TV and Andronicos doesn't shy away from its distinct social message. "I'm always interested in encouraging people to think for themselves and not just accept dogma as scripture," he says. "With Bin Chickens I started feeling an affinity for ibises because I'm not a huge fan of what is happening to Sydney. I don't like all the new developments and the way they knock down old buildings and put up these disgusting ugly towers. So, I see ibises as the heroes, as birds that are trying to live their lives and make the best of living in these concrete nightmare places." Fish with Legs recently won best animation at Flickrfest and has been screened at over 20 festivals worldwide. It's another example of the Greek Australian inviting the audience to interrogate an idea. "With Fish with Legs you may think its anti-religion at first but it's not just that," he says. "It's anti-dogma including the dogma that all science is good science, or all progress is good progress and that is obviously not all true. You should at least question it." Andronicos and Carter were selected by Screen Australia for the Talent USA program which will take them to New York City and LA in a few weeks where they will take another project to market In the second half of this year US television network FX will premiere the duo's 11-part animation series, and Andronicus says he is thrilled the show will remain Australian. "Psycho Town is a black satirical irreverent series about all sorts of taboo and contentious social subjects," he says. "We've made a couple of test episodes. When we got it up we thought they wanted us to Americanise it and they said 'No, we love it, keep the Australian accents'. "That's awesome for us as it means we get to work with our friends still." As well as writing Psycho Town for FX, Andronicos is currently directing two ABC Comedy shows: The Chaser's Checkout and Sammy J's Playground Politics. On the surface it may seem that Andronicos is spreading himself too thin but he prefers to tell stories through a variety of mediums. "Whether it's making a documentary, a feature film, or animation, it's about finding something that goes beyond the facts," he says. "German director Werner Herzog calls those moments ecstatic truth, that's his definition. That's the Holy Grail. Every now and then I see a moment like that in my work. It's very fleeting, it's like someone giving you a quick peek into that magic stuff and closing it again. "My dream is to keep having those moments of making stuff that hits. I don't have any ambitions beyond hoping that my work is challenging enough that it makes me grow. "I would love to be good enough to make something that goes big. It just comes down to whether it's good enough. But I just want to continue the pursuit of trying to make good things."
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