Feature Screenplay Finalist "The Retreat"
What is your name, company name, and URL?
Michaela Zannou, www.michaelazannou.com.
What is your specialty: filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?
I am primarily an actor and screenwriter. This past October I dipped my toes into filmmaking and was an executive producer for a pilot I wrote.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am in the post-production process of "Couples Therapy", a pilot episode I wrote, produced and starred in. "Couples Therapy" tells the story of Natalia, a couples therapist who treats high-maintenance New York couples while her own marriage is falling apart.
I am also working on finding the right "home" to produce my feature screenplay "The Retreat", a horror/mystery about an immigrant girl and a corporate retreat gone wrong, which was a finalist on the "Shriekfest" screenwriting competition.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
That would be my screenwriting teacher Jason Greiff. He is a wonderful teacher and an even more wonderful human who has been incredibly supportive, patient and generous with his time and advice throughout my screenwriting endeavors.
Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
I think people are drawn to the excitement and thrill of the genre. Each story is a mystery that unveils itself piece by piece while we are at the edge of our seats, uncertain of what may come next. I believe the audience enjoys trying to figure out what is going on and make speculations only to have their "theories" shattered by an unexpected twist. At the same time, I find that horror/scifi movies are a safe way to channel our inner darkness and live vicariously through the characters in the safety of our home or a movie theatre.
What do you love most about this business?
I love the endless possibilities in storytelling. Screenplays and movies tell stories in a very direct and realistic way, it's so easy for the audience to relate and feel a part of the movie themselves. We can tell the stories of real people who could be your friends, neighbors, or you. We can tell stories about alternate realities and fairy tales, going as far as our imagination is willing to take us. We can make people laugh, cry, reflect on things and maybe even change perspective. By telling the stories of people who are not a part of our familiar world, who perhaps have different problems, upbringing, views and surroundings, every movie has the ability to expand our horizons and open our minds just a little bit every time.
What do you dislike most about this business?
I don't like that it's so hard for filmmakers to get their projects produced. It really is a shame that many talented artists are limited by lack of money and connections. Of course, that makes one work harder and I like to believe that their perseverance will eventually pay off. I can't help but wonder, however, if things were a little easier on filmmakers and they could focus their time and energy on new projects and developing their talents uninterrupted, how many more wonderful films and stories would have come to existence?
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am particularly proud of writing, producing and starring in the pilot episode of "Couples Therapy". It was the most exciting and educating experience I've ever had as an artist and it opened up a whole new world for me.
Any advice you'd like to give to newbies?
Believe in yourself and your artistic voice. Collaborate and be open to other people's input but, at the end of the day, trust your instincts. This is a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the journey.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I would like to thank all the people who have inspired me as a writer and an actor. Actors, writers, directors, friends, lovers, coworkers, classmates, teachers, people who are no longer part of my life. They all left their mark on me and ignited something in me that I somehow turned into art. For that I am grateful to every single one of them.