ALEXIS Varouxakis left Athens a few years ago and headed straight to where it all happens (if you’re lucky and persistent enough) in the world of film – Los Angeles. He has been hard at work since arriving there, creating a positive and well-deserved buzz around his company, Adrenaline Entertainment, a feature film and TV production company he founded in 2001 when he was working in London. His most recent (2014) producer credits include “Dark Hearts”, directed by Rudolf Buitendach, a film preceded by “Opa” (2005), directed by Udayan Prasad. He was also a producer on “El Greco,” which won numerous international awards, including the Audience Award, Greek Competition Award, and Greek Union of Film and Television Technicians Award at the 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Varouxakis’ current project Hallucinaut, for which he has teamed up with Italian writer/director Daniele Auber, is exciting not only to me but evidently, to a huge number of cinema buffs worldwide – the short film has even gained the backing of Auber’s idol, Terry Gilliam, as producer, and in launching a crowd-funding campaign via Kickstarter managed to inspire 821 individuals to raise the breathtaking sum of $70,279 – the highest amount ever raised for a short film.
Over the past 25 years of life in the United States and Europe, Auber has successfully worked on numerous popular films, creating magic via special effects, visual effects and concept design. His talents brought him to working on films such as Luc Besson’s Lucy, Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Terry Gillaim’s The Brothers Grimm and many more. He has also won an Emmy Award for his work with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Hallucinaut is a short film based on a story that Auber has dreamed of bringing to life since he was a young man, but that he put aside for the right time. It tells the story of Julio, a loveable hothead who takes a wrong turn in life. On day, Julio meets a palm reader who offers him a psychedelic substance. Upon consuming it, he takes a trip on the lifeline of his own hand in a bid to modify his destiny, meeting what Daniele has named “microdelics”, psychedelic and microscopic creatures that are physical representations of the addictions and challenges Julio faces, as he struggles to get back on the right path.
This story speaks directly to and of today’s world, in which most of us are somehow addicted to something or other – be it technology, substances, money, consumer items or relationships, as well as of a rising awareness that this “destiny” can be altered or remodelled.
Just days after they reached their stretch goal on Kickstarter, Varouxakis and Auber spoke to My Greek Review about Hallucinaut.
My Greek Review: Do you believe in fate? And if so, what is your destiny?
Daniele Auber: I like to believe in predisposition. So that I can somehow aim at a future that keeps me close to my personal nature. But understanding our nature is one of the most difficult things in life. It’s so easy to be delusional. So the answer is no. I don’t believe in fate, but it’s great material for storytelling.
Alexis Varouxakis: I believe we have multiple fates, many paths ahead of us. Life, luck, and people we meet along the way as well as our personalities take us from path to path, until we settle into one direction for a little while. I believe there are different types of people, the ones who stay on one or two paths for all their life, while others jump from path to path until they find the one that suits them, and others still, always look to other paths, adding roads to their destiny, never stopping to seek. I belong to the latter category.
MGR: How did the dream of Hallucinaut come to you?
DA: It came in a period of my life when I was leaving from my hometown (Trieste, Italy) for the first time. I was 19, full of stories, and excited to discover the world and my future. Fortunately I wrote down all those stories so I can still read them, and do something with them…
MGR: You have raised the money you campaigned for on Kickstarter- congratulations! Now what?
DA: I could never imagine a better starting point for pre-production: we didn’t only raise the money to shoot the film, we also found a passionate audience that supports the project and is curious about it. It’s something I never experienced in traditional moviemaking. It’s the magic of crowd funding.
After working behind the wings for decades, suddenly I have a new purpose: to make those 821 people happy. I adore each one of them. It wasn’t easy to get to this point but I have a good friend and producer, Alexis Varouxakis, who’s helping me on every step of the project. If Hallucinaut was a brain, he would be the left hemisphere and I would be the right one. No double meaning intended.
AV: To add to what Daniele said, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him. Now we have already started pre-production, putting all the elements together.
MGR: How did your team come together? And how did you get Terry Gilliam (pictured above) on board?
DA: Making movies means establishing strong relationships with your colleagues, and friendships are forged by the creative process. Team Hallucinaut is a quintessential collection of some of the friends I made through the years, or at least the available ones.
It took me 13 years to feel ready and ask Mr. Gilliam to be part of this project. I don’t think he remembers the episode, but when we finished “Brothers Grimm” in 2003, I gave him a goodbye card with a picture of a hand, and I wrote “you changed my destiny” pointing at the lifeline. My secret plan was to install a subliminal message in his mind that would come to life only in 2015. I also worked hard for a decade to prove my skills. And apparently the plan succeeded.
MGR: What is Hallucinaut about for you?
DA: It’s about growing up and being brave enough to follow our own disposition, sometimes we have to do it against social rules. On some level, Hallucinaut is also a sort of personal exorcism. Because I’m trying to grow up myself, by telling the story of a guy who does the same thing. We’ll see if it works.
MGR: What is/are your roles in making the film?
DA: Writer, director, designer… It’s dangerous to multitask, but I should be able to maintain the focus. If everything goes well, next time I’ll also cook Italian meals for everyone.
AV: I am the producer. I helped in the setting up and management of the Kickstarter campaign although the main person behind the campaign is Blake Bertuccelli who was the campaign manager. My role as producer is making sure that we have the best people on board and ensuring that Daniele’s vision is created to the highest standards.
MGR: What do you hope Hallucinaut will evoke in your viewers?
DA: I hope they will be surprised. Which is not easy as they already know so much about the project. But in the end I bet I’ll be surprised as well. So it should be fine.
AV: I hope they will enjoy it.
MGR: Do you think people today chase their dreams enough? Try to change their destiny?DA: I hope so. It takes bravery to do that. Maybe that’s the secret to finding our destiny: to follow our dreams and see where they take us. Success or failure will dictate what direction to take next. And be able to identify the following dream.
AV: I think that some people do and some others don’t. We live in difficult times and a lot of people are trying to just survive. However, art has always allowed people to dream and see beyond their lives, given them moments of respite, moments of joy and happiness.