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NIGHTLAB

A FEW WORDS

Nightlab was shot in 2004 during a three month deadline period for a short film contest initiated by the British Film Council in Athens Greece. Its initial duration was 3 min, a limitation imposed by the Festival. One year later I reworked its form and reshaped it into a much stronger 13 min structure.

This first short film is my early attempt to create moving images which concern me up to this date. Visual ideas revolving around various existential, fantastical & mechanical elements, that I try to perceive through the concept of Man in a much broader, metaphysical sense. This could be one of my main driving points. Abstract Forms and Mythical Conceptions of  different kinds.

I preserve the function of a logical storyline as I am attracted by the dynamics of the naration in the classical sense. Taking this into consideration, Nightlab could be viewed as a mix between Experimental and Narrative Cinema. Furtermore the film’s ultra low budget limitations imposed to me a number of options that I had to follow, liberating me in a way where I was more open to new ideas from preproduction to final cut.

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TECHNICAL

Camera
SONY TRV 22E

Format
MINI DV

Aspect Ratio
1.66:1

Running Time
13 MIN

Production Year 2004
Final Edit 2005

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CREDITS

NIGHTLAB
a Short Film by
ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU

Assistant Director
ANGELOS ALETRAS

Production Assistant
PENNY ALEXOPOULOU

Editor of 3min Version
NIKOS TSAGARAKIS

Wanderer
THANASIS HALKIAS

Girl
JENNY STAVROPOULOU

Man From The Ground
EURIPIDIS DIKAIOS

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FESTIVALS

HOLLYWOOD DV
FESTIVAL

TROMADANCE
FILM FESTIVAL

SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL

DRAMA INTERNATIONAL
SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

BRITISH FILM COUNCIL

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INTERVIEW

by JONATHAN LEES - Tromadance Film Festival - 10 April 2007

JONATHAN LEES: …if you don't mind I'd like to conduct the interview in this informal manner (i don't know if you will get the reference but similar to Andy Warhol's Interview magazine).
It's a new form...an electric conversation transcribed rather than an old analogue tape recorder and me reinterpreting your words. And speaking of an electric conversation...this is
seemingly what Nightlab has with an audience. It traps them in an unfamiliar environment and though strobes, flickers and slowdowns paints the image on your eyeball...what came
first to you as an idea...the idea behind the film or the execution? The technique?


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: I believe it was both. I was interested in the technical aspect of it, as well as the idea of constructing certain images I had in my mind.

JONATHAN LEES: before we continue on that note...tell our readers in one line what Nightlab explores

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: I like to believe it explores the idea of Film as a form in general. But the exploration of a main theme was never in my mind in the first place, particularly for
this type of exercise as I would like to call it.


JONATHAN LEES: interesting...were you concerned about a mood or emotion you wanted to generate when starting this project?

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Yes, I was. The feeling of kinetic images and sequences following one another and perhaps the generation of an abstract, kind of surreal dream-like world,
where the main hero is never able to explain.


JONATHAN LEES: I'm glad you said that since the structure is very disorienting for the audience as well as the hero...were you ever worried that audiences wouldn't understand your
intentions?


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: To be quite honest I was worried about that aspect. The pure narrative part, while it evolves in a certain way and sort of speaking going from point A to
point B, nevertheless it does not become very clear to the average viewer for its itentions. Although, I think there is still an idea of a story behind it.


JONATHAN LEES: absolutely...and a dark, dangerous story you have led us into. What's great about Nightlab is that as it distorts and plays with filmic stucture, its environment and
sense of danger are very real. Does any of this "dangerous environment" come from your background as a Political Science major?


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: (laughing) Perhaps it was my discontent about a direction I didn't really want to pursue in my life. I never felt I was influenced by majoring in Political Science.

JONATHAN LEES: (laughing) ...I was speaking more from the dangerous situation our world is in...the environment on display seems to involve a world of governmental hunts, science
gone wrong and mind control... even the nature of the woods seems toxic


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: It's very interesting you point in that direction. I believe there are viewers who find this kind of political connection. That was never my intention though.
Surely, not governmental hunts. Science is there as a strong concept. Mind control more from an esoteric point of view, perhaps. I believe my main drive came from the exploration
of the last scene, where the concept of Science makes its point in a detached and cold kind of way.

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JONATHAN LEES: what's interesting here is that it can be interpreted in many different ways... which the best experimental films achieve. however, unlike many other experimental
movies, yours goes beyond structural warping and exhibits a strong sense of story through atmosphere and pacing. Let's talk about the pacing...was this something you outlined
ahead of time or did the slowdown, strobing and flickering come to you in post...and please explain your interest in working with infrared video.


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: The exploration of the narrative device as a vehicle was always in my mind from the beginning. I was interested in telling a "story" in moving images.
I wanted to do that as a test for my filmmaking abilities. Could I narrate something as a "storyteller". But then of course, the mechanisms of the story itself were not very important
for me. So the roots of the pacing were born out of that need. Then the aesthetics factor was a puzzling one for me to choose, because I was not sure of the kind of photographic
quality I was going to have. Even though I outlined as much as I could ahead of time with storyboards and overall views, the initial shooting was going to take place during the day.
The texture of the video form was proven to be a growingly negative factor for the main idea, since it trapped everything under the plastic surface of video, a thing I highly disliked.
Choosing infrared nightshot was eventually born as a necessity on my part to shoot something which had the prospect of an exciting photographic quality. The strobing technique
was  generated during the actual shooting, from an inbred digital feature of my handheld camera. Thus the concept of day shooting changed to Night. But, as a general thought I
am indeed very appealed by the whole notion of infrared cinematography, which I find extremely exciting and mesmerising.


JONATHAN LEES: me too! It's amazing to me that infrared and nighttime setting came later in the development since they seem so natural to this movie's existence...and this is one
of the few projects that champions the use of video in order of progressing a medium. Do you feel this project exists due to the nature of handheld video technology or would you
have preferred film? Personally, I feel the video adds to the nature of the surveillance style stalking and inherent creepiness of its "live capturing" feel...


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Again, it is very interesting you're refering to the connection between Film and Video. As a finished work - after the fact - its special aesthetic interest lies
and is probably examined under that perspective, that you are refering to. I am very happy as it is, in that specific kind of form. As an exporation of the video form. As I would like to
believe, there is a succesful feeling in capturing infrared images with Video but transpoting them to Film-like dimension.


JONATHAN LEES: since the video vs. film debate rages on in the independent world, I think it is relevant for me to note that when viewing submissions for the festival, more often than
not, moviemakers are choosing video strictly as an afterthought of budgetary concern where your movie feels natural in this environment...I hope that anyone who reads this will
think twice before choosing video for that reason and then call themselves filmmakers. I have been guilty of this in the past as well though a lot of my work derives from the video
format. What do you hope to explore in future cinematic endeavors? In a technological sense...


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Well, it is true that the selection of video as a final shooting format has growingly become the primary choice for us filmmakers due to economics concern.
Again, the argument of giving great value to the pure dramatics of the Film - as far as story, characters and the main drama is concerned - is absolutely understandable and highly
important. But video tends to be the easy solution to every project and its artificial texture has become a form and norm all of its own. It really depends on how you use it. I wish we
all could have tons of film to shoot, but that's not feasible. As far, as my future projects, I hope to learn more from the actual process of writing and shooting, working with actors,
exploring the collaborative concept of filmaking and find new ways to tell "stories". Even though my second short explores some visual ideas through Super 8 and Mini-Dv again
with this kind of experimental feeling behind it.

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JONATHAN LEES: haha well said. Do you want to give us a teaser of what we can expect from your new movie ?

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Yes I would like to very much.

JONATHAN LEES: what's the concept ?

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: I view it as a continuation of ideas already explored in Nightlab. The original cut has an approximate duration of 30min, one actor and complete lack of
dialogue. I tend to believe that once again the form itself provides the concept.


JONATHAN LEES: We'll be looking forward to it

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Thank you.

JONATHAN LEES: I saw that your short NIGHTLAB has moved beyond TromaDance and into the ON THE LOT competition...how are the viewers reactions towards it (friends not included!)

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: This is a very interesting topic. Overall, there is a positive feedback. So far I have chosen not to tell any of my friends about it, because I was curious to
witness a first-hand approach by the members being there. Some of them have already a genuine friendly attitude towards me, so it could be the case that those views are biased.
But, again I don't consider On The Lot the best possible platform for such a project, due to its immense obedience to the narrative form and storytelling in its commercial aspect of it.
It was interesting for me to be there nevertheless. And to be quite honest, it is a free promotion of one's work.


JONATHAN LEES: I agree...it's a very bizarre forum for your movie but I'm glad you explored the option. The concept of you entering this contest is the same approach I take in
programming work such as yours in a festival like TromaDance...to expose people who may have never seen experimental work and educate them to the new forms and ideas
emerging today. Thanks a lot for doing this...is there anything you want to add about the festival experience or making films in a truly independent manner for our readers?


ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: I have to thank you for this great oportunity. It was my pleasure talking to you. I'm still learning and really trying to overcome whatever day to day obstacles
there are, which become a burden in giving you the freedom to explore your ideas and thrive in a filmmaking environment. I hope that all filmmakers and film lovers out there
manage to have that kind of equilibrium which is so important for their Art to flourish.


JONATHAN LEES: thanks! From NYC to Athens...not bad right? That was better than most interviews I've got in person.

ANTONIOS PAPANTONIOU: Great! Thank you so much!

JONATHAN LEES: Keep in touch about what's next!! see you in the night