Filmmaker Minos Papas Debuts Shutterbug

In Greek mythology, Apollo says to his son Phaethon: "Ask me anything and I promise it shall be yours." His son replies that he wants to drive his father’s chariot.

by Katerina Georgiou

Apollo reluctantly agrees, and Phaethon soars across the sky pulling the sun behind him. But sensing his inexperience, the horses overpower Phaethon and stampede to the top of the sky then down to the earth—causing the sun to set the earth on fire.

While making his debut feature, Shutterbug filmmaker Minos Papas felt a connection to this myth. His father, Michael Papas, is the critically acclaimed director, who, at age twenty-four, made “The Private Right”—a film that was part of the first wave of independent cinema in Europe in the 1960’s.

Now thirty-three, Papas was in his late 20’s when he made Shutterbug. And while the pressure to live up to his father’s legacy is undeniable, it’s clear that the younger Papas possess an original voice with something to say.

“I was at a point where I really had to make a feature film, and for me the best way to learn how to make a movie was to actually do it,” he said.

By no means a novice, Papas was a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts with nine short films under his belt before making Shutterbug. The feature is an extension of his award-winning thesis—a short called “Kalipolis.” In both, New York is a landscape for “characters and journey.”

Like Shutterbug’s protagonist, Alex Santiago (Nando del Castillo), Papas found himself questioning the deeper meaning of life, love and work.

Alex is a successful photographer who is driven to understand that which cannot be perceived by others. In this case, it’s the apparition of a mysterious woman who enters his field of vision (and photographs) after he looks directly at the sun. The incident turns his life upside down, and sets him on an odyssey for the truth that involves a few metaphysical twists.

Inspired in part by Dante’s Inferno, the film weaves in elements of the underworld as portrayed in Greek, Egyptian and Native American mythology.
“For me it’s about how two people are connected by light,” said Papas. “Alex is searching for someone. He meets a muse on his journey and she’s sort of guiding him until he figures it out who she is.”

It took a month to write the script and just over thirty days to shoot it. He spent two years editing it at home on his Mac—a feat so remarkable that earlier this year he was invited to give a presentation at the Apple store in Soho to explain how he did it.

As if writing, directing and editing the film wasn’t enough, Papas self-financed it too. The $15,000 budget is a modest figure even by independent standards.

Most of the crew and actors were long-time collaborators of Papas’, including the film’s star Del Castillo, cinematographer Rossana Rizzo and composer Tao Zervas. Together, they created a feast for the senses and a unique story that leaves the audience with the feeling that they’ve just visited a different world.

“I didn’t have any department heads like a wardrobe person or an art department or sound department,” he said. “So I had to make all these choices, and I was making 100 choices per day.”

He was guided along by some good advice from his father: “There’s a solution to every problem.”

Born in London and raised in Cyprus, Papas’ childhood home doubled as his parents’ production office. His British mother, Susan produces her husband’s films.

“My life has been pretty much a film school growing up with my parents,” he said. “There were casting calls and production meetings, and I was upstairs playing with my toy soldiers.”

Given his upbringing there was little question of what he might become. “From five years old I had a camera in my hand,” he said. “It was second nature to me.” Still, his father urged him to take his time to think about filmmaking as a career.

Though he had a talent for writing and drawing, the desire to make movies eclipsed everything else. At sixteen, he made the short film “Whispers” that won first place in a film competition in Helsinki, Finland. That opened the door to a filmmaking workshop in Hungary where he made another short film. Later, while doing his military service in Cyprus, he became the army’s official cameraman.

Today, aside from having completed his first feature, he runs Cyprian Films New York, a production company that offers a variety of film and video services including: features, shorts, documentaries, real estate videos and event coverage.

“Making a feature film was the big thing to accomplish—to prove to myself that I could do this.”

And prove it he did.

Shutterbug enjoyed a two-week run at New York’s Cinema Village art-house theater in March of this year and opened this month in LA. While self-distributing Shutterbug, Papas is currently developing and seeking investment for his new film, an ecologically themed sci-fi project.

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