Key Light on a Professional Filmmaker: Christopher Kezelos

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Christopher Kezelos cover photo

Name: Christopher Kezelos
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Profession: Stop-Motion Filmmaker, Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Work:
The Maker (The Trailer) 2011
Zero (The Trailer) 2010
A Tasteful Bunch 2004
Bio: Chris’ Bio

The Interview

 

How did you first get into filmmaking?

As a kid in the 80’s, my dad bought one of the first VHS camcorders on the market. The camera was a separate unit to the tape recorder which you slung over your shoulder. It was a beast of a machine, but I fell in love with shooting my own little videos. I got the directing bug!

I first found out about you when I saw your films The Maker and Zero.

Can you talk about unexpected lessons you learned while making each of these films?

I think for both films, the lesson was that you can achieve anything if you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into.

There’s a certain level of fearlessness, if you don’t know the full extent of what lays ahead. This blissful ignorance allows you to dive into a project head first, then deal with and overcome any obstacles as they present themselves. If we would have known that Zero was going to take two years to produce, we may have aborted before we started!

Chris Kezelos' quote about filmmaking

What do you find to be the biggest source of inspiration in your work?

Really, it’s any other creative artwork that moves me. A song, another film, a sculpture, a painting. If I see something I like, my mind races.

Why do you make films?

I love to imagine new worlds and tell stories, so filmmaking is my outlet for this.

Can you tell us about Zealous Creative? Are you working on any projects you can tell us about right now?

Zealous Creative is a small boutique production company run by myself and my filmmaking partner and wife Christine Kezelos. We’ve been making ads, corporate films, and shorts for over a decade, but have spent the last few years developing several feature film ideas.

The latest project we’re looking to make is a live action, feature film called The Sasquatch of Jackson Farm. It’s a story about an orphaned Sasquatch named Dog who’s raised in isolation by an overprotective farmer. When Dog discovers and falls for a female Sasquatch, he’s torn between two worlds.

The script is done. We’re producing concept art of our Sasquatch now and are about to start looking for funding to get it made.

Can you tell us about an unexpected, exciting, eye opening or funny experience you’ve had while working on a film? Feel free to tell us about more than one.

For Zero, we set out to make a personal project, but about six months in we started to realize we had something special on our hands.

We were living in Australia at the time, so we approached the Australian Government for funding, to kick our production up to the next level. We received the funds but around the same time, we also realized our puppets were too small for meaningful articulation, so we threw out six months of work and started from scratch.

A screen shot from Zero

During production of The Maker, one of our genius animators, Mark Lagana, had built a couple of dollies for the film using ‘found objects’. I had a particular idea in mind that required a revolving camera shot. I asked Mark if he could build a dolly to do it. He took on the challenge and after many weeks of work had come up with the goods.

Unfortunately, the dolly rig was too big for the set and the camera move would have taken too long, so I pulled the plug on that shot. Mark was disappointed, but being the professional that he was, understood the decision. You can watch a video of me interviewing Mark about his dollies here.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a young filmmaker who wants to take their first filmmaking steps?

It’s all about the story! No matter how good your production values are, or how good your actors are, if your story is weak, people won’t like your film.

Next, if you write a good story, make it emotional. If people don’t connect and ‘feel’ anything, they won’t remember it. To learn the craft of writing, Michael Hauge’s “Screenwriting for Hollywood” audio CDs are an excellent place to start, then head on over to Christopher Vogler’s “The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers”.


Film Work

about The Maker

The Maker is set in a fantasy world where a strange creature races against time to make the most important and beautiful creation of his life.

Director Christopher Kezelos says “The Maker explores the preciousness of our moments on earth, the short time we have with loved ones and the enjoyment of ones life’s work and purpose. In their fleeting existence our characters experience joy, love, hard work, purpose, loss and loneliness. As the tagline suggests, ‘life is what you make it’ and we are all makers in this world”.

The project was an international collaboration bringing together the same Australian production crew from Zero, with the addition of puppet designer Amanda Louise Spayd from Ohio, USA and post production facility Monkey Hut from London, UK. Producer Christine Kezelos says “We used the Internet to pull together a team of people we really wanted to work with. As filmmakers we’re no longer constrained by budgets and borders, only by how resourceful we can be”.

The Maker was inspired by one of Australia’s most popular and innovative composers of classical music, Paul Halley. Blending elements of traditional classical styles with a distinctive modern edge, his beautifully infectious composition Winter, serves as the soundtrack for the entire film.

The Maker has currently screened at over 70 festivals and won 22 awards, including top honors at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival and SICAF 2012.

Christopher and Christine Kezelos are based in Los Angeles and are currently developing a number of film and television projects, including a feature version of The Maker.


about Zero

Zero is a 12’ 32″ stop motion animation by Australian husband and wife filmmaking duo, Christopher and Christine Kezelos. This dark fairytale takes place in a world where the inhabitants are born into a numerical class system. Faced with constant prejudice and persecution an oppressed zero walks a lonely path until a chance encounter changes his life forever: he meets a female zero. Together they prove that through determination, courage, and love, nothing can be truly something.

Zero employs innocently cute characterization that directly contrasts the dark themes of racism and intolerance that underlies the story. It shows how love and the ability to see beauty in the darkest of places allows us to transcend our loneliness and despair and find an authentic connection to our world.

Narrated by international voice over veteran Nicholas McKay, the crew comprised of multi-award winning filmmakers including director Christopher Kezelos and producer Christine Kezelos, director of photography Matthew Horrex and composer Kyls Burtland.

I’m truly excited to have worked on a project that seeks to present the issues of racism, bigotry and judgement in the highly digestible medium of animation,” said Christopher Kezelos. “These themes are unfortunately prevalent and all too common in our society. We all need a little reminder that there’s so much beauty and love on our planet if we open our eyes to it.”

Christine Kezelos also feels passionately about the film’s positive message. “Everyone at sometime in their life has felt isolated and disenfranchised from their peer group or own kind in some way. I think audiences will be able to identify with Zero’s need to find his place”.

Zero has screened at major international film festivals and has won the award for ‘Best Animation’ from LA Shorts Fest and the Rhode Island International Film Festival, been the recipient of two awards from the Australian Cinematographers Society and received ‘Best Achievement in Sound‘ from the Flickerfest International Film Festival. It has also recently been nominated for an AFI Award in the ‘Best Short Animation’ category.

The film was funded by Screen NSW in an initiative to provide career opportunities for emerging filmmakers in Australia.


Bio

Christopher Kezelos

In 1996, Christopher received a BVA from Sydney University, majoring in film production. For more than a decade, he has worked as a writer, producer, director and editor on ads, online videos and award-winning short films through his production company Zealous Creative.

In 2010, Christopher wrote, directed and animated a stop motion short film called Zero. It screened in over 50 festivals and has won 15 awards including ‘Best Animation’ from LA Shorts Fest and the Rhode Island International Film Festival and has been nominated for an AFI Award in the ‘Best Short Animation’ category.

His latest stop motion short, The Maker, has screened at over 60 festivals and won 22 awards, including top honors at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival and SICAF 2012, and was nominated for an Australian Academy Award.

Christopher lives in Los Angeles with his wife and partner Christine and is developing several feature films.

Filmography

  • Allure (2013)
  • The Maker (2011)
  • Zero (2010)
  • For Doris (2008)
  • DentaMate (2006)
  • Become One (2005)
  • Reflections (2005)
  • Annie, Forget Your Gun (2005)
  • A Tasteful Bunch (2004)
  • Nature’s Wonder Fruit (2004)
  • Margaret (2004)
  • SMS (2003)
  • No Butts About It (2003)
  • Dentophobia (2001)

Kira Bursky

The Interviewer

Kira Bursky

Kira Bursky, the founder of Big Little Filmmaker, is a nineteen year old filmmaker who has been pursuing her dreams for the past six years. A graduate of the Interlochen Academy of the Arts where she was a student of the school’s filmmaking program, Kira was a 2014 National YoungArts Finalist as well as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts Semi-Finalist and received the top prize for Best Overall Film at the 2014 All American High School Film Festival for We’re Okay.

Additional material by Jay Bursky

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