Trifon Dimitropoulos - runs a breakfast eatery by day and creates introspective films by night. With an inherent love for scotch and films, this innovative and very occupied Director found the time to sit down with me and discuss not only : future plans, goals, and controversies amongst local film festivals but we were able to touch base on the balance between his two passions: the hospitality industry and filmmaking. Now I ask, are you ready to sink your teeth into this sweet, but savory exposé on this introspective Director? If so, prepare yourselves for the inside scoop on topics most Independent Filmmakers dare not to discuss...
'So - can you let everyone in on your double life? Tell us how you are able to fund your visions within your films while balancing two career paths?'
- 'I have one hereditary passion which is the hospitality business. You know, growing up being thrown in the kitchen at 7 years old - you learn a lot from the industry. You learn how to run a business from the ground up. Literally starting from being a bus boy all the way up to starting managerial positions. You learn to appreciate the value of a dollar.. especially coming from a hard-nose conservative and very hard working Greek family. You really learn to value hard work and that's something that goes a long way with other avenues in life. But I guess you could say my real passion - the passion that I came to fall in love with at a young age, was film..Telling a story & you know, creating characters, making something that people can connect with is one of the reasons why I love it. Being a Director has always been a dream of mine. I've come to the point of my life where I don't say, 'I'm an aspiring Director.' No, 'I am a Director.' 'I am a filmmaker.' Needless to say, I put out several projects now. You know, growing up..watching films from Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese to The Cohen Brothers, & David Fincher, and then starting to learn more about other film directors - Refn and Panos Cosmatos - filmmakers like Yorgos Lanthimos. To see these guys that were so polarizing and eclectic, to see that their visions were similiar to my own. You know - obviously, I have written & directed some dark stuff. Some 'Avante Garde' stuff - but it's basically all stemming from emotions and feelings and what you wanna do in that specific time frame. I have loved the growth of what I've become, from learning everyday.. to be honest. That's pretty much my passion. To continue to learn as a filmmaker and more importantly as a story teller and to just take it day by day - and just harness the energy I have for the business.'
'Let's talk about your first real project as a Filmmaker?'
- 'My first real solo project ever was a 16 minute short film, '36 Stranger.' It was a black & white short film that was scored by Wutang's '36 Chambers' - I actually shot the film while in Houston. I was going to visit my father - my brother was living with him at the time and I told my brother I want you to be a character...I have a script put together and we are going to shoot this in a couple days. So I took my old Canon camera while spending half of the week with my father and half of week shooting the film.
Of course, looking back at it now I laugh, I can't bear to watch it but it's funny when you see something that you've done close to.. man, 11-12 years ago. You kind of laugh about it you see how intricate it all was, and that's what started it all. You see the little flashes of the camera angles & framing that really started the monster, so to speak. Again, it was a very quick little film, I submitted it to festivals - I didn't get into any. But I submitted it to Vimeo and put it out online for people to see...you know, it was one of those things.. everything just started from there. An avalanche started after that. That's why this business goes hand in hand with the other business at Over Easy Kitchen because I met so many people in this restaurant industry where I'd gotten to know them now as close friends. I now consider these people my family and they even helped me with the first feature film...like a good family friend of mine literally shut down an airport in Wall Township, NJ - just for me to get a scene that I needed for my other film 'The Method.' So you know, I appreciate people for doing stuff like that for me.
Obviously, with that being said, I'm very thankful for the restaurant industry for giving me these connections. You really learn a lot about yourself in this industry...you learn so many things and you meet new people everyday and new people sort of spark new things that you never knew about yourself. So, with that you get a lot of new ideas for scripts and for stories, I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why I really do think the hospitality business and film does go hand in hand, both sides inspire one another - to create.
With Over Easy Kitchen, you know we want people to have that first impression where they eat with their eyes first. You know they come in here they see how visually appealing the place is...how visually appealing the food is. It's the same thing you're doing with film. You wanna leave that first impression where people see something on screen for the first time and you leave that imprint like 'Wow! I can connect with this guy.' Hopefully they connect with the food here and they connect with my films at the same time.'
'After you made your connections and developed a name for yourself in the industry. What did you target next? What was your next goal as a Director?'
- 'I think I always have a constant struggle within myself because at the end of the day, I want to do film full-time whether it's in LA or NY. I want to be creating on a full-time scale. I feel like the next step - the step you're always going to take is trying to elevate your name to the next level. Take what you learn from the past projects & incorporate the trials, the tribulations, the successes, the failures, & just incorporate that into your next project's decision making. Just with the creative process overall. I'm always trying to elevate the next project and I know I haven't even scratched the surface of being known yet. Yes, locally people support me and they're eager to see what I'm doing - but at the end of the day I'm not doing it for accolades..I'm not doing it for awards, festivals, Oscars, or festival wins - I'm doing it for me. Because I want to see the growth and I want to be proud of my growth and proud of the work I put in. At the end of the day, the decisions, the movies I make, the TV shows I create, & the scripts I write - they will be validated on my decision making and my feelings towards these projects. Family members are always quick to say, 'You did great!' But sometimes you want to hear the constructive criticism & you want to hear something negative. It's a silver lining. Then you have some people who don't know what they are talking about like, 'If I had this, I would've done it this way.' So then one part of me says, 'Okay, well you take the money you have right now and you see how difficult it is...' although the better half of me will stop myself and say, 'Thank you for your opinion...I appreciate you.' then you move forward. Like I said, at the end of the day, you have to be happy with the decisions you made & you shouldn't let anyone's opinions affect you - good or bad. It's great to take constructive criticisms, to absorb what people think. We make projects to exude human thought, but in terms of criticism - that's going to be on all levels in any business so you just need to have tough skin.'
'Leading with the statement, 'having tough skin..' - there definitely holds some truth to that with your most recent feature film, 'The Five In Merseyside,' correct? Why don't you shed some light on the controversies tied between this and the industry?'
- 'Well controversy to me is always good...it's always a good thing. You want people to talk about something. I knew that the film was going to be controversial but I really didn't know how controversial it would be until we started submitting to these film festivals. Certain festivals I thought I was going to get into, rejected us because the creative decision making I put into the film.
Unfortunately, we live in a world now where a lot of film festivals are very political. People are very sensitive now...people are very conscious of what they're saying, what they're doing...especially with their projects. I'll be damned if I'm going to short sell my vision or sacrifice my decision making because of political correctness or incorrectness. I'm going to do what I feel. As an artist, I'm going to do what my heart tells me to...I'm huge on energy. I'm huge on following my gut instincts. I think that's been lost in translation in this industry - art is art because we follow our hearts. We follow our spirit & we follow our energy - we follow our rhythm, our vibrations as human beings. That's what makes us human: how we feel or how we react and how we decide. It's disheartening to know that film festivals and just people in general in the industry just cut short somebody's shine or cut their opportunities in half or cut them all together - just because they don't have the same ideas or mental infrastructure they do...that's very wrong. But that makes me strive to want to keep going even harder and to pursue my visions stronger. Quite frankly, it adds fuel to the fire.. you know, I'm all about equality.. females directing, writing or receiving equal pay. I support the LBGT community. I'm all for equal opportunity for people to create and to live.
However, there is a line where people are getting too sensitive. They are taking the film I created in the wrong light. It's controversial for a reason. It's supposed to provoke human thought and it raises awareness on certain things going on in this country...And sometimes people don't like to hear certain sides to the story. A lot of these festivals - sometimes they are narrow-minded in terms of not seeing it both ways. I know that it might strike a cord with somebody...what I just said. But remember, at the end of the day, you have to realize that art is art. Whether you agree with somebody politically or not. Whether you have different values than them...you still have to respect them. So, 100% respect the art ..or else we are losing touch with what's really important in being an artist. Honestly, that goes for any realm: film, TV, music, dance, art. If you create anything - if you're an artist and you have a creative realm, that you are crafting on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis. NOBODY should judge your creations because of personal views on certain things. Personally, I think that's where we are spiraling out in this country or in the world really...'
'Clearly controversy won't stop you, so what's next?'
'I will be shooting a TV Pilot that I wrote and will be directing, 'West Front, & Broad' - it's set to be filmed in the beautiful town of Red Bank, NJ during the spring time. Sam Verello and I are currently working on my next feature film - it's gonna be a whole year's worth of a process. But we are doing it the right way; interviews & writing exercises - Sam's looking to break down my brain, I'm going to pick his brain a little. It is a very personal story - it's about a past relationship I had. The romantic comedy will be called 'Fire, Water, & Women' - we started the process a couple weeks back. I'm just super excited to get that script done - I'm just excited in general just to be creating more. My goal is to put out more content and more short films throughout the year just to have people see what I can do in all aspects of growth. This industry has definitely humbled me...I'm appreciative of everything I have created especially on projects people can connect with, it truly has been such a blessing.'
'Back tracking to the restaurant industry? How did you get involved with Over Easy Kitchen?'
- 'Long story short, before OEK it was my Mother's place. She was here 14 years - I was a server there. Honestly, that's a big chunk of my growth in this business and then my Mom ending up retiring - she got out of the business and that was when I asked my two cousins, Demetri and Kosta - to consider a rebrand. After that we were apart of a completely new entity. We changed the face of the establishment, the name, the menu. My cousins are very talented and driven gentlemen in the hospitality business - they are the older brothers I never had. So it was only fitting to work with them for a place like this. A community like this. The restaurant, in general has been a staple in town and has always been known as a breakfast and lunch place - it has so much history. I couldn't be more proud and happier with how it's all turned out - it stayed in the family. It's a family affair here...even the servers that work here, the kitchen staff that works here - everybody that comes in here all the regulars or even our first time guests. Everyone is Over Easy Kitchen, it's an amazing environment. It has come a long way now with our second location and more locations to come in the future. We all have the right elements to be successful. Especially, Frankie Brusco - who joined partnership with my cousins..who is also a huge addition to the OEK engine. Needless to say, we are definitely looking forward to the future.'
'I want you to leave the readers with something to think about and to digest - how is the changing film world impacting Indie Filmmakers/Filmmaking?'
- 'Two things...
1. The first thing is that Hollywood, now more than ever, is obsessed with remakes and reviving TV shows that were prominent in the 80s/90s. The fact of the matter is - you could bluntly say that originality and original content is very few and far between nowadays. Hollywood has gotten lazy...that is one of the issues that has hurt indie filmmakers.
2. The other is that people are too damn sensitive - people are so sensitive. You know, now we are trying to count how many different nationalities and backgrounds are hired on crews and staff when we should really just buckle down and say, 'If he's a good actor - he's a good actor.' It doesn't matter what color or creed they come from.. we are all human beings on this planet. We should all be striving for success...if you have a story to be told then people should listen to you. But now we have become so over-saturated with sensitivity and we are warped into zombies. All in a world where we are second guessing ourselves when we shouldn't be because art has no limits. Unfortunately, there is censorship where there shouldn't be.'
So there you have it! Now, do yourselves a favor - go ahead, check out his most recent creation, 'Aries.' Which is a musically chilling and favorably ominous silent, short film that he decided to set the tone for 2019 upon its release. It is a definite must-see.
Oh, and a quick side note: if you're ever in the Holmdel or Marlboro, NJ area be sure to stop by Over Easy Kitchen. Their hours run from 8 AM - 3 PM; Everyday. Maybe you'll be able to say, 'Hi, Hey, Hello!' to the Indie Filmmaker and leave satisfied after tasting their irresistible Lemon Ricotta Pancakes!