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Greek Mothers Never Die

"Greek mothers never die" is a comic fantasy drama and a satire feature inspired by the story of a mother and her daughter. The film deals with Ella, the only daughter of Jack, a Greek American artist, and Despina, a protective Greek mother. Ella is a musically talented child, and her only friend is Nick, a nerdy 10-year-old boy. 



Their friendship turns to love, but darkness follows when Nick disappears. The Greek economy collapses, and Jack's sudden death devastates the family. Despina and Ella are losing everything and move to Florida. Ella, living under her mother's strict rules, becomes a late bloomer with no love life. After a fierce argument about her future, Despina dies from a heart attack, but returns as a ghost, giving Ella unsolicited advice and guidance. This happens as Nick, now a doctor and playboy, re-enters Ella's life.



In this tragicomic and heartfelt journey, Ella learns to take charge of her life, understand true love, and cope with her mother's passing. It was our pleasure to interview the director of the film, Rachel Suissa.


As an actress, writer and director, Rachel has lived a thousand lives. Through her varied experience in theater and filmmaking, she has cultivated a deep knowledge of narrative production for stage and screen. In addition to authoring and staging theatrical works in Paris, she has starred in French television shows and worked in major feature films alongside the likes of superstars Vincent Cassell. For Netflix, she wrote and directed the worldwide hit film Dangerous Liaisons, a large production with a budget of six million Euros. And she has recently completed her first American Independent feature film, Greek Mothers Never Die, which she wrote, directed and produced on Amelia Island, Florida, where she lives with her husband and two children.




What was the inspiration behind the making of "Greek mothers never die"?

Greek Mothers Never Die is a very personal movie that I wrote using a lot of my own

experience as a daughter and as a product of a multicultural upbringing. It started as a one

woman show based on my Greek mother Eva, and her atypical personality “bigger than

life” and her gigantic, overbearing love that I experienced growing up in Paris, France

(where my family ran a Greek restaurant).  My mother immigrated to France, but Greek

Mothers Never Die became a story of moving to America, as I had just moved to the US

myself.  It’s a movie about my Greek heritage and my love for American pop culture... And

I tried to bring those two interests together with a roller-coaster tragi-comedy that leaves

you feeling good in the end…. You could say I’m a fan of happy endings.


Since I was a child, I loved the movies, and I particularly enjoyed supernatural stories with

elements of romance and comedy. So, with Greek Mothers Never Die, I dove back into my

childhood and wrote what would be my version of a supernatural romantic “dramedy”

–something warm and magical and poignant with shifting elements of tragedy and

comedy (a story with something profound hidden behind the laughs and the romance). 

But ultimately Greek Mothers Never Die is about all mothers and all daughters and

awkward romance and passionate people who often lose their way without a little help.

To me, all great movies are transformation machines that create wonderful emotions, and

that’s what I aspired to create with Greek Mothers Never Die. 



The project went into production quite quickly:  After writing and directing Dangerous

Liaisons, my first feature (that became a Netflix Original with a global release).  I

started  my own production company RAD PICTURES so that I could fast track Greek

Mothers Never Die…  because my mother advised me to shoot the “movie about her”

as quickly as I could, as she is not getting any younger! I don’t always listen to her

advice but in this particular case I thought she might be right after all! 


I called my very good friend Eleonore Dailly (co-owner of Autopilot) who produced

Dangerous Liaisons , but who also produces independent movies,  and I asked her if

she was up for a challenge: joining me in a  new adventure, an Indie movie shot guerilla

style,  witch will probably be the  most intimate storytelling of my life as a writer director!

Eleonore immediately said YES!  I used my savings and the royalties from the release

of my first movie.  I didn’t want to wait and raise more funding and I needed to have

100% artistic freedom for that particular movie. Pre-production started in June 2023, we

put the team together and three months later we started production on Amelia Island

(Florida). We shot the whole movie in 17 days! 



When did you realize that you wanted to write and direct films and what was your first film project? 

In Paris, while I was studying theater to become an actress, I became interested in writing

short scenes and presenting them to the class. I thought that by creating different

characters, I could “prove” to my teacher that nobody needs to be trapped in a type of role. But that didn’t work out and I was trapped playing “the funny best friend” during my

theater school years.  But the process developed my interest in writing and creating roles. I

started out acting in the theater and soon became a film actress in major French

productions (including roles in La Vérité Si Je Mens and Mesrine, with Vincent Cassel).

During this time, I often directed my actress friends for their audition tapes (and they often

got the gigs!). That’s when I started thinking about stepping behind the camera. Around

that time, I landed one of the lead roles in the M6 TV series Pas de Secrets Entre Nous. 

During filming of the many episodes, I got involved in the writing process and I began to

watch the directors and to concentrate on the ways of directing and building a scene.

After the series came to an end, I wrote, co-produced and co-directed my first project:

Presque Célèbres. In this 52-minute satire, I took the viewers on a tour of the TV series

world from the actor's; point of view. The story also explored the jobs around creating a tv

series (the work of writers, directors, crew, producers, etc.). It was my first independent

project in France. And with this first project, I discovered that through writing and

directing, I had the power to create interesting new roles for women -- we could break

out of the box of conventional types and standard casting and male-dominated narratives.

After my first experience as a Writer/Director it was clear to me that directing would

become my greatest passion. I found it to be liberating.



What were some of the challenges of producing and directing your feature? 

Greek Mother Never Die was my second feature and it was an independent production

with a smaller budget than my first feature… So the budget was a major challenge.

The musical aspect of the movie was also quite challenging. As Ella, my main character, is

a singer, I had to bring a musical world to life around her, involving the creation and

performance of many original songs.

It was a complex, 120-page script with many locations and characters and we shot the whole thing in 17 days, on Amelia Island, in Florida. The story takes place on two continents over a span of 25 years, so the nature and length of the movie was a challenge in itself. I had to think fast and be willing to toss what I had planned and to rewrite a scene on the fly. Inspired by circumstances, we would suddenly compress two scenes together just to keep the schedule on track. It was a bit crazy, but in the end, we got it done. 



We worked hard to overcome the challenges of shooting the movie with so many new

faces, in a place and country that was all new to me. I was speaking four different

languages on some days (Spanish with my DP, French with my male lead, Greek for the

role and English with the rest of the crew) and I was also playing one of the lead roles, as I

directed. 

It was a real gymnastics-of-the-soul to have to switch hats between the “me”

producer/director/ actress. As a producer I had to deal with a different kind of pressure

(the “money stuff” and the production logistics and the constant issue of “we’re running

out of time”). At times, the Producer in me would think it was necessary to cut a scene

while the Writer/Director in me had to fight for the scene to exist somehow “because

without this scene we don’t have a movie!” Meanwhile the actress in me was wondering:

Was I good in that take? I had little time to review the footage of what we had shot and I

often watched them with no sound. But I learned to trust my team and we kept going and

we completed the movie that started out as an idea in my mind.

Shooting a feature film is such an awesome and intense experience, I can’t think of a more

exciting way to work with people. There were unexpected problems but there were also

unexpected solutions.



What is your plan for further distribution of your film?

I hope that the rights distributors will discover and fall in love with my film during the film

festival circuit in North America and Europe. Having a theatrical release here in America, as

well as in Greece and France would be the dream. And I would love afterwards for the

movie to reach and touch as many people as possible.  With the Netflix France team, I had

an amazing experience, and with their help, Dangerous Liaisons was seen in almost 200

countries. It was a real partnership and an artistic collaboration. They trusted me with the

movie and it rose to become one of their top-ten releases in the world in 2022. So,

streaming-service distribution worked out very well for my first movie and hopefully they

will be interested in featuring globally Greek Mothers Never Die, as an acquisition in

a second window.

 


What is your goal as a filmmaker and which genres fascinate you to work on as a filmmaker?

My ultimate goal is to have the freedom to work fast and to crank out movies without

waiting around.  I like to create fast, and I hope to keep producing, writing, and

directing many kinds of original stories with strong female leads. I’m fascinated with

exploring familiar male-POV classic stories from a feminine perspective. As for genres, I’m

interested in thrillers, romance, comedy and drama and certainly innovative stories with a

supernatural twist.  And I’m interested in diving into different cultures and looking into the

unknown and exotic realms of cinematic story-telling around the world. I’m Greek and

French with a Jewish dad born in Morocco, and I lived in Spain and ended up married to

an Irish-American Texan. There are so many different worlds to explore! 


Do you consider yourself an independent filmmaker? How do you see the future of independent cinema and female directors?

When it come to the industry, I would say that I enjoy working very much in all kinds of

productions: big productions, American, European, for streaming, for the cinema. But I

personally love the independent movie world and the scrappy renegade spirit of

Americans who simply decide to make their own movies, on their own terms. It’s a

maverick atmosphere— the amazing film festivals, the sense that anything is possible, if you keep going, keep working, keep your passion for movies alive. So… I named my

American production company RAD PICTURES and that R.A.D. is the acronym that says it

all: Rachel’s American Dream. 


I personally see a great future for the independent movie world.  Because this world is all

about freedom, it’s about speed, it’s about artistic control. And it is about transcending the

limitations of a big budget movie (it doesn’t take long to learn that more money doesn’t

always mean better movies).  The independent cinema has a brave and beautiful heritage

and I believe it will continue to thrive and refresh mainstream cinema. It offers the opportunity for actors, cinematographers, technical crew, writers directors and producers to keep creating and keep the cinema innovative and alive. And when it comes to female directors, I believe that we will not stay at 11%. Those numbers will keep rising because we’ll continue to create great movies and we’ll fight for more representation. We will find or create our artistic families and we’ll keep empowering others, and we’ll keep telling our stories and raising our voice through art. 


What are you currently working on?

I’m currently adapting Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Beautiful and the Damned and giving it

a modern update. With Dangerous Liaisons, I took a classic French novel of the old

aristocratic elite and recast it with modern themes of youth and fame. I also then novelized

the movie into a book. I’m doing something similar with the work of Fitzgerald, whose

work and life story is like one vast cautionary tale of poignant regret. It seems like a good

time in America to explore that sort of narrative theme.

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