They are maybe the only mother and daughter working as managers and distributors in Hollywood. Alexandra Yacovlef (daughter of Nicky Yacovlef who was one of the biggest composers in Greece and well known in all the high society and older crowds as he was also the biggest antique dealer) and her daughter Alexia Melocchi (half Greek, half Italian) have created Little Studio Film. Through their exquisite work they have managed to give their creative input to many projects that have succeeded in finding financing and global distribution. Alexandra and Alexia gave us a very interesting interview talking about their work and the challenges they have faced, the changes in the film industry that happened after the crisis and also about Greek Cinema.
Tell us about Axelia International Pictures and Little Studio Films. What is the focus of each company, how they started and what are your tasks.
Alexandra: AXELIA INTERNATIONAL PICTURES was focused on selling and distributing American Motion Pictures worldwide. I was doing mostlyacquisitions onbehalf of several International distributors of American Motion Pictures aswell as independent films for us to sell and represent worldwide. Weattended all major film markets from Cannes Film Festival to American FilmMarket.I was the CEO and Alexia, my daughter, was the President.
Alexia: After buying over 100 American Movies on behalf of our theatrical international distribution clients with AXELIA INTERNATIONAL PICTURES and also selling 25 American movies around the world to profit, created LITTLE STUDIO FILMS with the intention of creating a bridge between International Film Makers, Producers, Authors, and Screenwriters into Hollywood and vice versa for the American Talent into the rest of the world. Because of our being pro active in our clients careers, we often get involved with their projects in a producer or executive producer role bringing some of the financing, co production partners, talent and/or global distribution.
How long have you been working together and how is it to work with a person from your own family?
Alexandra : Alexia was working with me since high school. She started astranslator for International distributors and then helped with theacquisitions for International distributors as we were often buying over 100films per year. We have been together for 20+ years and it is great to work together as we have obviously the trust on each other’s actions and decisions.
Alexia: I started to work as a translator for some of Alexandra’s international clients, and helping out in the deal making process. Then Idecided to go pay my dues by working for a year with another Company.There I learned everything about film sales contracts and collections onrevenues, physical film production, marketing a film and delivering it fordistribution with all the needed elements. Joining AXELIA INTERNATIONAL andthen starting LITTLE STUDIO FILMS with my mother was a natural evolution. Weare best friends, not only family, and we complement one another. She isvery much of a Studio, big movies mentality and she is very direct in herdealings. I am the nurturing type who oversees the high level independent films (that may end up having a Studio Release) and dealing with the Talent who are all very sensitive and therefore need a white glove treatment.
In your opinion what do you think is the secret of becoming a successful manager and distributor? If there is one of course.
Alexandra: As a distributor- Being informed. Being in a constantcommunication with people who are key in our Industry and following closelyand daily all the developments either these are in the production,distribution and/or agencies arena. But also knowing the trends in all the international markets, how movies perform and what actors are hot in which country.
Alexia: As a Manager- Be brutally honest with my clients. Demand onlyexcellence from them. See their potential and show them the way but let themalso do the work. Don¹t knock on the doors, kick them open.Expect loyalty. Be a great listener so you can sort out the truth from the many lies that surround you.
How do you usually find talents to work with? Do you approach them or they come to you?
Alexandra : They usually come to us. We are very “closed doors” so to speak company as we want to keep working with talent that we often consider exceptional like some of our writers and mostly have projects and people that we know they are not a waste of time or wannabes but people who really intend to make it and have all the merit and plan to work on it and contribute to the goals we jointly set and not take us for granted.
Alexia: We read ALL QUERIES. Sometimes we find a diamond in the rough inthem and my assistants know how to spot them. It comes across in the goodmanners of those who seek us out, in how short and effective their pitch isand their bio/c.v . However, as Alexandra stated, becoming our clients is aprocess and we do not act on impulse or just because they are recommendedor have the credits. That¹s the reason why our clients stay with us foryears. The relationship that is developed is top notch and based on truth,realistic expectations and mutual respect.
Tell us about your relationship with Greece and if you have ever been in Greece.
Alexandra :We used to go to Greece every summer after Cannes as we still have family and a house there. We have been very busy traveling to other counties lately but we still hope to make it maybe this summer.
Alexia: My mother is Greek, my father is Italian. I started going to Greeceevery summer since I was 2 months old. I absolutely love it and have veryhappy memories. It’s been a few years since I have been back as my life isquite hectic but one day I would like to own a house in an island.
What are some of the challenges you have to face in your work?
Alexandra : Unpredictability. We are subject to the financial markets ofthe world as well as the political situations. We are seeing countries wedid not even consider years ago like China and India that are becoming amajorcompetition financially. Not for the quality of movies as Hollywood will always be number 1.
Alexia: There are an average of 300,000 scripts going around Hollywood a year. Very few get bought at script stage. It¹s all about packaging. There is also a surplus of ultra low budget low quality films/scripts that just clutter the market and stop the good ones from being sold/produced/distributed. Also the Internet can kill revenue of a film orincrease it. It’s a double edge sword but ultimately the Digital World and the Social Media outlets will rule this Industry very soon.
In what ways do you believe the film industry has changed after the economic crisis?
Alexandra : When there is a crisis there are more movies being made. I thinkbecause Movies are the cheapest form of Entertainment and people need it.
Alexia: The economic crisis have helped the Studio system lower theirotherwise insane production budgets. It has also brought a shift towardsmore uplifting material, especially family friendly. We all want to filmgood if we are going to pay money for it.
Have you ever thought to get involved in a film project in Greece?
Alexandra: Sometimes but we are so taken and busy here that we have hardlyenough time to take care of our business here.
Alexia: I would love to shoot a film in Greece. I would also love to helpsome Greek talent become known in the USA but before that happens there needto be some top scripts coming from Greece (commercial) which I have yet tosee , written in the most professional way, and some film makers who arehumble and want to make films that translate for the entire world, not justfor the Greek or European community.
What do you think about the Greek Cinema today and in what ways do you believe it could become better?
Alexandra: I grew up with the Greek Cinema of Vougiouklaki, Fotopoulos, Vassiliadou etc the feeling good real Greek soul black and white films and it is hard for me to relate to their Cinema today that I think has lost its“innocence” and authenticity. That said I know there is terrific talent inGreece.
Alexia: See my answer on 8. I also grew up watching the Finos Film movies,where there was song, dance, glamour and showing Greece at its best. I wishthere were more movies like MAMMA MIA, SUMMER LOVERS etc. but written andproduced and shot by Greeks.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Alexia: We are attached to produce and/or executive produce films in all budgets from 1.5 Million US to 40 Million US plus. Some are : LOLA RAY, ascience fiction franchise from the comic book by the same title. THE LOST PHARAOH, from Valerio Manfredi’s best selling novel PHARAOH which is high octane archaeological Da Vinci Code type adventure (Valerio wrote the Alexander the Great highly acclaimed novel which was set up at Universal with Baz Lurhman to direct). Also two family films, YOUNG DRAGONS which is a co production with China, in the vein of the Karate Kid, and GALLEON about the discovery of a Spanish Galleon off the coast of Florida containing a great treasure.Then a couple of thrillers, A NOBLE LIE about a UFO Government conspiracyupon the landing on Roswell, and SINS OF THE MIDNIGHT SONS from a publishedbook about a mysterious kidnapping in the desolate landscape of Alaska.Lastly the US feature length remake of a very successful Italian horrorshort film, ICE SCREAM, which won special jury mention in Venice, won manyfestivals and aired on MTV Europe with great ratings.
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