Wild Bees, directed by Lefteris Charitos, is an original TV series set in the greek countryside of 1958. It became a hit overnight with the first episode broadcasting on Antenna TV channel, justifying Mr George Pofantis, Chief Content Officer of Antenna TV, the instigator behind the idea of an origian period greek TV series and Melina Tsampani, writer of the original script. Numbers ranging from 29% to 40% every night with as many as 2 million viewers and an average of 1.7 million every night makes it one of the biggest successes ever made for greek television.
Production has been massive considering that large sets were built including a whole village with streets, houses, a police department, mayor’s office and many different stores. Casting lasted four months and more than sixty (60) actors were cast. Kapa Studios (located in Spata Attiki in an area of 30.000 sq.m. in the suburbs of Athens including 10 sound stages) owned by Yannis Karayiannis (JK Productions) contributed the most to the success of the series. Second season is in pre-production.
Wild Bees tells the story of three sisters who are orphaned and have to fight against the powerful landowner of the area, in order to hold on to their land. They also come up against the patriarchal society. It is only two years after women in Greece were granted the full right to vote. The story begins with an arranged marriage, that does not last even a day. A murder will make the three sisters keep a deadly secret forever.
The Hellenic Film Commission presents an exclusive interview by Lefteris Charitos, the director and showrunner of the series Wild Bees (broadcasted by ANT1 Channel, Monday-Thursday, at 22:45).
- When did you start shootings after the pandemic? We started shooting on the 11th of May one week after the lockdown ended. We are one of the first sectors to go back to work. Wild Bees has been the first production to go back to work in Greece. In a way it was kind of an experiment to see if it can work. So far, all has been fine.
- What kind of challenges did you face because of the safety guidelines (i.e. intimate scenes, script adaptation, handling of cast and crew etc.)?
Before going back to work the scriptwriter and myself changed a few things. Kisses, hugs, body fights. All crew members had to wear masks and we are getting tested every other week. Gloves were not a must. Actors had to keep the proper distance which is probably the hardest to do directing wise.
- In what ways are productions affected in Greece because of the pandemic? Do you believe Greek production companies will be flexible and able to adjust?
Greece has been one the most successful countries in dealing with the pandemic. Death rates have been kept low and measures were taken early. That makes the country much safer than other countries for foreign productions to come and shoot. Many co-productions will also start happening with all necessary precautions.
- How do you explain the massive and immediate success of the series from the first episode?
Period drama is always a catchy thing. Wild Bees has been successful in four ways. First, the man who thought that this genre is needed in greek television, the Chief Content Officer for Antenna TV MR George Pofantis. Second is the original script written by Melina Tsampani that hit a nerve with greek people as it revolves around 1958, a period of great sentimental value to Greece. It also takes place in a small village and always small communities with secrets and dramas has been a good recipe for television. The third thing is the casting. For the first time I decided to cast theater actors that were totally unknown to the television. Great actors that television never approached. That was a big risk in that these people had no experience of the rhythms needed when shooting for television. The fourth is the producer Yannis Karayiannis (JK Productions) who risked a lot and invested both financially and sentimentally in such a big production.
- Do you believe actors from the series could participate in an international production filming in Greece?
I believe these actors could easily be part of a big international production. They are all amazing in what they do. Most speak more than one language, some of them have already worked abroad and I do think that greek actors should start to be part of foreign productions. The Durrells is a good example of that.
- Most of the shootings are taking place in Greek studios. Can you describe the facilities you are using? Are you satisfied? Can they accommodate an international production?
Our studios are quite big and we are happy to work there. There are a lot of newer facilities too and JK Productions owns state of the art studios too, Kapa Studios. Wild Bees has built many interiors of houses and a whole village at an exterior location. The cost was really high and the logistics around building it were complicated to realize. I highly recommend it for a foreign production.
- What does it mean to produce a Greek period TV series?
Producing a period piece for television may be one of the most challenging tasks in my profession; daily rhythm of shooting is a huge struggle, having to deliver a high production value series despite the relatively low budget, discovering locations untouched by time or having to make adjustments to avoid modernity may be time consuming. Wild Bees however has been a massive success and that gives us strength to pursue more difficult projects for the future.
Questions by Venia Vergou, Director of the Hellenic Film Commission
Lefteris Charitos’ short bio
Lefteris Charitos is a fiction and documentary film director. He studied film at the Royal College of Art in London. His feature documentary Dolphin Man (2017, Greece-France-Canada-Japan-Italy in co-production, with ARTE, French and Greek Film Centres, WOWOW, SVT, Knowledge Network, ERT, RTS) about the famous free diver Jacques Mayol, the real person behind Luc Besson’s cult film The Big Blue, has screened at the International Tokyo Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, Angers Premiers Plans and Thessaloniki International Film Festival. He has also directed many fiction and documentary series for Greek television, including the highly acclaimed history documentary series 1821 and The Journey of Food and the fiction crime series Zone Defence. Along with directing he has a long academic experience being a Film Production coordinator and lecturer at SAE Creative Media College.