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Greek Director Picks Up the Tab for Her Film ‘Marjoram’

After film’s funding falls through, Olga Malea's tale of economic woe hits too close to home

Making movies in Greece these days is an odyssey, laments helmer Olga Malea, who was left holding the bag in June when the government pulled the plug on bloated pubcaster ERT.

ERT owes Malea co-production coin for “Marjoram,” a psychological drama about a mother-daughter relationship in which an 11-year-old strives to win a TV kiddie cooking contest to please her mom — and to help pay the bills.

In terms of narrative, economic woes are only the backdrop of the film; but in terms of production, the crisis is the main element.

Prominent Greek production shingle Studio Ata, which had committed to cover the bulk of the pic’s €300,000 ($393,000) budget, went bankrupt and shuttered in March 2012 after four decades in biz, four months before the pic’s shoot was set to start.

Undeterred, Malea forged on, and produced “Marjoram” under her own shingle, Malea Prods., with a mere $106,000 in place from co-producers Nova and ERT.

ERT still has to make good on $33,000 of the $66,000 the pubcaster invoiced to Malea as paid. “I truly hope it will eventually be paid, otherwise I will have to pay VAT tax on it; it’s a weird, surreal situation,” she says.

Cast and crew worked for scale and potential revenue points.

In April, distrib Feelgood opened “Marjoram” on three screens in Athens. It reached a small but satisfactory 3,000 admissions over six weeks.

The picture marks Malea’s first foray into drama following five comedies — all have been hits, making Malea among her country’s best-known directors.

The helmer says she’s learned her lesson. “Maybe I will write another psychological drama like ‘Marjoram’ someday, but I won’t shoot it unless I have a producer,” she vows.

Meanwhile, she’s shopping around her next project. And yes, it’s a comedy.

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