Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Academy of Cinema: Norman I. Cohen

Norman Cohen                   Athens 2006

The former Hollywood film producer, Norman I. Cohen came to Athens, Greece to start up the ACADEMY OF CINEMA. By so doing he absorbed the Greek atmosphere which he likes so much. At the same time he wanted to offer to Greek actors, film makers and script writers something special, namely how to promote and to upgrade the film industry in Greece. This would involve learning to work together and to become really professional in what one was doing. All this judgements and advices are based on the experiences Norman I. Cohen had made over the years.

He would maintain that "the film industry is one of the most complex organisations and you must know how to do it!"

He would furthermore explain his way of going about things as it was very much like setting up an entirely new business. During such elaborations he would refer to some other things he was constantly thinking of. For one, promotion of the Greek film industry would involve teaching young actors how to act in front of a camera. His reason for saying that was quite simple: "Most of the time Greek actors are trained only to perform on stage but it is entirely different story once you have to act in front of the camera."

Having said that, he would include as well good writers to explain how they developed their story. "You don't just go out and shoot a film. For that you need a good script for any good film is really based on "a good story". Hence he brought from the United States to Greece writers such as George Crane, author of 'Master of the Bone' and 'Beyond the House of the False Lama'.

And he would distinguish them from script writers, or those who would adapt a novel to become a script for the next film. "That adaptation is not easy at all," he would caution, "and that is why so few go really into the film industry." It seems as if writers would develop suddenly a mental bloc when they knew everything written may be cut since in a film the visual images do dominate over everything else. "Yet you can have some very good films who take the text as it is much further and add something."

In Athens, Socrates Kabouropoulos from EKEVI, the National Book Centre, had been organising during the Winter months in Athens every Sunday the screening of a film based on a novel. But that is not the same kind as creating a painting on the basis of a photo or converting Thomas Mann's 'Death in Venice' into a film. Fore mostly Norman I. Cohen would speak about the dialogue in the film in reference to the key script. "If that does not exist, then both the actors and the director are going to be lost."!

Norman Cohen gives such advice as to make people take the initiative. He wishes to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in a good, not a bad sense. Repeatedly he would see while in Athens or elsewhere in Greece how many good talents are wasted in this country. Many of them end up just destroying themselves even if given the chance to perform or to do something like a small film. It seems as if many a times when there would be a distinctive need to speak up and present their projects to whoever could decide about means to realize the project e.g. television producer, they would prefer to undermine their position and loose the opportunity to do something concrete.

His advice is everyone should seek a practical linkage between the financial side and the more technical as well as aesthetical one. Details matter at certain times, in other cases they do not. It is impossible to share some ideas with others for even the best friends will not understand oneself and go along with the idea, if one is not convinced oneself that this is makable. This conviction must come from inside, from every person. Always one should be aware that there is still a long way to go before one qualifies at the next, higher level.The film industry leaves little space for illusions about the 'self'.

Norman I. Cohen wishes to give through his advice orientation. He wants especially his friends to become not merely more practical from whatever point of view, but equally they should strive for becoming highly artistic in a world badly in need of such good work. Unfortunately this world is defined by crude business practices and most unfortunately bad politics.

Coming into contact with Norman I. Cohen helps to perceive differently those who have come through the Hollywood Film Industry. In Europe, critics would explain the dominance of Hollywood through power, money and a vast redistribution system, but they fail to mention that good practices do not come about without also an ethical spirit. That links to intellectual integrity and in becoming engaged in society where others would not think about doing something in that specific area.

For example, Norman I. Cohen has been doing a prison programme for the past ten years in the state of New York. It consists of teaching inmates business practices, so that they have something to rely on when they get out. The biggest hurdle is illiteracy as many prisoners grew up in broken homes, with single parents and never had a proper schooling. The whole problem begins when someone finally confesses that he cannot read and write. That is a high percentage. Norman I. Cohen has made the experience that these people are often more honest than the ones outside of prison, but if over thirty it is most likely that they had committed a second offense and are back in jail so that they harden. If there is any chance to reach those who need resocialisation the most, then the younger inmates. In short, good films come about due to a true knowledge of human reality and this means as well not to forget those who are wasting away their time behind walls.

Among many films Norman Cohen developed and produced under his public company banner, Co*Star Entertainment, Inc., were


Norman Cohen at Opening of Exhibition at Byzantine Museum 26.May 2010

Now that Norman Cohen has set sight on the full implications of 'global culture', it means that the Academy of Cinema will begin to operate as well in Auckland, New Zealand. He aims to bring students from abroad to New Zealand in order to benefit from excellent conditions prevailing there. When first visiting that country he was amazed how clean it was, environmentally speaking, with people discouraged by official policy to take the car, but use instead bicycle, public transportation and much more to go everywhere on foot. It has all the appearances of a sanctuary where he can leave behind the Greek chaos, at least for a while. For knowing Norman I. Cohen he is too much in love with Greece as to ever leave it out of his map of places to where he would like to return.

HF 4.12.2010

For further information about the Academy of Cinema


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