‘Write what you know’: Danielle Stamoulos’ Greek heritage inspires her creative works

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Danielle Stamoulos has had a long-lasting relationship with film – one that started from young and has transformed into an impressive career full of acting, producing and writing roles.

The multi-talented Greek Australian talks to The Greek Herald about her journey to film and how growing up Greek in Australia paved a path for her in acting and inspired some of her upcoming creative works.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Danielle Despina Stamoulos. I’m an actor and writer across Film/TV and theatre. I went to acting school a while ago now and recently completed a Masters of Screenwriting at Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

My family are from Samos originally and they migrated here back in the 1960s, like every other immigrant. Without their sacrifices of course I wouldn’t be able to stubbornly pursue a career in storytelling. When I’m not acting on stage or in front of the camera, I’m often working various jobs in my industry, obsessively writing and working on my own projects. I’m very grateful right now that I’m able to do that and be constantly in collaboration with other really exciting talent in my industry, people I really admire. 

What led you to film?  

Well, I can say I’ve always had the love for it since a young girl, especially reading or watching hopelessly romantic Baz Luhrmann or period drama films on repeat – an unhealthy attachment I still have. I can say that acting led me to film first and foremost.

I grew up very performer/arts focused. I went to Newtown Performing Arts for Drama, was a lover of plays and then got into ACA (drama school), worked in independent theatre and it was only until recently things started to really flow for me behind the camera as well. A lot of the jobs I was getting in recent times were in writing and Film/TV development.

How do you portray the Greek Australian experience through your work?

My Greek Australian experience is always informing my work, it’s hard for it not to. It’s one that is a lot more complex, intersectional and no doubt different to my parents or grandparents’ experiences. Honestly, I believe that my Greek Australian experience always straddles a tension between inheriting the stories, fears, conservative traditions and triumphs of my ancestors.

It has been a challenging journey of trying to both liberate myself from it, as well as embrace it. As an artist, I get to redefine my own path and what “being Greek” means to me. I made a personal commitment to myself that I would continue to explore what this means in brave ways in my creative work. 

How has your Greek heritage influenced your work?

It’s been a massive influence! People always say ‘write what you know.’ I’ve done that, I am doing that, writing my own Greek Australian feminine experience through story. It’s been a challenging but enriching experience so far. I often like to confront a lot of taboos. Also, what it means to carry the fears, traumas and struggles of the women before us in our family.  

But I realised something a while ago now. It’s not enough to just ‘write what you know.’ I once got taught in an acting class by the well-known film director George Ogilvie (sadly passed now), that I have to look back to my ancestors. He told me that’s where I will find my voice. So, I did, and a world of forgotten stories opened up to me when I discovered my grandmothers’ stories of survival, oppression and hardship. At times extremely heartbreaking. I also observed my sister, my mother and other Greek women in my family and what they were experiencing. By looking back and discovering ‘what I didn’t know,’ I realised I wanted to shine a light on womens’ voices unheard of and unseen.

I usually also look to Greek mythology and the feminine myths in them. I’m inspired by their challenging stories of female silence, transformation, oppression, love, sex, rage, the whole Greek lot! It’s influenced the way I work because I’m always looking to liberate those stories from their oppressive frameworks and find new but relevant ways to tell them, that can still relate to our modern struggles today, specifically for women. Themes in my writing work are often circulating around self-determination, flawed female friendships, defiance against oppressive systems, sexuality and what it means to inherit patterns from women before you. I really love this quote I heard once which was “you don’t live a life, you live a pattern.”   

What’s next for you?

I recently made a soon-to-be released short film which was inspired by a Greek myth, and also combines the story of my grandmother’s experience in proxenio, and the experiences of Greek promised brides that were engaged to Greek men in Australia via photographs in the 1960s.

I also am busy continuing to develop a digital supernatural cringe comedy series called Curse of the Virgin with co-producer Nicole Delprado and also Executive Producers Barry Gamba and Bec Bignell. I was also fortunate enough to recently work with the screen and stage company Co-Curious, supported by a Netflix Creative Equity Fund that supports underrepresented writers, to develop my own original comedy-fantasy series. There’s a lot going on but I’m very grateful! I get to continue to hone my craft and storytelling sensibility. 

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