Niki Lambropoulos: “Creating a supportive environment is also pivotal”

Share everything, even your time, your abilities, your energy with people. The gap we create in ourselves is taken from our better self. Every time there is a grey zone between what you know and where we’re going, our dream. This is where there the painful struggle is located and where we need help and […]

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Share everything, even your time, your abilities, your energy with people. The gap we create in ourselves is taken from our better self. Every time there is a grey zone between what you know and where we’re going, our dream. This is where there the painful struggle is located and where we need help and support to advance to the next level. Share unconditionally.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Niki Lambropoulos. Niki was born in Ancient Olympia, Greece. She studied screenwriting in Los Angeles and London. After 12 years of living, studying and working in London and Paris as a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher, she decided to transfer her skill set to the creative entertainment industry. Her experience equips her uniquely to write character-driven feature scripts in unique worlds. Her writing communicates the meaning and emotion of the story as well as awareness and experience of diverse society structures and worlds, original yet highly relatable characters and emotional roller-coasters. She merges history and past with present, reality and future the way we experience them. Member of The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Niki! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up as a happy child in Ancient Olympia, a small village in Western Greece. It is the place the Olympic Games were born. My dad owned the first open air cinema in the West Coast, so I grew up really happy, playing in the fields, observing flowers bloom, plants grow, ants carrying their food. I remember myself arranging the chairs in the cinema, watching the movies, experiencing exciting feelings, watching people enjoying themselves. These images are vivid in my memory. My love for nature and cinema was implanted at a very early age. Both my father and my grandmother were excellent story tellers. My grandmother, Niki, used to tell fairy tales around the fireplace with my sister in the cold winter nights; these were the first stories I remember. My mom had bought us the classics, Julius Vern, Charles Dickens, the Brontës. Even now my dad continues with his storytelling; I got him a voice recorder to keep the stories from being forgotten.

It was natural to me to write and draw about the ways I experience life in cinematic ways in my textbooks. I also used to stress the words that had more impact in a sentence. My teachers thought I was copying my stories from books and I had to sit separately for the exams. I vibrantly remember my childhood.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

As with most educational systems, imagination and creativity stops the moment we have to study for university admission exams. I graduated as a primary school teacher and found a couple of publication houses in Athens to publish my novels at the time. The critique was devastating. I quit writing altogether. I moved to London for postgraduate studies. During my first month in London, I registered for the amazing creative writing class at Central Saint Martins; this course still exists! After 12 years living, studying, and working in London, I went back to Greece to help with the crisis. But that world reacted unexpectedly; as if I were facing a mirror, provoking professional and personal forces to deconstruct my world, my personality, and my character. My ego was completely shattered. I had to decide to stand up, pick up the pieces and glue them together. Well, I could reconstruct any personality I wanted, so I decided to reconstruct the best version of- me! I embraced my 14-year-old self when both my Greek and English language teachers thought I was cribbing my stories. I decided that this should be my job: deconstruct and reconstruct characters and situations in crisis. I also realized that the harsh critique so many years ago was complementary to screenwriting — the pace was too fast, too much tension, I had to write 10 pages out of every single one. Nobody grasped that I was a screenwriter at a very young age.

Now, as a I write stories, I punch down pain, sorrow, and despair until they crack into light. That knowledge functions as an anchor now; my themes are the underdog, fish out of water, identity quest, coming of age, turning youth and innocence into heroism, acceptance, marriage, family, love and friendship, innovative social structures. My network has expanded; I cooperate with amazing people and I actively participate in screenwriting communities in London and Los Angeles. I have been a finalist in several screenwriting contests and film festivals, and 2 short stories are on the road to production. Rising from my fragments to the stars.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When Covid-19 hit Greece, the government decided on a total lockdown. We had to text the relevant authorities just to go out for food, pharmaceuticals, or even a 20 minutes’ walk. Every time, several times a day. There was panic, fear, despair, crisis. The University of Patras, where I’m currently working, had to make the switch to a 100% online operation. Since I had to be indoors, I decided to take advantage of it. I wrote an animation script in 3 months, this is The Little Tiny Superstars, that immediately took off in festivals and contests; and a second quarantine script during the online London Screenwriters Festival in June, my own Journey to the Centre of the Earth. This was something I always wanted to write ever since I was a kid as the knowledge about the Earth has changed as well as storytelling. As with my previous personal crisis and stories, I turned restrictions into graceful situations once more.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

That was my first script. I wrote an epic story following Stephen King’s advice On Writing to the point; yes, I felt Homer speaking to me in my head and ancient Greek storytelling blood running in my veins. When I finished it, to me it was the best story ever told. I locked it in my drawer; waited for a month, following Stephen King’s suggestion and took it out. Went to a wonderful coffee shop, grabbed my coffee as an accomplished writer and started reading. It was the worst writing ever; a patchwork of everything I had ever read. I smiled. Yes, Stephen King was right, we have to throw away our first 1000 words; writing is refined thinking.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

These days I cooperate with Julie Olympia Cahannes, a young screenwriter director producer in Zurich, Switzerland on a short script taken to production. Also, with my Canadian friend and amazing screenwriter, Julie Sandwell, as well as with my manager in London, Sidd Danis, we decided to work on a longer form narrative based on an innovative idea for a TV miniseries. There are also ideas for new feature film scripts germinating — these are plans for next year.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

It is natural for me to be surrounded by small groups of people which is translated into my casts in the scripts, this is original, diverse, and exciting character assembles. You may call my approach inclusive storytelling. It is impossible to grasp real life perspectives on my own. As with the story with the blind men and the elephant, reality is the common locus where we share our perspectives and our hearts. In my first quarantine animation script, The Little Tiny Superstars, the protagonist is a paraplegic boy and a physics genius with great imagination and problem-solving abilities. The characters complement each other, bringing qualities from different cultures, mindsets, even troubles, speaking their own independent and unique voices.

There is an ongoing discussion about under-representation in the creative industry, but this is only real life reflected on our movies. Once a minority in any group, he or she or they know how it feels like to be left in the corner or even bullied and mistreated. Standards are needed to encourage equal representation behind and in front of the camera to better reflect the diversity of the cast, crew as well as the audience.

I’m so proud of Greek American Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures, and Academy governor along with DeVon Franklin who lead the effort for equality and inclusion standards. These were adapted to serve the specific needs for new representation and inclusion standards of the Academy. These are great steps in the right direction engaging a diversity of creators towards the realistic and authentic experience of the viewer. It would help normalize those groups deemed as “minorities” which would assist in creating wider platform of acceptance within society.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone had recognized my screenwriting skills when I was much younger. Children need to be engaged in diverse situations with experts to discover their talent.
  2. The first draft is the first layer, possibly the most obvious plot, characters, and solutions. As with reality, a story works in unseen layers of story, action, audience engagement, and insightfulness. I come to this conclusion every time I think I finish a story as amazing surprises appear in every reading. My final draft is revealed when a final insight strikes which is significant in the whole story, and this is the moment when I write The End.
  3. Produce short films, cooperate closely with actors and directors, see how a script is viewed from their perspective. During the London Screenwriters’ Festival, I have met directors, actors, directors of photography, composers and editors which brought insights in the way they viewed my story. Filmmaking is the ultimate team collaboration business.
  4. Once you turn your life upside down and reinvent yourself, you can always do it again. At the lowest lows of our existence, we stand up and find our own ways to turn everything around. Now, I’m more flexible than ever, even more so than when I was much younger.
  5. Feed and support the creative child in you. I was striving for an academic career neglecting my creative self who was suffocating and struggling to come out. These can be combined as well, for example, be a professional screenwriter and a teacher. And one more.
  6. As with life, screenwriting has ups and downs, never take a bad feedback or no for an answer; perhaps this was not for you after all.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It is a tough industry with never ending rejections, and at the same time it attracts obsessive and vulnerable creative individuals working for long hours; it is also a marathon, not a sprint, and therefore, work life balance and following a healthy routine are crucial factors to sustain creativity. According to Aristotle, excellence is built out of good habits. I get up every morning, have a shower, put on my business clothes, and sit at my PC for at least 2–3 hours. This is how I tackle the writers’ block. Then I exercise or go for sea activities like open sea swimming and scuba diving, used to go out with friends but not now. I miss human connection now but online collaborative work on zoom, attending zoom sessions with accomplished screenwriters can be an alternative. Also being an active screenwriters’ communities’ member advances my skills. Meditation also helps to remind yourself that center and core, silencing out loud conscious self to bring to surface what we don’t know and reach the depths of our existence. We understand humanity by understanding ourselves.

Creating a supportive environment is also pivotal. The book The Eureka Factor by my good friend John Kounios and Mark Beeman has specific guidelines of how to be increasingly creative. I also swimming in the sea and scuba diving; I feel close to my core and free in the sea, reminding myself the reason for writing in the first place. I follow their advice and now I have the opposite problem, too many ideas, wild and vivid imagination, the most unique yet quaintly interesting stories!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Share everything, even your time, your abilities, your energy with people. The gap we create in ourselves is taken from our better self. Every time there is a grey zone between what you know and where we’re going, our dream. This is where there the painful struggle is located and where we need help and support to advance to the next level. Share unconditionally.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We can definitely cover quite a bit of distance on our own. But only with the help and support of our family, friends, and colleagues can we advance and be happy in life. There are many people who helped me in my life such my friends and family. My tutors in London, Fintan Culwin and Xristine Faulkner; during my PhD I was reading Dan Brown’s books to advance my computer science thesis, imagine that! Both my supervisors were excellent writers and published authors, so they were great inspiration for me. Short sharp sentences have their roots in my PhD practice. I remember my thesis being filled with fluorescent stickers throughout. In the end, there was a full stop missing!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Yin and yang, male and female, strong and weak, rigid and pliable, heaven and earth, light and darkness, thunder and lightning, cold and warmth, good and evil…the interplay of opposite principles constitutes the universe; this is a quote from Confucius that applies to my life. I had to find my bright light in a crisis every time. The word crisis comes from the Greek word crisis which means judgement. We judge the crisis consequences and search for the problem structures as reality proves to be other than expected, even disillusionment about how life magically works. As with the hero in his journey, we stare into our hearts and discover the moments and the reasons we are happy. Take the advice from someone who came back from darkness holding a movie script. And be prepared for something that will not be working in your happiest and most productive times and projects. There is no absolute perfection.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes, that would be Nia Vardalos. First and foremost, Nia is one of my favorite and most admired screenwriters and actress, an open-hearted, strong, and sensitive woman. With my manager in London we come up with funny stories about the ways English words come from Greek words as in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and we still play it! Only recently did I discover she comes from my favorite place in Greece. The Vardalos family are from Kalavryta; people from Kalavryta are just like Nia, open-hearted, independent, no wonder the war for the Greek independence started there. Visiting the monastery where the first warriors gave their vow on the first Greek flag to be free or die still gives me goosebumps. It would be great to have breakfast with Nia at Kalavryta after a morning family walk in the amazing woods with local feta cheese, nuts, stoned-baked bread, and olive oil, but Los Angeles would also be great as I haven’t visited the City of Angels yet!

How can our readers follow you online?

It would be an honor. This can be via my IMDb profile

I’m also active on Twitter


And my Facebook Page

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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