RUMI'S RUMBA, 19min., USA
Directed by George Kostopoulos
Professor Johnson, a college poetry professor, lectures his students on a poem by Rumi. When class finishes, one of the students, Olivia, approaches the professor with a question about the poem. This leads into a romantic fantasy musical sequence. Conflict arises soon after when Dean Cox and his secretary, Miss Flannigan, accuse Professor Johnson of exploiting Olivia.
Get to know the filmmaker:
Tell us about your family background and when did you decide to become a composer?
I grew in New Jersey in a small town not far from New York City. My parents, John and Carmela, two 1st generation Americans, were both artistically inclined, as is my sister, Carolyn.
My mom, the daughter of Italian immigrants from the province of Potenza, was a housewife and a secretary. She loved entertaining friends by singing popular songs. She even composed a couple herself, demonstrating a talent for melody and lyrics. Mom also enjoyed writing poems and editorials, many of which were recited on the radio or printed in local newspapers.
My dad was the son of Greek immigrants from the Peloponnesus. After serving in World War II, he studied drawing and painting at an art school, eventually settling into a career as a draftsman/designer.
Very handy with tools and wood, he designed and built many of the cabinets in the family house. A fine baritone, he sang at church and in choral groups, often as soloist. In his later years Dad spent a lot of his
time crafting whirligigs and putting together a booklet on how to make them.
My sister, the founder and owner of Carelli Costumes, had a long and productive career making costumes for Broadway shows as well as for the annual Spoleto Festival held in Charleston, South Carolina.
As for me, I decided to become a composer when I was about 15 years old after having started composing little ditties on the piano that we had in our house. Already playing trumpet in elementary school, I started taking piano lessons and also learned to play guitar. After graduating from high school, I chose to immerse myself deeply in the study of music by majoring in the subject at Kean College. I earned a B.A. degree upon graduating in 1979.
Films that inspired you to become a composer/filmmaker?
I’m an old movie buff. As a teenager I was enchanted by Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies such as “Top Hat”, “Swing Time”, “Gay Divorcee” and “Shall We Dance”. Watching the ballet scene in “An
American in Paris” for the first time was especially thrilling for me because it exposed me to the music of George Gershwin. In general, I was inspired by many of the old movies of the ‘30s, 40s and ’50, especially the ones starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, James Stewart, William Powell, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford, and directed by Elia Kazan, Michael Curtiz, William Wyler, Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, and with musical scores composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Miklós Rózsa, Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein.
Who were your biggest musical influences?
I grew up listening to the popular and rock music of the 60s and early 70s. A few of my heroes were The Beatles, The Who, Yes, Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake & Palmer. In my later teens I discovered and became
a big fan of the great American songwriters: Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, and above all, George Gershwin, whose music I was especially crazy about. As a music major in college
I was educated in the music of all the different classical music periods. Bach and Beethoven were just two of my many important classical music idols. In 2000, I went through a big Kurt Weill phase.
The most challenging film project you worked on. And why?
I took courses at the New York Film Academy in 2013 and 2014 where I learned the various aspects of the art of filmmaking including producing, writing, directing, shooting, editing, sound recording, interviewing and working with actors, singers, dancers, etc. I was completely overwhelmed during the making of my thesis film “Rumi’s Rumba”, sort of a black comedy featuring a music/dance sequence. By far this was the biggest project I’d ever taken on in my life. I wrote the script in February of 2014, then went through the lengthy process of interviewing talent, scouting location, finding a DP, sound person, choreographer and filling all the other positions I could think of that needed to be filled. We were
scheduled to shoot in May, but I just wasn’t ready. Terrified, I pulled the plug on the shoot a few days it was supposed to happen. I regrouped, rescheduled the shoot for August, but still was nowhere near ready with less than a week to go before the shoot date. My wife, a film editor herself and very knowledgeable regarding filmmaking, told me that I must get a producer. She did a quick search for me and selected a
producer named Ramfis Myrthil. “Call this guy”, she ordered. “He looks good”. And Ramfis sure was good! In fact, he saved the day! “It will be a walk in the park for me”, he boasted, and he wasn’t kidding! In less than 48 hours, Ramfis did what I couldn’t do in many months, which was to bring in all the essential people to fill every required position, many of which I was totally unaware. He was like a magician the way he made everything materialize almost overnight. He was so well connected and knew every little detail that needed to be taken care of. The original lead actor, who had been with me since the onset of the project, clashed with my new producer and thus had to be replaced ASAP. Ramfis brought in
Greg Amici. Without having sufficient time to memorize his lines, Greg expertly improvised most of his dialogue during the shoot, in my opinion, greatly improving on my original script. The whole thing came
together magically in the mere 3 days of shooting time we were allotted, at the end of which there wasn’t a minute left to spare. It was like a miracle, very surreal for me, like an out-of-body experience. And the
funny thing was, it seemed as if I hardly had to do anything myself during those 3 days of shooting, other than arrive to the set and say ‘action’ and ‘cut’ periodically.
Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?
Lately I’ve been making music videos exclusively. This has become my method of promoting myself as a composer and promoting my musical compositions. I believe that a music video is a powerful way of “showing off” a piece of music, combining it with meaningful imagery to create a story, a context, a mood, a feeling, which can impact the viewer/listener in ways that the music alone cannot.
What’s your all-time favorite movie and why?
I have many favorites. If I had to select just one, I think it would be “The Maltese Falcon”, the 1941 version with Bogart and Mary Astor, directed by John Huston. I’ve seen it many times and am always mesmerized by the ensemble character acting of Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and everyone else in the movie. I’m also a big fan of “The Bandwagon”, the musical with Fred Astaire directed by Vincent Minelli and choreographed by Michal Kidd. But there’s really so many other great movies that I also
If I could work with anyone if the filmmaking world, it would be Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino.
But just the thought of it is very intimidating, I admire them both so much.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m very into astrology. When I was in my 20s I studied astrology intensively and even wrote my own computer program to do the calculations. I used to give readings frequently to friends, family members
and anyone else willing to receive. In addition to astrology, I’ve been involved on and off over the years in various spiritual and personal development groups and activities: Landmark Education, Buddhism,
Kundalini yoga, Justin Sterling Men’s Weekend, TM, EFT, Gurdjieff meditation, to name a few. I’m also an exercise enthusiast. Always have been since I was young. I once thought of becoming a personal trainer and took a 6-month study course in 2010. The older I’ve become, the more important exercise has become for me. My dad was a good role model. Even into his 90s he maintained his routine of waking up at 5:30am and doing morning exercises. Vitality and stamina are so crucial when it comes to pursuing and fulfilling one’s dreams and aspirations.
The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.
My wife, Lenore, has always loved, encouraged, supported and advised me. I haven’t felt alone since I met her on August 1, 2004.
What was the most important lesson you had to learn as composer/filmmaker?
Be persistent. Take actions, daily, even if it’s only baby steps. Keep planting seeds. Some are bound to take root and sprout.
What keeps you motivated?
The desire to stay healthy, be productive, make a positive impact in the world, fulfill my destiny, whatever that may ultimately be.On set, the most important thing is: Staying present and centered, being a clearing for talent and genius, generating positive contexts.
The project(s) you’re most proud of:
I think my most impressive credit to date is a musical work I composed for brass sextet, “Prelude & Fugue in Dm.” The Bay Brass, an elite classical ensemble, performed the piece in December 2003 at their annual Christmas concert in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Fortunately, the performance was recorded and I recently got the idea of producing a music video as a way of showcasing the recording.
Through the Fiverr website I found and connected with a super talented filmmaker/editor named Bruno Taniguchi who did an incredible job selecting and editing stock footage to generate beautiful imagery for
my piece, creating a fantastic story and backdrop for the music. “The Big Apple Grind” is another musical work I composed for brass sextet. I hired Bruno for this one too and he created a brilliant “film noir” styled music video.
I’m also proud of the video I produced for my song “Love Comes Quietly”. I composed the melody of this song in the early ‘70s, setting some words from a children’s book by Joan Walsh Anglund. The rest of the lyrics were written 25 years later by a singer/songwriter named Mardi Jayde who I came to know. “Love Comes Quietly” is a great wedding song in my opinion! Lenore and I had it sung at our wedding!
I’ve been submitting the above music videos, along with others, to film festivals and am enjoying some successes with these videos getting selected and winning awards. I probably would never have produced
these videos were it not for the new technologies and social media of today. It’s much easier making movies, videos, recordings in this current day and age than ever before. It’s much easier connecting with talent from all over the world. There are more film festivals than ever before and it’s easy to submit films to them!
Your next projects?
More music videos coming!
Please share with us where people can find you on social media, so our readers could keep track of your career.
The music videos I’ve been producing are on my youTube channel at:
I’ve also composed a significant body of piano music which I’ve made available in illustrated books sold on the Etsy website at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WhirlyBooks
I’m also on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/george.kostopoulos.942