Ancient Greek Mythology at the Heart of Contemporary Filmmaker Dina Demetrius
Documentary and indie filmmaker, broadcast journalist, actress (with starring roles in more than 20 films), and writer (with two feature-length screenplays under her belt), Dina Demetrius has worked for ABC News, reported, written and produced a thousand-plus national and international stories for Nightline, Good Morning America, Prime Time and World News Tonight (just to name a few), has produced entertainment news for Access Hollywood, and written and produced for PBS nationwide. As owner and president of Artemis Entertainment, LLC, Dina consults on story structure, characters, film and TV production, and the process of film financing.
Impressive bio! But who, really, is the woman behind it all? To find out, I seized a rare opportunity to sit down with Dina Demetrius to find out what makes her tick. In spite of her celebrity-status resume and goddess-y good looks, I found Dina to be warm, unassuming, and exuding of a quiet strength. She graciously entertained all of my questions.
You’ve been a passionate storyteller and performer your whole life. Would you credit this passion to an innate gift, or were you, perhaps, groomed for the arts as a young person?
Well, I’ll let others determine if I have an innate gift for storytelling, but I definitely think my passion for it is innate. I wouldn’t say I was groomed for it so much as maybe it’s just part of my family’s DNA, and maybe part of my DNA as a Greek. My mother is a novelist and painter. But I think our culture is really dominated by storytelling, so I would say it was always a part of my internal and external environment. On the one hand, my parents would often tell stories of their childhoods growing up in Greece during WWII, the Greek Civil War, coming to America—everything. As a child, I preferred sitting quietly next to my parents as they exchanged stories with other adults, rather than playing with the other kids. I just soaked up stories wherever I could, and I knew that adults had more to tell than kids did! I guess on the inside, I feel so influenced by images and symbols that have meaning for me, that the best way I can articulate their meaning—to make sense of them—is to incorporate them in story.
Would you expand on how your Greek heritage informs your storytelling in the world?
Greece has such a long and illustrious history of storytelling, theatre, writing, film! How shall I put this? I don’t want to be mediocre; I’d like my talents and work to reflect proudly of my heritage. Whenever I’m around Greeks, a certain depth of emotion is elicited—something that I feel in my blood—that I tap into, and try and reflect back into the world. Every culture has its good and bad points, but the passion of the Greek soul is something that inspires me and draws me closer to a common humanity that is shared by all cultures.
You’ve named your company after the Greek Goddess, Artemis. How has Greek mythology been instructive or valuable to your life?
As I mentioned before, as a child I preferred the company of older people. They were the storytellers, and it was from my elders that I learned many of the Greek myths. One in particular serves as a paradigm for the way I think and operate in the world. It’s the myth of Arachne—the beautiful young tapestry weaver who was turned into a lowly spider by Goddess Athena. In the end, Arachne continues to weave, and the moral is that the work of the soul can never be denied.
Another message in this myth is a reminder to keep egoistic pride in check, but do what is your art. And at times, it’s necessary to stand up to authority, but do so with integrity and respect. As a child, I was upset that Athena, out of jealousy, was capable of wrecking this beautiful young woman’s life. It seemed so unfair. However, as an adult, I apply the story of Arachne to myself to say that regardless of circumstances, or where I am in relation to others, I still have to bring forth the gifts that were entrusted to me. Metaphorically speaking, one day I can be a beautiful young woman, or I can be a spider. I cannot be my circumstances; rather, I must be who I am through the circumstances. Whether in mythology or real life, I find it helpful to think on the courage of others to help shore up my own.
In today’s economy and world market, the fields of arts and communications have become more capricious than ever. What steadies you and drives you to continue on?
I think what keeps me going both as a journalist and in the arts is my unshakeable belief that stories transform us, that stories can heal. Everybody has their place in the world where they can transform or influence it through their engineering, their inventions, their financial understanding, through whatever their gift is. I know my place is in the world of story. So whatever is going on with the economy or the various industries that I work in, I’m going to find an avenue where telling a meaningful story will make a difference to someone. My father always wanted me to be a doctor, but this is my way of trying to heal people’s wounds; I guess because it works for me. The world will always have its capriciousness—but we can’t be capricious about the love and passion that God instills in our hearts. If it matters to us, then we have to be steadfast.
An aspect of your more recent work as a reporter is something you call “Journalistic Alchemy.” Would you tell us a bit about it?
Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is an unconscious connection among humankind. In this connection lies the power to affect one another—through good or ill—via the stories we tell one another and ourselves. Because I’m a journalist, I’m interested in what’s happening in the world. I’m drawn into what is real and epic in many ways. Rather than ignoring the news, or giving up and saying it’s all bad, there’s nothing I can do, and feeling victimized, I look at these stories to see how we mimic in our own lives what’s going on in the story. We can learn something from the story much in the way that we learn from myths and fairy tales. Because of our intrinsic connection as humans, we may as well use these experiences to make our world better.
Whether I’m covering a news story or just tuning in to something that interests me, I ask myself which part of this story is capturing my attention. This is probably the very point that I need to focus on in my own life. I’ve learned that every news event parallels our own lives. Whatever is grabbing our attention is doing so for a reason. There is a need for vigilance, especially toward whatever has a “hold” on us. We can find ourselves imprisoned by thoughts, circumstances, people. The “hold” is insidious and can sneak up; so we have to constantly be aware of who and what surrounds us and ask ourselves questions, such as, “is this bringing me closer to, or taking me farther away from my purpose.”
Journalistic Alchemy is communication via storytelling that ultimately translates into spiritual lessons. Journalistic Alchemy is realizing that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. At the end of the day, I get satisfaction from knowing that a story has sparked a mini-revolution in someone’s soul.
Like Goddess Artemis—always featured with bow and arrow, archetype of feminine prowess, protector of women, girls, pregnancy and labor, and wild places in the world—Dina’s work is to birth new ideas, midwife healing solutions, and help people feel safer, less isolated. Instead of a bow and arrow, the word, the camera and the stage are her tools. For Dina then, storytelling, be it in one of her films, TV productions or news pieces, is not about the “Hollywood ending,” but about human interconnectedness and inspiration.
Be on the lookout for Dina’s upcoming documentary film on one family’s life-saving work in the orphanages and squatter communities of Nicaragua. And tune in to http://storydive.com to catch some of Dina’s real-life mythical, alchemical stories.
This article first appeared on Greek Reporter