How We Ended Up Shooting a Reality Show on a Little Island in Greece
It's the week before Christmas in 2021. We're hosting a reunion party for Season 2 contestants of The Outstanding Artist. Everyone is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, and Jake has a fierce game of table pong going. As we reminisce about Season 2, the artists share that their favorite challenge was the all-nighter, feeling it tested their grit and proved they could do anything. Asia says, "My least favorite challenge was running through the forest full of spiders, with webs sticking to my lips while searching for art supplies."
Brainstorming Gone Wild
The conversation soon turns to Season 3, and they begin asking what we plan to do. We start imagining. As we brainstorm, Jake suggests, "Wouldn't it be cool if we incorporated excursions to show how artists get inspired by living adventures? They could go hiking or white water rafting and then incorporate that into the challenge."
Another adds, "This season should feature artists from all over the world, not just American artists." I say, "It's true; we have graduates from all over the world. We just need to film somewhere else because they're still not letting people in due to COVID." Then Dimitra called it – as soon as she said it, every one of us knew it was destiny! Dimitra says, "What if we filmed it in Greece?!"
Jake says, "I bet Alex could put a crew together for us, and Ukraine isn't too far away." Alex owned a production company in Ukraine and had been on our radar to work with him. I say, "I'll start looking for a property in Greece to rent that can accommodate everyone and is suitable for filming." We start thinking about where to do it – maybe Pelion, but the hills are difficult with a car. Perhaps Crete! Or maybe one of our favorite spots up north, near Thessaloniki.
Turning Ideas Into Plans
We began to feel incredibly excited, envisioning all the possibilities and excursions. I would love the opportunity to share my culture with the world, rich with ancient arts and poetry. The hero's journey came alive in my heart at the thought of filming a season of The Outstanding Artist in my beloved Greece. I thought about the breathtaking scenery, the light, the sea, and the endless source of inspiration everywhere you look. The food! What a joy to share the incredible food – fresh fish, juicy tomatoes, delicious pies, and moussaka. We will dance on tables, lift our voices to the heavens, and create wonders to share with the world.
After months and months of searching in Greece for a property big enough, we finally found a place on the island of Spetses. Lianos Hotel, situated about a 15-minute walk to the center and a 10-minute walk to the beach and old port, was ideal. It had 12 rooms with little kitchens, balconies offering a gorgeous view of the sunrise lifting above the sea, and a beautiful pool and courtyard. We would have the entire place to ourselves! It was all coming together. We secured the hotel, paying in full, and it was non-refundable.
Choosing the Contestants
We received hundreds of applications for the show and chose 12 contestants. Not a single male answered the call, only women. We started to believe this was fate, that these women had an assignment to somehow shift perceptions of what an artist is and what an artist isn't. We knew each one had a strong story, passion, and grit. We chose them for these qualities and the art they created. We were only months away from stepping into this incredible adventure.
Challenges on the Horizon
Then, the war in Ukraine broke out. Our hearts ached for the Ukrainian people. We employ many Ukrainian developers, designers, and editors who were moving from bomb shelter to bomb shelter, trying to stay safe. Alex, our producer, called to tell us that they weren't allowed to leave, and his entire crew was stuck in Ukraine, unable to film The Outstanding Artist. This was an incredible setback but not nearly as challenging as what our Ukrainian friends were facing.
We reached out to everyone we knew, and over the next month, we assembled our own crew, utilizing some people from our media team and hiring some new people. We had to buy thousands of dollars in equipment, but we were determined. We had come this far, and the hotel was rented; we couldn't back out or change our plans.
From Despair to Determination
Without Alex leading the production team, we felt vulnerable and in over our heads. We didn't feel capable or prepared. Suddenly, it was up to me, Jake, Dimitra, and John to make this work. We hoped we weren't making a huge mistake. We began meeting weekly to plan and conceptualize the episodes. After just two weeks of these meetings, we realized that something bigger than ourselves was taking shape.
We saw the journey of an artist – the hero who arrives with her heart open and wide, ready for transformation. She bravely and humbly allows herself to be stretched publicly, risking the creation of terrible artwork and facing judgment and possible rejection. She generously shares her story, her obstacles, and her overcoming. She does this with love in her heart with the hope that it will inspire others to walk out their destiny and live out their hero's journey.
The Hero’s Journey Unfolding
Once we recognized this grand, romantic opportunity to bring people along to witness the wonder of The Outstanding Artist, we knew this plan was choreographed in heaven. That's when I realized that it's our edge, not our weakness, that we leap with two feet into big projects before we are ready. We have the innocence and naivety to believe somehow, we can do it. We live on the edge where our dreams intersect impossibility. We rely on God to guide us to a place of success and learn a million lessons along the way. This is our edge. We may look impulsive and naïve, but it's what has helped us create extraordinary things.
Join us each week to watch The Outstanding Artist. It's truly an epic tale of adventure, growth, transformation, and empowerment. The story spans 12 episodes and a finale, showcasing the entire hero's journey unfolding.