Born and raised in Dias d’Ávila, in the Bahia area of Brazil, Grego Belau, who has behind him studies in marketing and for two years also acting in São Paulo, after four years working as a model decided to give voice to his acting qualities. Although he is already working on a short film in the horror genre, Grego, who is charismatic and charming but also very communicative and likeable, arrived on the red carpet of the 80th edition of the Venice Biennale Film Festival thanks to Sentimental Stories directed by Xandra Popscu in competition in the Orizzonti short film section of the prestigious film festival.
If Grego’s roots include Brazil as well as Greece, while his work as a model brought him to Milan, his home now seems to be Berlin where he started this new adventure. The link, however, with Italy is strengthened precisely with the presentation of this debut of his in the romantic city of Veneto, and that is why we met him, to get to know him better and let him tell us about a well-promising path.
«In this new phase of my life I have learnt to be patient with myself, somehow I have become more mature in my decisions and less anxious»
Is this your first adventure as an actor? How was this experience? What have you learned about yourself doing this new chapter in your life?
No, no. Actually, I started acting in São Paulo where I studied acting for two years and made my first short film at National Institute of Cinema of São Paulo (InC), called Assassinos por Ódio, directed by Thiago Arruda. Also, I was always doing extras to see how a film set works. I did extra for several projects in Brazil.
I remember one project in which I had 3 seconds on screen and my whole family was reunited in the living room to watch it… of course I’d love to play a lead role but in life I believe that we have to respect the steps and the personal process to achieve our goals.
In this new stage of my life I learned to be patient with myself, somehow I became more mature with my decisions and less anxious. It’s true that everything has a right time.
«You can still dream high and have a low budget… You just have to know how to manage it… I would say it’s not always about money»
Let’s go back to the fashion moment. How did you begin modelling and how was the experience so far? Best/ most exciting moment in the fashion system till now?
I’ve started modelling when I travelled from my hometown, Dias dÁvila in Bahia, to São Paulo where I’ve got an invitation from a modelling agency in Milan and had my first contract and travel. I dreamed so much of being there: I remember when I was in my bedroom watching videos of runway shows and doing the same in the hall of the house. At that time, when I commented about being a model in Milan, for some people it was something impossible, but not for me. It never put me down.
One of my most excited works was an editorial when I was living in Sao Paulo. I always dreamed of doing something with helicopters. I remember that we had got a private airport to do a story based on Amelia Earhart’s life. The funny part was: I just had a phone, 10 reais (2 euros) and a dream. I’ve got the idea and shared it with a friend photographer. She showed me some models options, then we developed the whole concept together, I called the make-up and the styling saying «I have an idea but no money, would you like to join our team?». Then I had a whole team with me.
At that time, I shared an apartment with a girl whose boyfriend was a pilot. I asked him if he knew any airport where the project could be done, he gave me some contacts and right after that I called the first airport. They said it was only possible to do the shooting inside the hangar and I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted something really crazy on the airport runway… so I asked for another number and that’s when I found the perfect location. But I had no money to offer.
As my background is in marketing, I presented myself as a web and graphic designer and I talked about some works of mine, that could help the aviation company. In this way I was proposing a kind of exchange so they could help me. The proposal was accepted! The day of the shooting, I remember when the commander opened the hangar gate saying «You can choose what you want», and I was thinking «I don’t have money to pay the gasoline of a helicopter».
We’ve done some pictures around the hangar and of the helicopter on the ground… I still hadn’t said about to do something with the helicopter flying around… So I’ve asked that at the end of the day, showing some references, and the commander said “We have a pilot in training and he can help us. You can count on him”. We did it the way I had thought. It was so cool and so much adrenaline. At the end of the day, the team got a free flying tour around the area. At that time I was a new face and didn’t know so much about the industry. We’ve tried to contact all the magazines in Brazil and all of them said no, then a British one published it.
You can still dream high and have a low budget… You just need to know how to manage it… I would say it’s not always about money.
«I’ve started acting in college. It was something that I’ve done before. But it wasn’t in my plans to do acting now. When I’ve got an invitation from the director Xandra Popscu to do an audition it was unexpected»
Ups and downs of the modelling world?
It happened to me that a job was cancelled while I was getting ready in the studio and I had to return home. Or I had a dress cancelled before a fashion show… etc. I think the 70th Moncler anniversary fashion show was very special… I feel honored to be part of historic moments in fashion and this was one of them.
Let’s go back to acting. Was It something you wanted to do? Or is it something new and unexpected for you?
I’ve started acting in college. It was something that I’ve done before. But it wasn’t in my plans to do acting now. When I’ve got an invitation from the director Xandra Popscu to do an audition it was unexpected.
«I will never forget the experience I had in my debut as an international actor. The director Xandra Popscu has created a completely safe and comfortable environment for everyone»
Tell me something about the project and something about your character
It is a very special project. When you watch Sentimental Stories you feel totally in it. It’s as if you are part of a deeply emotional journey. Each frame is like a painting.
My character, Antonio, works in a harbor. Together with his girlfriend, Zina (Estelle Widmaier), he is preparing for an audition but he would rather she didn’t come along. In fact, he would do anything to go on this trip alone. They have known each other since they were teenagers. Antonio never had a good relationship with his parents and Zina became his “mother” somehow, creating a complicated connection: Antonio doesn’t like to be controlled by someone else but he still likes Zina… On their journey, they cross other people’s stories. Intersecting, their paths create a parallax view of heartbreak and desire, disappointment and hope.
How was working with the crew and what have you learned from them?
I worked with an incredible team. I will never forget the experience I had in my debut as an international actor. The director Xandra Popscu has created a completely safe and comfortable environment for everyone. She always asked if we were fine about some scene moments. I really appreciate that from her. During the pre-production of the movie, we had rehearsals in which we used various acting methods to create the connection between me and Estelle Widmaier because I didn’t know her at all. I also needed to learn some French to use for my character. As Estelle is from Haiti, I took some basic lessons from her.
«Berlin, as people say, ‘is a place to be’… It is a city of freedom but also of respect»
You live in Berlin. Tell us something about the city. Give us some tips and ideas for coming there. Which are the best places to see and the best things to experience?
I’m living here for two years now. Berlin, as people say, “it’s a place to be”. You can wear whatever you want, no one cares about it. It’s a city of freedom but also of respect. The night life is well known for the techno scene. But there’s so much more to explore… Depending on what you like and your taste, the city is full of museums, restaurants, parks, etc… If you’d like to do something else than learn about the Second World War… My personal suggestion is to rent a bike and go for a ride because the city is flat and you have bike lanes everywhere. It’s safe and great.
When becomes about food, here you find everything from everywhere. For breakfast or brunch Benedict (Uhlandstraße, 49) is my favorite place… If you like kebab or would like to try it for the first time… I recommend Ali Baba (Danziger Str. 2). Closely, on Sundays, there’s an open street market at MauerPark where you can find second hand clothing, vinyls… other various knickknacks. The market also features a large furniture tent. It’s a great experience. At the end of the day, you can go to Admiralbrücke and enjoy the sunset with nice music in the background. Another option for sunset: Tempelhofer Feld.
I wouldn’t recommend you to stay on the bike lane… here people take seriously the biking thing. Another tip is always to have cash with you, not all places accept credit cards!
«My dreams never end… I’ve just got a contract with an acting agency in Germany and now I’d like to play in a feature film; also I’d like to contribute more in the fashion industry»
The short movie will be presented in these days at the Venice Film Festival. Which was your first reaction in hearing this news?
I remember that I was at home when my director called me. I wasn’t so scared because she never calls me to tell bad news, but I never thought that it would be a big good one… She needed to repeat it four times because I didn’t understand and wasn’t believing. «Yes, we are in the competition at Orizzonti short section with Sentimental Stories and our premiere will be on September 7th». It took me days to get back to normal… Now it’s time to celebrate. The whole cast is amazing. I’m proud of everyone involved in this project.
Projects and dreams for the future?
The Power of The Strike directed by Dima Barch is coming soon. It’s a horror movie. I’m playing Rick. If you like horror movies… wait for it. My dreams never end… I’ve just got a contract with an acting agency in Germany and now I’d like to play in a feature film; also I’d like to contribute more in the fashion industry. It’s a long way ahead.
Photographer Nicola Surbera
Stylist Stefano Guerrini
Stylist’s assistant Piero Nuvoli
Grooming Lisa Lionello
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