Vanda was born in Athens, Greece, to “the best Mum in the world”, a literature teacher, and a doctor father (as well as a doctor brother, doctor grandfather, doctor great grandfather…). She grew up in the beautiful lakeside town of Yannena, nestled in the mountains in the North West of Greece, where she spent an idyllic childhood bullying her younger brother into appearing on the radio shows she used to make up when she was 6.
Showing an early flair for producing she put together a theatre performance of The Poor, the Rich, and the Four Seasons at the age of 7, also starring in it; the play was performed under a tree in her favourite village, Monodendry. Her arts abilities also spread to music; playing classical piano from the same early age she spent 3 years performing with a 60 boy choir around Greece and Europe.
Inevitably, somewhere amongst her teenage years the angelic halo began to slip a little as she discovered the pleasures of nightclubs, but in spite of these moonlight jaunts Vanda continued to make Dr and Mrs Rapti proud at school; she turned up, studied hard, enjoyed tests, was regularly elected class president and also became president of the high school committee. Just before her 17th birthday she received a degree in piano from the Helleric Musical Academy (Hellinikon Odeion), who let her sit after hearing her play.
She had also decided by now that she wanted to study acting and law at the same time at university, trying to satisfy both the organised business Vanda and the arty creative Vanda as well. In 1994 she passed the entry exams to study law at the University of Athens, and after the first two years started on acting at the IASMOS Drama School, whilst still finding time to party, get into trouble and appear in films;
“My first ever audition was in front of a 35mm film camera, for the film Alexander and Aishe by D. Kollatos. The director tested me when he had started shooting the film cause he saw me hanging around at the shoot, he just said “put make up on Vanda” and stuck me in front of one of the cameras; one week later he decided to give me the leading role.”
In 1998, taking some time out from Athens, Vanda followed up on her course at IASMOS and came to London to study acting further at the Central School of Speech and Drama, leaving a little under a year later to take and pass the final law exams and take up a training position with one of Greece’s largest law firms Vgenopoulos and Partners, where she had the chance to work on a wide variety of cool cases and acquire a huge understanding of the practices of an international law firm. She was involved in civil and commercial litigation, corporate law, intellectual property, incorporation of companies and the interesting sounding marine fraud.
The art bug was still tickling though and she moved on to take up presenting and production management roles with Netmed Hellas, the Greek operator of digital, analogue and satellite TV, where she bacame a household name presenting 5 shows simultaneously for children and teenagers on K-TV, starring in the children’s movie Hot Chocolate by Vassilis Kessissoglou and presenting the 3rd World Summit on Media for Children.
She eventually qualified fully as a lawyer and joined the Athens bar in 2001. Returning to London later in the year she took her LLM in entertainment law at the Westminster University, specialising in film, and decided to hang out in England to develop a career here, landing the lead in two films No Winners by Kenan Hudaverdi and Map of Spills by Ben Matthias which broke her heart when it fell apart mid shoot.
She came across Coffee Films via the internet, arranged to meet with Steve Piper and in August 2002 joined the team as Director of Legal and Business Affairs, organising the incorporation of Coffee Arts and Media Ltd, drafting production agreements, dealing with intellectual property rights and taking on a variety of producing roles alongside Piper. She also works as a senior company lawyer for a large European broadcast network satisfying her unusual pleasure for drafting complicated legal documents.
“I want to make great independent films, films that I like to watch, like the Coens, Scorsese, Loach, or Kubrick. Yes my criterion is to satisfy millions of Vandas in the audience. So much of Hollywood is badly predictable, uninspired, and boring; I don’t know whether I despise people for liking it or whether I’m jealous that they can.”
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