1. Your film has Official Selection winner a in festival Best Feature Film Award. How was
the film inspired?
My film “Le CIneaste - a director’s journey” won the Best Director Award for Feature Film in November 2020 and was selected as finalist in Best Feature Film Award in January. It also won Best Picture award in the Montreal Independent Film Festival this month. The idea of this film came in a transition moment in my career. I was stuck with a film project for years due to co-production problems and I could not start production yet, so I decided to make something in the meantime showing the same situation I have encountered with my project. It’s quite an autobiographical story. I wanted to show the hidden side and even the dark side of the film industry, but in an ironic way. So I started to write the script in February 2019 and we started shooting in May the same year in Cannes. The shooting went on until December in London, Italy, Germany and Croatia. The first cut was finally ready in May 2020, despite the world lockdown and the pandemic situation. The film is completely self financed so the budget was kept at a minimum and the production restrictions at maximum. The story is inspired by all the experience I made in almost 25 years in the international film industry. I wanted to show the market and the production side of the film making process. A reality every young filmmaker should see or at least be aware of. A dear producer friend of mine said about my film: “it should be screened in film schools to show the film students what today film industry really is about”. To make an independent film today is extremely difficult mainly due to the fact that you have to deal with all sort of people and most of them really have no clue about films and cinema. The only thing they care about is money. I also thought it was the right moment to make a film like this. In today scenario, cinema has inevitably changed. The online platforms have changed the way films are made and how the audience watches them. The audience became now subscribers and films are becoming more and more consumable products to binge watch. I went personally through most of the situations depicted in my film and many scenes and lines are based on true events. Last but not least there is the hope of the main character in trying to get his film off the ground. As film makers we should not give up and we must fight for our dream until the end. We should preserve the independent cinema everywhere and use the good the online platforms provide, especially for the distribution of films and keep them as art form, because you cannot consume art, it lives forever. I also filled my film with quotes of other films and references to big film makers of the past as an homage to cinema history. I hope that experienced viewers will have quite some fun in spotting them all.
2. Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I loved films since I was a little boy. Thanks to my parents, I managed to watch a lot of films and not only as a normal passive spectator, but as a more sharing viewer. I watched them wishing one day to make one of my own. But it was at the age of 14, during high-school, that I was sure to become a filmmaker one day, so I started my long journey into cinema studies and let my passion grow. During the last two years of high-school I followed a private course on semiotics, film language, theory and cinema history. Then I went to the university in Rome for a year, studying literature and cinema. In 1995 I went to the London Film School. The best film school I could possibly imagine. A pure practical school. There I had the privilege to work on real film, editing and shooting 35mm short films. A luxury that today’s filmmakers only dream of. During the two years of intensive course, I managed to make a lot of experience in every aspect of the filmmaking process. Director of photography, camera operator, grip, gaffer, art director, editor, sound designer, producer, writer. I did them all. But because of my early passion, and thanks to my early studies, I had no choice than to graduate as a director. After school in 1997 I made the big step into the film industry. First I started with short films, then came the first feature film, with the first international awards and then the bigger projects.
3. Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
There are many great films that influenced my creativity. When I was a little boy and started watching films, I was amazed by this wonderful art form that is cinema and the worlds and stories depicted. For me it was pure magic. One of the films that impressed me most (I was 6 I think) was “Scaramouche” by George Sidney. At that time I wanted to be a swordsman like Stewart Granger saving Eleanor Parker and live happily ever after. Then came the Spaghetti Western. Clint Eastwood was my childhood hero. The first film I remember watching was “A wistful of dollars”. Sergio Leone is still one of my favourite filmmakers of all time. The more films I watched the more I was attracted by this art form. One of the first films I remember watching in a proper cinema was Disney’s “Fantasia”. That film opened my imagination and inspired me on how to combine images and music together. But being a great Stanley Kubrick fan, the film that inspired me the most is undoubtedly “2001 - a space odyssey”. I think it is the ultimate film ever made. A visual experience as Kubrick himself has described it. Also thinking that it was made in 1969, it’s an incredible and still never equaled achievement in film history.
4. Who is your biggest influence?
I think a true filmmaker is influenced by several authors at the same time. An artist, when creating, cannot help using his experience and knowledge, and therefore including elements and references from other artists. My greatest influence is Stanley Kubrick. I am not only a fan of his films, but one of the most passionate and dedicated expert. The way Kubrick uses the creative elements of the film making process (camera, actors, lights, music, editing, sound) is just unique and impressive. I believe Stanley Kubrick is like a beacon of inspiration for all filmmakers. Another big influence for me was Federico Fellini. The great Italian director is one of the rare authors that created his own world and his boundless imagination was for me a mine of ideas and visions that I still refer to in all my works.
5. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?
Unfortunately most of the cinema professionals I always wanted to work with are already dead: Kubrick, Fellini, Marlon Brando, Tomas Millian, Ennio Morricone, John Alcott, Vittorio Gassman, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, and many others. Today, if I had the chance, I couldn’t be more honoured and happy to be able to work with authors like Martin Scorsese, Aki Kaurismaki, Steven Spielberg. My dream cast could be: Jack Nicholson, Julianne Moore, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep, just to name a few. A dream crew could be: Vittorio Storaro, Dante Ferretti, Thelma Schoonmaker, Vangelis. In 2005 I had the privilege to work with one of the greatest master of cinema, Manoel De Oliveira, during the shooting in Venice of “Magic Mirror” (Espelho Magico). One of my best experience of my life. I will never forget those wonderful days and everything I learned from a true cinema legend.
6. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career…
The first person that believed in me was of course my mother. She thought me art, literature and transmitted me the passion for cinema and the creative arts. Thanks to my father I was able to follow my passion, study filmmaking and become a director. But the person who followed me throughout my career and support me is my wife. She’s my favourite audience, my creative partner and most demanding critic.
7. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?
Throughout my experience as a director, I think the most important lesson I had to learn is that no matter how much in advance and accurate you plan the shooting or how hard you think of everything, down to the smallest detail, things will never go completely according to plans. The shooting process is a flow you cannot stop or have total control of. You have to let go and follow the flow. Most of the time if you try to stop the events, you end up with a failure and inevitably the mistakes will end up on the screen forever. If you go with the flow, in most cases you end up with something unexpected and unplanned. If you can use this unpredicted creative element, you end up with extraordinary results that you haven’t thought of. Sometimes you have to improvise and adapt in order to overcome the problems. Be open to change your course and harness the unforeseen. Filmmaking is not a perfect oiled machine. It’s an art form therefore there must be some space left for uncontrolled and free creativity.
8. The project(s) you're most proud of…
Usually the latest work is always the one a filmmaker is most proud of, but in my case my short film “Dreamlife” I made as a graduation film at film school, plays a special role in my career. For the budget restrictions and the very few resources we had on our disposal, it turned out a nice little film with a big production value. It was shot in a studio in London and on locations in London and Amsterdam, matching the different locations and sets. It was also the first time I used visual and mechanical special effects (a fire brigade pump to make fake rain or a multi exposure shots in a theatre) and elaborate shots (stopping traffic on a busy street in the centre of Amsterdam for a long tracking shot from the back of a moving car). I also got my first award with this short film. The whole shooting of the film meant a lot for me both artistically and sentimentally.
9. Your next projects?
I have several projects at various development stages. The most advanced one is a book adaptation I started producing many years ago. It’s based on the best selling novel “The judge and his hangman” by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt. An extraordinary crime thriller of great suspense and intriguing plot. The second most ready to shoot project is an adventure film: “Angels Four”. It is based on the book and the incredible true story of the very first ascent of the highest waterfall in the world (The Angel Falls in Venezuela) by three Americans and one Englishman in 1971. Unfortunately the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably frozen all productions worldwide and therefore I have to wait for better times. In the meantime I concentrate to other scripts, like, for example, turning the story of my short film “Dreamlife” into a feature film project. Let’s see.
10. Is Cinema dead?
This question is the very first line of my film and is a returning questions among film makers throughout cinema history. And the answer is: not yet, but… It is a very relevant question today more than ever. It’s a returning question among film makers since the invention of cinema whenever there’s a global event that puts new guidelines and standards. Before it was the use of sync sound, then came an invention called TV, then it was video and the digital age. Today are the online platforms. Wim Wenders in his documentary “Room 666”, in 1982, asked great film makers the same question. At that time the big danger for cinema was the booming of TV programs and video content. Today the biggest online platforms have changed the concept of cinema and inevitably the language of films. The problem is not that going to the cinema to watch a film is becoming a more and more rare habit among the audience. The potentially endless online screens that the platforms have brought is actually a good thing. People can decide what to watch, when and where to watch it. There’s no limit to distribution. The real problem comes when quantity raises, because it’s mathematical, the quality drops. The audience is becoming consumers that pays a monthly fee to watch anything. Films are treated like consumer products and the flourish of endless tv series, episode after episode, forces the so called subscribers to binge watch anything. Furthermore, according to complicated algorithms, the streaming company tells the people what they should watch according to the popular trend. All this have influenced the language of cinema. There’s no authorship anymore. All the episodes of a single series are all the same, despite each episode is made by different directors and this works for most of the films today. They all look the same or they all have the same elements, like products coming from an assembly line. The rare film authors still alive, are too few and they still have to submit to compromises. and no new one is growing up, unfortunately. Even the actors are cast not for their acting skills anymore, but according to how many followers they have in their social accounts. “Not bankable?” What does it even mean? And because of all this, money people and the so called marketing experts can control the creative aspect of film making. The vast majority of sales agents in the film industry today decide what the next cinema trend will be according to weird selling schemes, like publicity executives decide what the next trend will be in cars manufacture, clothes, toys or any other consumable product. Films need to be treated differently, with the same respect of any other art form. So cinema is not dead, yet, but is suffering a lot and it needs air to breathe and expand so that it can be again the great experimental seventh art everybody needs and loves.