Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia have a very nice story to tell; Torino Film Lab was very relevant for the making of their first feature Salvo, winner of the two main awards at last Cannes Critics Week, as they developed the project within two programmes and also got production funding from the scheme. Plus, there is a short film connection, because their short film Rita was a preparation for Salvo, and had also a great success in its festival run. We had a friendly chat with Antonio.
It’s a very special setup that you direct your films together. Why do you work as a pair?
Working together is a decision we made years ago when we started writing scripts. We are both from Palermo in Sicily and we perceive the world in a similar way, in the same perspective. Directing together was just the natural consequence of a process, the culmination of a long journey. When we write, we know that the best things we have ever made come from our endless conversations and from our conflicts. When we direct, it is the opposite, a very harmonious process, partially because we prepare everything together beforehand in a meticulous way, but also involve the director of photography and the actors.
At the moment you are busy with your feature film Salvo – am I right in thinking that your short film Rita was in a way preparation for the big thing?
Rita is our first short film and it was made when the script of Salvo already existed. We needed to make the short film to prove to ourselves and to the producers that we were able to direct and not only write. Salvo and Rita are two different stories which share key elements: a blind girl called Rita, Palermo and a stranger sneaking into Rita’s house as a plot point. Naturally the making of the short film has had a major influence on our idea of the character of Rita in Salvo’s story too and especially on our choice of the mise en scène of her blindness. While preparing the short film we were flirting with crucial questions: how to stage the point of view of a blind person? How to induce in the spectator an experience of blindness? In our short film the camera is focussed on Rita without reverse angle shots. Rita is under everyone’s gaze: the gaze of others also acts as a controlling element and a form of surveillance. We can’t see what Rita has before her because she can’t either. These experiences were then used in our work for the feature film too.
What made you apply for the Torino Film Lab for two years in a row? What is so special about it?
Right from the outset we decided to develop the project in a number of European workshops, so we could come into contact with a broader cultural context than a purely Italian one such as the Berlinale Talent Campus, Ateliers d’Angers, Binger Film Lab and then the Torino Film Lab. This last decision marked a fundamental stage in the project’s artistic life and production prospects. At the Torino Film Lab we worked with Franz Rodenkirchen, the story editor who has accompanied us, in a very sensitive way, throughout the script development process. Also, from the Torino Film Lab we also obtained the first significant film production contribution and we met Antoine de Clermont-Tonnere, one of the film’s co-producers as well as Raphaël Berdugo. Their contributions, alongside the one provided by Arte France Cinema, have turned out to be crucial in enabling the film to be made. It has also been a great chance to meet other filmmakers developing their first or second feature films. We can’t say that there is a community of filmmakers in Italy, we all live in a very lonely and a somewhat hopeless way, because of the difficulties both in Italian cinema nowadays as well as in the whole of Italy in general. The TFL has given us the possibility of being part of a creative community, which is what we really enjoyed.
What is the biggest difference between developing a short story and a feature story?
It is huge. Developing a short film is like drawing the bow to shoot one single arrow. You must be accurate, fast and aim your arrow at the heart of the story you want to tell.
Writing a feature film is like a long sea voyage in a rough sea surrounded by the waves of uncertainty. It is a journey with detours which lead to sometimes even getting lost. These steps may help you to get to the coveted and distant final harbour.
This World of Shorts magazine is distributed in Sarajevo and Venice. Do you have any memories or stories from these film festivals?
We are Italian, so the Venice Film Festival means a lot to us, as it is our national cultural treasure. It is so nice to watch films there, not only at the Lido but also in the outdoor screenings organized in the streets and squares of Venice. Such a unique scenario creates unforgettable memories. As for Sarajevo, we have been there presenting our short film Rita. It had been our first time in Sarajevo, and it is almost impossible not to be impressed by the city and by the terrible stories of the recent war, which is still very vivid in the memories of everyone there. We remember walking in the hills of Sarajevo and watching the city and the river from the distance which are incredibly beautiful. The screenings were full of young people, absolutely passionate about cinema. It is one of those places where you understand that storytelling and filmmaking can be so important and crucial as a life experience.
interview by Anita Libor