Interview: Gianlorenzo Albertini
Interview done by Nora Janeicke
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst of all, congratulations for your fantastic film. Ambitiously constructed and marked out with gorgeous cinematography and stellar acting your film is a captivating work! Let’s start with the questions.
1. How did you choose the topic? What is it that compelled you to write this story?
Gianlorenzo: I wanted to explore the emotional effects of war on individuals and draw attention to the hardships and the devastating effects of physical and psychological trauma that vets, who have severe PTSD, are forced to endure due to governmental neglect. I wanted to place emphasis on the veterans’ life after the war upon returning home. On the grief and horror of the battlefield they are forced to endure, oftentimes keeping the struggle to themselves, and on their difficult transition adjusting to civilian life. Finally, frequently ending up being deliberately homeless because of their psychological inability to cope with the mental abuse inflicted on them ultimately choosing to suffer in isolation.
2. A soldier suffering from PTSD and homelessness are tough topics to deal with. How did you research the topic?
Gianlorenzo: The initial idea of war and its devastating effects on veterans are an extremely hard topics to ponder and write about, especially if one hasn’t lived through it. As the writer and director of the film, I didn’t have the experience and the full understanding of the plight of war. The stories told by my grandparents, about the horrors and atrocities during WWII they lived in their youth, were my first confrontation with the harsh, dreadful and frightening reality of war. Though my lack of maturity at that moment made their stories seem like a ghostly veil of memories from distant history. Nevertheless, I had to portray the character and the film most realistically and explicitly possible. During the research and writing phase, I had been working with friends of mine who are war veterans, who gave me insights and information about their physical and psychological traumas and what might ultimately drive them to isolation. I had the chance to perceive and recognize their struggles and eventually apply them to the film.
3. I am very curious to hear about your work with actors. How do you approach the collaboration? What are your choices when it comes to directing them?
Gianlorenzo: Particularly during the rehearsal process, and also on set during the very first takes, I give the actors complete freedom to discover their own natural movement so they can feel at ease and more willing to make mistakes, and in doing so, they’re more willing to go deeper into their characters. Then I slowly direct them towards my vision- it is a very collaborative process, I try to establish trust and make a very safe environment in which the actors can work creatively.
4. With its elegantly structured storytelling, your film imparts unparalleled psychological intensity to the narration. Would you tell how did you develop the script and the structure of your film to achieve such brilliant authenticity?
Gianlorenzo: The authenticity of the script was mostly achieved on set during filming, due to the fact that the script barely contains any dialogue. Therefore all the real emotional traits are not said but instead shown by the brilliant work of the actors. In the script that Aric (DP) and I wrote, we tried to be as detailed as possible but in the end, we really had to lean on directing to be able to convey the authenticity and purity of the story.
5. what were the main challenges of the actual production?
Gianlorenzo: One of the most significant challenges was working with natural lighting and the unpredictable changes in weather. Natural light will eventually fade away and you would have to wait another day to finish shooting a specific scene you are working on. We decided to shoot the last scene in the film at sunset during the golden hour and, as many of you might know, that was challenging because the light was quickly fading away but we ultimately succeeded.
Another challenge was filming right along the LA riverbank which is relatively known for its frequent floods, I guess, and we weren’t fully aware of that. At some point during production, the water level suddenly began to rise and we started quickly running away trying to gather all our belongings. The most vital was the equipment which almost got swept away by the strong current – that was quite an adventure and we filmed the flooding of the river which ultimately ended up in the movie.
6. What are you hoping to trigger in the audience?
Gianlorenzo: We are often drawn to stories because we want to experience what life is about for other people and understand how life revolves around them and who they really are. By watching films we can see in one’s mind, something we can rarely experience in real life, it gives us an opportunity to look within ourselves and our own inner struggles, compare and contrast our emotions and reactions, and ultimately relate to the characters. Through this film, I wanted to evoke compassion, sympathy and understanding for war veterans, and to invite the audience to step into their shoes, to feel and see or at least have a small glimpse of the physical and psychological trauma of war that is so hard to relate to unless you lived it. Mainly I wanted to voice out that it is never too late to get back on your feet, if you’re down on your knees doesn’t mean you will stay down forever- there will always be an opportunity to rise, walk with your head up high, forgive yourself and others, make your life better and stop living in the past.
7. Your work has received positive feedbacks and the film was awarded from several festivals: how much importance has for you the feedback that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel previewing a film before an audience?
Gianlorenzo: The feedbacks are very important to me. Feedbacks, as well as criticism, are an essential part of my work because they help me grow as a filmmaker and artist. I want to hear critiques as long as they’re constructive.
I’m usually very excited to show a film to anybody but I’m even more grateful to show it to my closest friends because they will always tell me what they honestly think about it- what they like and dislike about the film and what can eventually be improved.
8. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts. Finally, would you like to tell us, readers, something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
Gianlorenzo: I’m currently working on the pre-production stage for my next short film “Off Your Head” which deals with the absurdity of an obsessive and compulsive criminal life.
Nora is currently in post-production of one more short film -Joyce, also a short film version of a feature that she is hoping to make: A mosaic of interrelated stories that explore the American Dream and the plight of immigrants in New York City. She is an avid traveler, continuing to explore the world and telling stories about it, whenever she gets a chance.