15th ÉCU Film Festival | 2020
"I am always interested in stories about a little defining moment in someone’s life, especially in shorts."
Gabriele Di Sazio & Guido Raimondo
Non-European Dramatic Short
A 14 year old boy sneaks into a pool with his friends to dive off the 10m diving platform. He will fail to demonstrate his courage to his friends but he will end up demonstrating it to himself.
TNC interview with director Gabriele Di Sazio & writer/cinematographer Guido Raimondo.
Hi Gabriele & Guido thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?
Guido: It’s stressful not working and thinking about my parents in Italy. Luckily I live with my girlfriend so I am not lonely.
Gabriele: It’s a difficult moment, emotionally and financially speaking. Staying home is not a huge problem; I’m personally suffering much more about not knowing the repercussions of this crisis on our future.
As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative inspiration?
Guido: I am not sure to be honest, I think you need the world around to feed inspiration, I can’t just stand in front of a white canvas and be inspired, I need exterior influences. I am taking this time to lean new things, discover and rediscover movies, books, organizing old footage etc.. but I miss being on set.
Gabriele: It’s not providing any additional creative inspiration at the moment, but once this is over and we have time to metabolize and understand what we went through, I think it will be a source of inspiration. Being forced to stay isolated makes you discover things about yourself and the people around you that you didn’t know before. Or at least, this is my experience so far.
How did you both meet?
Guido: We met at school at the AFI Conservatory 3 years ago, I was the gaffer on Gabriele’s first short at AFI. I lost my sweater on set and after a few weeks I saw Gabriele wearing it on campus, that’s how our friendship really started!
Gabriele: Well, if you say it like that it seems like I stole your sweater! I’ll just say this: 100% Cashmere – feels so good on the skin.
What has the process been like making The Jump together?
Guido: Finding the location seemed impossible, there are only 3 10m diving platforms in Los Angeles and are all owned by big universities who asked us a crazy amount of money. The producer Gabrielle Cordero, who was the back bone of this production, never gave up and managed to get a deal on a diving pool in Riverside (50km from Los Angeles).
Once we locked the location we started the shot list. Each shot had to be carefully designed and timed. We only had 30min of footage (2000 feet of film) to shoot with. We were shooting on top of a 10m tower with a jib, safety was paramount. We made a lot of floor plans and knew exactly where the camera had to be beforehand. We had to take into account the timing for the kids to jump, dry and get back up for each take.
Lighting was a big challenge too; night exteriors are complicated on film as the negative is not as sensitive to light as most digital cameras.
We had such great crew who brought our film home; we were very lucky to have them on set. Everything worked like a well-oiled machine thanks to them.
Gabriele: I came on board early, but then the production was postponed and I shot my AFI thesis film right before shooting The Jump. Luckily Guido and our producer Gabrielle were on top of everything and in the end things went smooth. A difficult aspect was finding the actors for the film. In the end we decided to cast three young divers on their first experience in a movie.
How important is the collaboration between director and cinematographer when working on a short film like The Jump?
Guido: I love working with Gabriele, he is such a kind, direct, no-bullshit person. It’s so easy to work with him. We plan a lot and we don’t need to speak that much on set so that we can focus on our own departments. There are a few key discussions and inevitable disagreements but it’s never about ego and I feel there is great trust both ways. This film was a little different since I initiated the project so I was the one setting the creative vision while usually is the other way around.
Gabriele: The collaboration between director and cinematographer is really important, not only in this project, but always. I really wanted to help Guido make the best version of the movie. That meant being very clear, honest throughout the process and understanding our intentions within our roles and the overall intention of the movie. We never accepted compromises, but always went for what was the best for the movie.
Your film The Jump has been selected for the 2020 ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?
Guido: I lived in Paris for 3 years and always loved the selection of the festival; it’s for us a great honor to be part of it.
Gabriele: It means opportunities. Which is what we are so eagerly looking for.
Can you tell me a little bit about The Jump, how did this film come about?
Guido: As part of the curriculum at AFI, the cinematographers need to shoot a 3 minute narrative short without dialogue on 35mm. The camera is donated by Panavision, 2000’ of stock by Kodak and the processing by Fotokem.
It’s a great opportunity to showcase pure visual storytelling and try something you have always wanted to as a cinematographer.
Some of the other students direct the project themself but I really wanted to have Gabriele on board because his movies tell deep human stories with minimal dialogue and he believes in images. He is also experienced with kids and non-actors. He was the perfect match for the project; I really wanted to work with him.
"It’s scary to look down and not being able to see how far the landing is..."
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Guido: The movie “The Return” by Andrey Zvyagintsev, one of the most amazing contemporary directors, opens with kids diving off a platform. That imagine spoke to me so much that I wanted to make my own version on it and make sure it’s a story with a beginning, middle and end and not just a scene. I am always interested in stories about a little defining moment in someone’s life, especially in shorts.
What was it about Guido's screenplay that interested you so much as a director?
Gabriele: I loved how it portrayed so easily a simple gesture, which everyone can relate to. I’ve done that jump a few times now; when I left Sicily at 19 to move to London and study filmmaking for example. And also a few years later, when I left London to move to the Los Angeles. It’s scary to look down and not being able to see how far the landing is, but that jump represents the difference between accepting to just quietly survive, and taking your life in your hands and reach beyond.
What was the most challenging part of making The Jump?
Guido: The time constraint; we shot The Jump over two nights, it would get dark at 7pm and we could shoot with the kids until midnight with a brake in the middle. The whole film was shot in only 8hrs. It was very cold and it rained on the first part of day 1. The kids and their parents were fantastic to work with, all 3 of them are athletes and were always focused and motivated, needless to say we couldn’t have done it without them.
Gabriele: Directing the talents on set was tricky. More than “directing” it actually felt more like “stealing” the performance - a gesture, a look, a movement – to then give everything a meaning through camera language and editing. The talents did an amazing job and were so open and committed.
Looking back do you think there is anything you would have done differently?
Guido: I wish the relationship between the characters was explored more as it would have made the stakes higher with the peer pressure, but overall I am very happy with the film. We couldn’t have done more with the time we had.
Gabriele: I agree.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Guido: I have been obsessing over filmmaking and cinematography since I was 13 or so.
Gabriele: I've had a passion for stories since I was a child. However, I became more serious about filmmaking when I was a teenager. In my High School we had Cinema classes taught by Ugo Barbara - a journalist, screenwriter and novelist - and later by Marco Amenta, a film director. I was already interested in Cinema, but getting in direct contact with that world really helped me make the decision of becoming a film director.
Has your approach to your films changed much since you started out?
Guido: I feel like my taste has changed and the kind of story I want to tell has changed too, but I still see the shots in my head the same way I did when I was shooting with an improvised homemade dolly and my patient friends.
Gabriele: While I was attending the London College of Communication, during a class we watched Faces by John Cassavetes. That film, which is still one of my favorite movies, moved me deeply and changed the way I see Cinema and life. After that day my films became much more intimate, and I gave myself the chance to be sincere with myself and others like I had never been before. My intentions changed as well: as that film had changed my life, I also believed I needed to do that with my movies. What’s the point of art if not taking people in such an intense and truthful emotional journey that would change their lives for the better?
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
Guido: Instinct doesn’t scream, it whispers. Always follow your instincts and make sure you create an environment in which you can hear them.
Gabriele: The truth of your stories is a single and very specific emotion. Find it.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?
Guido: Well we are still trying to figure it out ourselves but if there is something I would want to say to someone just starting is to trust your vision but at the same listen to your collaborators and be kind.
Gabriele: Tell what you know and be honest.
What are you currently working on?
Guido: We shot a short in Sicily last October, which is in post-production right now. I can’t wait to see the finished product! Now with the lockdown all the productions have been postponed.
Gabriele: I also just finished a feature film script I’m very excited about. Hopefully things will go the right way.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Jump?
The Jump is a small simple short, it doesn’t take any social issues or make big statements about the world we live in, it’s just a little reminder that we should find value in ourselves for what we do and not for how others see us.