17th ÉCU
The European Independent Film Festival 2022 

8th - 10th April 2022 
Interview

Luca Di Paolo
Deathmate 
Section: European Dramatic Short
ecufilmfestival.com
Italian Version

Deathmate is a dating app for people who want to share their death. Alessio meets Francesca and the two spend a night together before deciding the fate of their lives.

 

Hey Luca, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

 

To begin with, I can say that I started to watch a lot more films or comedy TV series.  Turning on the TV and seeing what's going on in the world on the news is heartbreaking. So, I needed to counterbalance that by watching more comedies than I used to.

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

 

Yes, with the pandemic I had a lot more time to write. I wrote two films, but they have different tones than Deahtmate. This short film was written before the pandemic.

 

Congratulations on having Deathmate part of the 17th ÉCU Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be screening your film in Paris?

 

Paris is the city of cinema and it is indeed an honour to be able to present "Deathmate" at the ÉCU Film Festival. Also, of all the international festivals the short film has participated in, this is the first one I will be able to physically be at. I can't wait to be there.

Can you tell me how Deathmate came about, what was the inspiration behind your animation?

There is no exact moment when the inspiration came to me, there were several steps. At that time there was a lot of talk about the Blue whale and it was a phenomenon that shocked me. Then the new seasons of Black Mirror and Thirtheen Reasons Why came out and made me more and more passionate about dystopia, and in parallel the social issue of teenage suicide. In my head I was looking for a strong inner conflict to show, as I have done in my other works. In the end I told myself that the one between love of life and suicide was the strongest. Thus, "Deathmate" was born. My dream is that this short film could become the pilot of the homo-nima series, which I have already written.

 

Whilst working on a short film like Deathmate how close where you able to keep to the screenplay once you started filming, did you allow yourself/cast much flexibility with your screenplay?

Not really. "Deathmate" is my third short film. In the previous ones, I often revisited the story a lot during the editing phase. With "Deathmate", however, I decided to work much more on the script to write something more pop, with a more classical structure. For this reason, both on the set and during editing, I was as faithful as possible to the script.

The only point in the script I had to give in on was purely a question of budget. That is, there were really limits, at the beginning I wanted to recreate a more sci-fi context, more distinctly futuristic. Then I realised that the story didn't necessarily need that aesthetic, and that it could easily be set in the Roman urban context.

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Male Suicide is global issues that doesn’t get as much mainstream attention as it should, did you have any apprehension about making a short film on such an important issue?

 

Sure. Initially, I was afraid that I would not be able to deal with such a topic. I was afraid that I might do it superficially. Then the period of research into the phenomenon began. I started writing "Deathmate" in 2017, only in 2019 was it ready to be filmed.  By studying the phenomenon of teenage suicide, I also got my own idea. Let's say that journalists, but in general the whole adult world, seems to be almost afraid to deal with the topic. Teenage suicide is never talked about. Even if the statistics are really discouraging. And above all, on doing some more research, I discovered that it is not talked about for ethical reasons. It is thought that by talking about it, the risk could be to feed the phenomenon. I don't agree with that at all. If there is a problem, you can't pretend it doesn't exist to solve it. I think the only way out is to break down this old mentality. We need more dialogue with young people, more awareness about this phenomenon. This is the only way to fight it. We need more psychological support for young people of all ages, and above all it must be free.

Moreover, with the advent of the pandemic, this phenomenon has increased dramatically. When I filmed "Deathmate", I didn't think that the data would grow any further. But it has. After the various lockdowns, we have reached a real point of no return.  And especially hearing that avoiding discussion about these issues is the solution gives me the creeps. I think that this wrong way of thinking of the previous generation is also to blame for the problems of my generation.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing "Deathmate" to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

 

The biggest challenge for me as a scriptwriter, director and producer was to shoot the whole thing in the best possible way, within the two and a half days of shooting it. Shooting for more days would have been very difficult for the budget I had available. Maybe if I were back, I would have waited until I had more budget to shoot it. But maybe if I had waited that long, I would never have shot it.

 

You are a graduate of Arts and Entertainment at the Sapienza University and you are currently taking your masters in Screenwriting, Production and Marketing also at Sapienza, what was this experience like for you?

 

Studying at La Sapienza was great. The master's degree has now been completed although half of it took place during the lockdown, I can say that it has made me improve a lot, especially with regard to aspects of writing.

 

How much has your time at Sapienza helped to guide and prepare you for your filmmaking journey?

 

A lot. Especially when it comes to screenwriting. I read a lot of manuals that I loved, and they became really fundamental for me. I think that from my first short film made when I was 19 years old, before entering the Sapienza, to Deathmate, there has been a big change, especially in terms of writing.

 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking and how much has your approach to your films changed since you started making films?

 

I've been making short films since I was 9 years old. I had a JVC that ran on mini dv and I edited everything with Pinnacle Studio 9. Then in my teens I always kept shooting, from short films with friends to music videos. Obviously, as I got older, the equipment I was shooting with became more and more professional. Then when I was 19, I decided to make a short film for my high school graduation. I thought it was the best way to end the course at Cine-tv R. Rossellini, where I specialised in editing. But I didn't want it to be like the other short films, I wanted it to be more professional. There I experienced my determination for the first time, which I think is the only key to success in this field. So when I was 19 I finished my first short film "Voci", which is still available on YouTube, and from there I realised that telling stories through cinema is the only thing that makes me feel at peace with myself.

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

 

Sure. Otherwise, cinema dies. I think I did that with "Deathmate". For the budget I had, when I went to productions and told them the plot, they laughed. They all told me that it would be impossible to make this short film with that budget. Moreover, the sci-fi genre is still unfortunately not well regarded by Italian producers. They think it's too expensive for VFX. They can't understand that times have changed.

So, talking about the Italian context, I can say that filmmakers must push their limits to tell new stories. But the problem then arises when you meet the productions. That's where the problems come in. I think that until the mentality of the average Italian producer changes, this revolution in stories will not take place. And to change the producers' mentality, we need younger producers. And the problem of Italy is exactly this in my opinion, for a newly established production there are few advantages. So, it is increasingly difficult for a young producer to start a business.

"But I didn't want it to be like the other short films, I wanted it to be more professional. There I experienced my determination for the first time, which I think is the only key to success in this field."

or anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking or going to film school do you have any tips or advice you would offer them? 

 

Sure. I think studying film is fundamental and helps a lot of younger filmmakers. At the same time, there is nothing more important for a filmmaker than to shoot your own stories to learn more and more how to coordinate the set and find your own taste. So, my advice is to study film, but not necessarily in private, very expensive academies. Something cheap is enough, the important thing is that outside of school you continue to shoot your own stories to always improve. I believe it is better to invest in a good short film than to pay for a year's education in a private academy.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Deathmate?

 

My dream with the series is to bring a message of hope to all young people. The characters in the series transform, change their mentality, do everything to fight against the increase in suicides triggered by the app. "Deathmate" will be a real hymn to life.

With the "Deathmate" short film I think I managed to get this message across to the public. As you will see, Alessio completely changes his opinion on what to do during the evening. This will lead him to have a different vision of life.

I hope that whoever sees "Deathmate" can learn to fight against any difficulty in life. Without ever giving up. You cannot give up on life.