Creating The Future We Want 2022
Interview

Ludovica Musumeci 
Director
I Am

Tue, 1 February, 2022

19:00 – 22:30 (GMT)
creating the future we want: tickets

A celebration of female-led stories brought to life by up and coming production companies | created & run by independent female producers

A young woman living with schizophrenia tries to hide her mental condition from her boyfriend after having recently moved in together.

Hey Ludovica thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these very strange times?

 

Thank you for having me! I’ve been doing ok. As you said, these are strange times but I’m very well aware that there are parts of the world where the situation has been really tough and much worse than in London, so I guess we can’t really complain overall. 

 

Has this time at least offered you any new and creative opportunities?

 

It has surely given me the time to (literally) sit down and think about what I’ve been doing so far and where I want to be in a few years. Which has eventually let me to resign from my previous job to focus more on writing and directing.  Also, being stuck at home I’ve had plenty of time to write, which is a luxury I never had before as I was constantly running around. 

 

Congratulations on I AM Premiere screening at the Creating The Future We Want event, how does it feel to have your film part of such an incredible initiative?

 

I mean, it’s amazing! I’m honoured, grateful and proud of the team who brought I Am to life. Hopefully the audience will enjoy it and it will spark a conversation that is long due about the misrepresentation of mental health conditions in the media. 

 

Your previous shorts have gained multiple awards and nominations during their film festival runs, does this type of recognitions for your work add any additional pressure on you as you start working on your next projects?

 

Well, I do feel the pressure of improving as a Director and learning from my previous projects to make the new ones better. 

 

However, I don’t think awards and nominations should be a measure of how good a project is, as genres and topics might not be what festival juries are looking for during a specific season, but that doesn’t mean that a project is any less good. 

 

In general I would say that as long as I pushed my boundaries in the making and the audience enjoys the final movie, I’m happy. 

 

Can you tell me a little bit about I Am, how did this film come about?

 

Oriane Pick (Producer and lead actress) phoned me and pitched the idea. She has a family member that suffers from schizophrenia and during our call she explained why this film was so close to her heart and why it is so important to break the stigma around this condition. It was a no brainer, so I said yes and started working on it right after. 

 

What was it about Rachel Mariam’s screenplay that interested you so much?

 

Definitely Gabi’s character. She is a breath of fresh air, so different from the stereotypical character suffering from schizophrenia. Gabi is real and relatable. And  the relationship she has with her grandmother was very interesting to explore.

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-209002929-699710978343-1-original.20220107-154746.jpeg

As a screenwriter how important is the relationship between you and your screenwriter when working on a film like I Am?

 

Very important. I usually write my own scripts so I know how hard it can be for a screenwriter to take new ideas on board, because the screenplay is your baby. But then you need to welcome and trust this person - the Director of the movie - who has their vision, which can be very different from how you had imagined the movie when you wrote it, you know? So, it’s definitely a delicate process and I always try to make sure I understand the intention behind a scene or a dialogue before tweaking it - as it’s important to preserve the soul of a film and that is set by the screenwriter. 

 

On I Am, both Rachel and I really cared about what was best for the movie, and that helped the process  and the final outcome as there was no ego involved. 

 

How close do you like to keep to the screenplay, do you allow yourself / your actors much flexibility with it?

 

As long as the essence of a scene stays unvaried, I like to explore during rehearsals with the actors . Rehearsals is when the magic happens, as it’s the perfect moment to discuss the characters and try new ideas in a safe and calm environment.  Some things read really well on script, but when said out loud they can sound stiff or cheesy or just…. Not something anyone would say in that situation. So I like to encourage the actors to question their lines and their action and just do what feels right for their character. And then we agree on those changes and rehearse them one last time so that everyone knows what they are doing on set.  

 

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

 

Well, you know what I’ve just said above? Forget about it. We couldn’t do that for I Am as we shot during the pandemic and we were not allowed to rehearse. So, I wouldn’t say there was one specific scene, but it was much tougher to try new things on the day when the actors were not feeling their lines as time was really tight. Especially during the emotional moments, we had to bite through them and just explore in 10 minutes things that would require at least five hours - and that was a lot of pressure on the actors. But they did a great job, their performance is powerful and authentic and I’m really proud of them. 

 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

 

Yes, but I didn’t think it was achievable since I’m from Sicily and we don’t really have a film industry over there - so I focussed on writing novels instead. Then something clicked in my brain and I just thought ‘why not?’. That’s when I moved to London. 

 

Has your style and approach to your directing changed since your debut short? 

 

Well, a lot - thank God. I didn’t study filmmaking and I wrote, produced and directed my first short without having a clue of what I was doing. I literally had to google which members of the crew I needed on set. So when it came to directing, I was mainly focussed on how I wanted things to look and feel like rather than why. Which is exactly the opposite of what I do now. Now I start from the characters - who are they, what are their dreams, fears, why? Then I build my vision around them and around what the story is supposed to tell. 

 

So for example, for I Am - I really wanted to stay away from the stereotypical idea that schizophrenia is scary. I wanted to create a movie that represented Gabi’s world and how she saw herself rather than how people would see her. And even though the temptation of exploring a  much darker and distressing version of the story was very strong throughout  - I knew that it wasn’t the right choice for Gabi’s character.

i am 1_edited.jpg

"...once you’ve done that, remember: you don’t know what people are going through, even if you’ve experienced it yourself- what they are feeling is different because they are not you."

The Creating The Future We Want event is also going to support The One Page Project, what more can be done to offer greater support for filmmakers who come come from underrepresented backgrounds?

 

This is such a tough question. I think in the last few years the government has made an active effort to improve the situation for people from underrepresented backgrounds and every year more and more opportunities are opening. But of course, it doesn’t take two days to reverse a situation that has been going on for a century - so as long as we keep pushing in the right direction, we’ll get there. Unfortunately, we need to have a bit of patience. 

What has been the best advice you have been given?

 

To not waste time and energy on things I don’t really care about, as time and energy are limited so I’d better focus them on something that I really want. 

 

As a filmmaker what advice would you offer someone thinking about making their own debut film?

 

Just do your best and enjoy the experience. It’s your debut film, not the last one. 

 

And finally what do you hope people will take away from your I Am?

 

Be informed, be kind. And once you’ve done that, remember: you don’t know what people are going through, even if you’ve experienced it yourself- what they are feeling is different because they are not you. So don’t judge, but be compassionate and help spread awareness.