Direct from Italy….
If you write, it wouldn’t hurt if you were also good at social media to help promote your work. If you sing, playing an instrument or knowing how to “move like Jagger” may work in your favor. Perhaps, however, no other artistic endeavour requires as many talents as that of a film director.
A director has to take on many different roles. First, they must be a storyteller. They must take a script and tell a story that holds and moves audiences. Next, they must be a photographer and have each frame and scene convey the appropriate mood while being as visually captivating as possible. They must be also organized, be an actor’s best motivator and friend, and it doesn’t hurt if the director has stamina. With so many demands, it is no wonder that only a handful of directors have indeed mastered the craft of film directing.
One such talent that has been garnering attention come from Italy is a young lady who is only twenty-two. While most her age are still in college, wondering what to do with their lives, she has already directed a film which has received critical acclaim.
To be young, to be pretty in showbiz is an asset but not unusual. Pretty people are abound. But to be gifted and have depth, those traits are perhaps a bit more difficult to find.
Alessandra has all them. She has managed to do what many would dream of, direct a film. Internationally Known sat down and spoke to the director. As she was about to go to the Festival of Venice, we spoke about her life as a director, her favorite director,
Woody Allen, and how are all in awe of the fact she is only twenty-two.
I met Alessandra recently while she was en route to Venice. And yes, she is as pretty as she is talented. And professional. She answered astutely and quickly. To think that at twenty-two, I was just about to graduate college and “think” about my future, this young lady has taken a vision, worked at creating it, and has done what many only dream or talk about.
Internationally Known. Tell me about yourself. Where were you born. What kind of child were you and did you ever say, “when I grow up, I want to be a director.”
Alessandra Gonnella: I was born in Montebelluna, not far from Venice, a small town where most of the people knew one each other. A circle where relationships often crossed paths, and where outer appearances counted a lot, sometimes more than the substance of a person. Growing up in this kind of environment made me seek for a more dynamic environment through all my teenage years, that’s why I fell instantly in love with London the first time I’ve been there. Now, after two years spent living in London I can say that I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to compare both kinds of lifestyle, it makes me feel much richer than most of people who’ve only experienced either the big and multicultural city or the small and narrow minded town.
As a child I was hyperactive in the creative field. I never missed an opportunity to write stories, poems or letters to my friends and my family. During the breaks at elementary school I would ask my classmates to participate in the performances I made up, or I was always busy preparing shows for the end of the year. Things haven’t changed, they just evolved. Once in high school, two weeks after the start of my first year, l was already part of the school entertainment events board, an activity that I kept up for all the five years,. This attracted some popularity and criticism from fellow students and faculty but it was just stronger than me, I never stopped. Joining the dots in all these years I realized that I wanted to do something creative that invest completely the audience through moving images and sound; I believe this is the best way for me to share my vision with a public and, hopefully, leave something for them to think about.
IK: Which film directors were your favorites?
AG:My favorite director is Woody Allen without a doubt. He is the only “Idol” that I allow to disappoint me despite all those interviews and nonsense that were said to the press in years. A few months ago he even said in an interview that he couldn’t remember Annie Hall (my favorite movie). I think his strongest point is not taking himself so seriously and leave us at the end of each movie like we are expecting something more dramatic or something unexpected to happen, when actually, if you think about it, this is precisely life: nothing very heroical or special about what happens, most of the times we’re all going in circle and our morals and principles are in the end very weak. It’s very sad that behind this cynicism, that I share with Allen, actually there is a very romantic, idealistic soul.
I also adore Giuseppe Tornatore in all his films, from his oldest to the newest ones. A very uncommon sensibility towards very different subjects that I’m passionate about as well, like the archaic and alienating society in most of small towns, especially in Southern Italy; the importance of the family but also the compromises that we have to put up with; unusual relationships and the difficulties that go with them. the bravery of being a woman in certain circumstances and realities. I would have loved to be telling the stories he told; first and foremost that of Cinema Paradiso, which makes me cry already by the opening credits. Another director who inspires me, especially because I’m lucky to have met him personally in Film School, is Chris Bould, who gave me a clear idea of what a director is like, who truly cares about what he’s doing and does it seriously. A person who presents himself as a tough leader but who reveals himself as a truly emphatic and extra caring human being.
IK: Being so young, have you found it difficult for others to take you seriously as a director?
AG: I’m young and this is sort of a “card” that can be used in different ways depending on the situation. On the one hand, people don’t you take seriously because you’re young and inexperienced; however, on the other hand, if you’re successful, people are amazed at the fact that you’re so young and you made it. If you mess up, you can always say that you are young and you still have much to learn.
IK: Is there a great deal of opportunity for film directors especially the younger ones in Italy?
AG:I don’t want to get controversial or give a lengthy sermon about the situation in Italy simply because I moved when I was nineteen to London to go to college so I’m not that informed about the current situation in Italy for aspiring directors. What I may gather is that
the situation is dramatic, there’s no proper industry or a clear path to follow; as in many other sectors, you can get ahead only with connections… and the worst is that to me it doesn’t look like anyone is willing to research for young talents and original ideas, taking into account the history that we made worldwide with our cinema. Comedy is exploited and only a few times with very good results; for the rest, either there’s not enough money or no real interest to tell social dramas worth to be told. The few opportunities that come up are then taken by those who are friends or relatives and this is a bit sad. Despite this perception I have of Italian film industry, It’s not like I’m in London mainly because of problems at home, but because I love London… I need an international environment in which to operate.
IK: Where did the idea for your film come from?
AG: The idea came up after reading Aldo Durante’s play “Profumo de Venezhia” because it is a story set in the town where I grew up, written in the dialect I grew up with, along with the themes that are dear to my heart, made even more poignant by the situation of the World War II which envelopes the characters. The main character of the girl made me think about a friend of mine that I was in class with in high school right away, and I have much admiration for this girl and for she managed to achieve, even though she grew up in an hostile environment around her.
IK: You are young but with a maturity and intellect that is beyond your years. Most people at your age are still in school, trying to figure out what to do in life, while you just made a film. How did you find your purpose so early on.
AG: I think it’s because I’m very instinctive and impulsive – moreover, I’m in love with my life in general, so I want to make the most out of it whenever I can. I don’t know what regrets are, I just avoid them. When I feel that I have to do something, I need to do it without keeping it pent up inside of me or leaving it on one side for another time. I have so much energy, both for work but also for going out and live new experiences. It is sometimes difficult to manage this thirst for knowledge and success which I have within, because most of the people I meet are not like this: most stop, take breaks to reflect or go at a much slower pace – I’m a bit of a tornado instead. On the other hand, though, I don’t think it’s wrong to be this way in the world today. Competition is tough, if you don’t do it today, somebody else will, so it’s just better that you do it now.
IK: Advice for young directors?
AG: What advice can I give? Unfortunately not too much, because I am still an aspiring filmmaker and, seriously, I have so much to learn. My advice is to be proactive, be unique, don’t be scared of doing things and try, above all, make contacts and be a nice person that people want to have around at work!
IK: Are your parents artists? Have they been supportive of your decision to go into filmmaking?
AG: My parents are not artists; in fact, they seem to me to be two different people who are both pragmatic, although with a very distinguished taste for arts, music, films, literature. If I know all the things that I know is because they taught them to me or they gave me the opportunities to have amazing educational experiences, including traveling a lot. Often we talk about how they are worried about my future. This field is very hard and unforgiving, the risk of not getting anything out of this is very high; but, you know, I am attending this film school in London, thanks to them, so they are helping me in this way. Let’s just say they always remind me to keep my feet planted on the ground. In any case, I think if I don’t ever let myself down, I won’t disappoint them either.