Name/Position: Michele Torbidoni (Director)
Film: La Cosa In Cima Alle Scale [The Thing At The Top Of The Stairs]
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
“La Cosa In Cima Alle Scale” (The Thing At The Top Of The Stairs) is a short movie that refers to some ’80’s mainstream cinema. The kind of movies made popular by Zemeckis, Dante, Donner, Hooper of “Poltergeist”. Movies I grew up with.
My goal was to find an answer to the question: “Is it possible to make movies that feel and look like ‘real genre cinema’ (opposed to ‘indie/intimistic/blurry shorts’) in Italy and out of traditional production network?” We tried very (very) hard to build up an effective production out of nothing while testing ourselves against several tasks: from shooting some very extras-heavy scenes (the restaurant one involved 300 extras), to involve a child actor in one of the key roles, from composing a brand new score that could match the pace of the movie editing, to using complex CGI effect fully integrated in our environments (and make them believable!). It was a though work but we had A LOT of fun while shooting.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping out with this film?
The whole crew and talent group, of course. Yes, it’s an easy answer, but without the “love” that everyone put in this work, I firmly think we could not achieve the kind of results [that we did].
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
To me it’s a huge honor. Really! It’s important to have this occasion to show our work to “real world” people. I think when you make ‘genre’ movies, you have to put them in a full world competition. What does the world think about your short? Is it good enough?
What inspires you?
Tough question. Maybe it’s easier defining what does not inspire me. I’m not inspired by our day-by-day life. I think I’m not able to (or smart enough to) portray characters living in our world. I want to escape. I’d like to invent situations, or even worlds, that drag away the viewer in a parallel dimension. Just for a couple of hours.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I think I pressed “play” more than 200 times. I watched it in every format, from a 70mm, 6-tracks magnetic audio projection, to badly worn VHS tape, to Blu-Ray, to Betamax. Every picture made by His Majesty Stanley Kubrick (in particular “Barry Lyndon” and “Paths of Glory”), “Poltergeist” and “The Goonies”. I think also that it should be clear to anybody that Paul Thomas Anderson is a non-human demi-god. His “There Will Be Blood” is an astonishing work on light, pace, subtracted-acting and cinemascope framing. In particular the sequence of the burning oil pit it’s something I won’t forget easily.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
To be bold. Making good movies should be based on this rather illogical statement: “You’ll succeed and the movie will be great.” It’s really hard, because you have to fight with your left side of the brain that pushes yelling, “You’re not good enough.” The movies you watch on the silver screen scream [and taunt], “You’ll not ever reach us.” You have to keep pushing the boundaries, the limits. And after long efforts, you could discover that, yes, you really are not good enough but there’s a chance you are really good at making movies. Real ones, the kind of movies that flow people into theatres. Yeah I said it, it’s illogical, but it’s the only way. My two cents, of course.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
Aside from the mega-big-names, I’ll be very happy to have a chat with Gavin Rothery (the guy who made VFX for Duncan Jones Moon). It would be great to ask to Robert Zemeckis: “How do you solve the second-act incipit problem? How do you maintain the story into motion after the end of first act?” It would be awesome just to sit on a chair and watch David Fincher work for hours.
What is the toughest experience you’ve ever had to overcome?
Honestly? Getting money. At the very end, this is the single thing you can’t obtain by hard work. No matter how hard you work, no matter how good your script is, when you are no-one, you have to know how to sell yourself and your project. You have to convince people (or, better, many people) that you won’t screw everything up. You’ll hold from pre to post and make something profitable.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
Rewrite. The script is the very beginning of anything. There are a gazillion [reasons] to not shoot the movie. You [can’t] fail on the starting block. It has to be pitch-perfect. So just when you think you are done, when you write the word “END,” for the fifth time, then … take a deep breath, wait a month, and rewrite it.
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
Try it, for real. Watch movies, a lot of [them]. Then, start writing something, find people that could help you and step into the real world and shoot. Do it, and do it again. I think this is one [technique] that kind of works and allows you to learn by doing.
Where can we expect to see you next?
I’m completing the script for a sci-fi movie. It will be quite a huge thing, and the first (real) Italian sci-fi production of the late twenty or so years. I’m very excited.
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
A lot of things but then I’ll fall in boring-zone. So, I can close this fun interview with this: “Hey, producers out there! I’ve got the next cool, well written, (almost) fully planned crowd-gathering sci-fi movie of the year. I know you can’t wait to finance it. So, here I am, let’s have a chat!”