Italians in Cinema for Marie Claire Italy

September 18, 2014 8:17 am

In late June I travelled to Rome for Marie Claire Italy. The assignment was to photograph the important people working behind the scenes in Italian cinema. Over the last few decades the italian film industry has been in great decline, but in just the last 2 years it’s seen a huge unexpected resurgence. This year The Great Beauty won the Oscar for best foreign film which also helped bring the world of Italian film back into the spotlight.

Below are some of the people who are a part of this resurgence. Some are legends and have been working in the industry from a time that Cinecitta studios rivaled Hollywood back in the late 1950’s. Others are younger but have quickly become prolific in their own right.

Endless thanks to everyone at Marie Claire Italy for making this project happen.

What skills are necessary for your job? Tenacity and strength, it’s a tiring job. It might be useful to have some skills in psychoanalysis, too. To get what you want you’ve got to convince the most stubborn actress. We often argue and my instinct would be to throw a shoe at them – but early on I learned the importance of staying calm and diplomatic. It’s better to be their accomplice than their enemy. Gabriella Pescucci is one of Italy’s most accomplished costume designers. She has worked with directors Federico Fellini, Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese, and Tim Burton to name a few. In 1993 she won an Oscar for The Age of Innocence.

What is special about Italian cinema? It’s like this garden: nature has favored us but it is our creativity that produced “Canticle of the Sun”. Today to be a director you just need friends and a camera. It’s so much easier than before to get involved and understand if you have talent or not. But those who have a gift should be ready to make the sacrifices needed to enjoy it. Ermanno Olmi is one of Italy’s most beloved filmmakers. He’s known for telling realistic stories about the lives of average people – a great exemplar of the Neorealist film genre. His career as a director has spanned over 60 years and in November he will release his last film – a story set during the First World War.

What is the phrase that a producer doesn’t want to hear? “How much does it cost?” It may seem strange but it’s a question that bothers me. I also hate “it must cost less”. Thinking only about money doesn’t produce development or heterogeneity, both vital in film. I’d love to be asked “how much is it worth?” Francesca Cima is a film producer and co-founder of Indigo Film. Since 2001 she’s been lecturing at the production, editing and sound courses at the National School of Cinema in Rome. In 2014 she won her first Oscar for The Great Beauty.

Favorite catchphrase? “The Best is the enemy of the Good”. I repeat it to myself when I feel obsessed with useless perfectionism, because that’s when catastrophes happen. To be honest I’ve always felt like a bystander in the cinema world, I fear that sooner or later someone will discover I don’t know anything and I’ll have to re-invent myself. Luca Bigazzi is one of the most prolific and respected cinematographers to emerge in Italy in the last twenty years. He's known for working in tandem with Paolo Sorrentino on all of his recent films, the latest being The Great Beauty which won an Oscar for best foreign film.

A fun thing that happened on set? Sometimes we build things that seem so real that people get confused. We recently created the exterior of a Mongolian restaurant in just a few hours. The people who worked in the building came down and said “Hey they opened a new restaurant…” I also find it funny that whenever we build an ATM, people always stop to try and withdraw cash. Giuliano Pannuti is a set designer known for his 10-year collaboration with director Pupi Avati. He won a “NASTRO D’ARGENTO” Award for “Una Sconfinata Giovinezza”.

Can a bad soundtrack ruin a good movie? I don’t think so, of course it can create a nuisance but it can’t overturn the judgment on a film – at worst it’s a missed opportunity. Franco Piersanti is an Italian composer and conductor. He’s been scoring films since 1976 and has won 3 David di Donatello Awards and a “Nastro d’Argento” Award.

An important quality to do your job? The editor has only one superpower, to destroy a masterpiece. At the same time he can’t create one if the movie isn’t a masterpiece to begin with. Editors need to have a great curiosity of another person’s world, the capacity to give himself completely and a lot of patience. I wait for the new film by one of my directors as you can wait for a boy you just started dating – you’ve got to be in the phase of falling in love to see the defects. I edit in every situation, even standing up so I can dance with the movie. Paola Freddi is a film editor who has worked on numerous films and documentaries. She is currently editing Piero Messina’s first feature film.

What is special about Italian cinema? Since I started it has always been on the brink of death. I think it’s heroic and brave because despite all difficulties it has continued to regenerate. This year we won important awards in Venice, in Cannes and at the Oscars. Normally it’s in the worst moments that us Italians asserts ourselves. Francesca Marciano is an Italian novelist and a screenwriter. She’s written four novels: “Rules of the Wild”, listed as one of the New York Times notable books of the year, ”Casa Rossa”, “The End of Manners” and “The Other Language”. She’s also written numerous award-winning screenplays.


  • Martine Horne says:

    Reed, my husband and I met you one year ago, when Dain and his crew had a Thanksgiving feast. I am Andrea Horne’s mom. She may wish I keep my comments to myself, but I have to say, what I love about this Italian piece is the photography, and it makes me wonder how you accomplish some of these exquisite portraits. For example, the colors in the Francesca Marciano photo are breathtaking….did you choose the rug or the chair from another part of the room? Because, the colors just pop out and I get this light, happy, exhilarating feeling when my brain merges the blue sky, and the rich colored chair, and the yellow (I’m sure there’s a better word for the color I see, but you know what I mean). I just LOVE your work. On a side note, I wish we’d known you were in Alaska-when we were in NY….we could have had some great conversations. Mike, Andrea and I lived in Anchorage for 3 years. (We left when Andrea was 4 1/2. Take care. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • reedyoung says:

      Hello Martine! So nice to hear from you. I never knew Andrea lived in Alaska.. what a cool place to be a little kid. Thanks a lot for taking the time to look at my work and write. I do often move a lot of things to make portraits have better colors and composition, but in this room I don’t think we changed a thing! The reason the colors pop so much is probably because of the lighting I’m doing – I balance the inside light with the outside light, something our eyes do but our cameras can’t do. That said I specifically remember this room making my job very easy. I hope you guys had a great thanksgiving this year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *