Directing and Selling Beckett to Netflix with Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
How do you sell a movie to Netflix, this episode will give you a bit of insight. We’re getting deep into the weeds on Italian director and screenwriter, Ferdinando Cito Filomarino American cinema debut film, Beckett, which I absolutely enjoyed!
Beckett stars the incomparable John David Washington and Swedish actress, Alicia Vikander. This action thriller follows an American tourist (Beckett) who had been in a tragic car accident in Greece and suddenly finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life. He sets to reach the USA embassy to clear his name. Elements of romance and questions of political power are rolled up into a 90-minute manhunt.
Beckett’s world premiere was at the Aug 2021 74th Locarno Film Festival and is now distributed exclusively on Netflix.
Filomarino talks about the cultural diversity on set – having seven languages spoken. I assume that would include, English, Italian, Greek, Swedish, etc. I was fascinated by the film’s meticulously crafted visual elements and screenplay.
Filomarino’s work may be new to American screens, but he’s gained notoriety in European cinema directing or writing on films like The Other Man, Academy award-winning 2017, coming-of-age romantic drama, Call Me by Your Name (Second Unit Director). The story sets in a 1980s rural Northern Italy — romance blossoms between a seventeen-year-old Jewish Italian, Elio, and a 24-year-old research assistant, Oliver, who’s living with the family over the summer to help Elio’s father, archaeology professor with his academic paperwork.
Filomarino shadowed Call Me By Your Name’s director, Luca Guadagnino while working the second unit on the film and forge a good professional relationship which led to a collaboration in 2010. He was fortunate to have Luca produce his directorial debut, Diarchy in 2010. Diarchy is a Locarno and Sundance Film Festival award-winning short film. Giano and Luc are traveling through the woods when a storm breaks, forcing them to take shelter in Luc’s villa. Gradually and insidiously, a competition emerges between them, with terrible consequences.
We also chatted about Richard Eyre’s, The Other Man, fresh out of university, and how that experience prepared him for his own films. We know that experience is the best teacher, so I am always down for hearing knowledge bombs filmmakers learn from other filmmakers in this line of business. Sort of like an unofficial masterclass.
Go watch Beckett! But first, enjoy my conversation with Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.
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Alex Ferrari 0:12
I'd like to welcome to the show, Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 0:18
Hello, thank you for having me.
Alex Ferrari 0:20
Thank you so much. I'm glad I did not massacre it too badly. But thank you so much for being on the show, my friend, I really appreciate you coming on you, we're gonna get deep into the weeds on your new film Beckett, which I absolutely adored. That's coming up on Netflix soon. But before we even get into that, how did you get started in the film business?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 0:43
I Well, it's this question is specific, because it's how I got started in the business. Because I guess as a small premise, I always decided I would say from the age of this the beginning of reason about 1112 when you start having ideas, even though they're ridiculous at that age, because they're just a little kid, I had decided that I wanted to make movies somehow. So then, you know, I, you know, I went to high school and and everything. And then I went to the University in Italy, we don't really have, we have a couple of film schools, but at the university or college, the film programs are just our film studies. So you watch films, you read books, and you, you know, analyze them and stuff like that. It's not about the filmmaking process. So I did that. And then after that, I was by the, you know, by then I was 21. And I was desperate for film sets. Because I had been so many years, just imagining I want to make this movie and that movie, and I love these movies for these reasons. And okay, let's study film history, because I love it. So it's fine. But you know, I was interested in filmmaking. So then, all of this, all these years fueled the absolute obsession with which I looked for a film job first, when I got when I graduated from university, looking for jobs as an ad, basically, as an assistant director on anything. I look in Italy, which is difficult also in Italy. I mean, Italy has a pretty healthy production, but not you know, if you compare it to America, for sure, there are many less, many fewer films produced. But I also looked in the UK because at the time my girlfriend lived there, so I could crash at her place. I had friends, I just I did everything I could. And I landed my first job as a as an assistant director on a film by Richard Eyre called the other man. And on that, and I had, I had no experience on film sets at all. So it was funny because they, the film had kind of an Italian mini section to it, which is I think, why they hired me. Although ironically, even though they went to shoot it in Milan, which is my hometown, they didn't bring me there, because it was too expensive. In the UK part of the shoot, although the only reason they hired me was I was Italian. I basically I had no skills except enthusiasm. So they just like Alright, so I don't know, hold this ladder while the gaffer works on that window. And this my first days were literally like this, just sort of, I don't know what what you could do just do that. Make this coffee. And I was, of course, miles away from the director. And the cat asked, I did red light and Bell, which is in the UK, they do this thing where before shoot in some productions, at least before shooting you you ring a bell three times and red light flashes. So everyone knows they're shooting, and they keep quiet and hold the work. I did that. So that was my first experience in my way into the business. Although and actually, it was a very important experience because I was so unimportant and I had so zero responsibilities although by the end, they did allow me to bring the cast to set and stuff like that. Which was Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas and Laura Linney. I should say so pretty cool. Yeah. For that in that position. I got to know what everyone did on set. as a as a guy who doesn't, you know, I just Of course, there was so many people I knew about the heads of department from my film studies, but not what like the prop master. I wasn't sure what a prop master did then. So you know, that would come in handy Mark very handy later when I had my first group on my first short film, but then I got back to Milan which is my hometown. I think At the same time, Luca Guadagnino was coming to Milan to his movie I am love. And he was looking for people to, to collaborate with him and to help him understand some things of the city of fight certain types of locations and find people to be in the film that wouldn't be actors, but that would be people from the world he was portrayed in the film. And because of I was looking for work, and he was looking for such a person, we found each other through mutual connections and, and I did that film, and that was a completely different experience. And I got to work very closely with him and got to know his working method really closely. And all his collaborators to which eventually became also my collaborators, some of them anyway. So that was and that meeting with him and and with his producing partner, Marco Morabito would turn out to be life changing in some ways, because, aside from personal relationships, what happened is, I wrote an idea for a short film after that movie was over. And I showed it to Luca, we showed it to Marco. And the two of them said, like, this is great, we want to produce it. And, of course, I was so happy, and then it took a year and a half of work.
Alex Ferrari 6:20
You mean, you mean to tell me that? You mean to tell me it didn't happen overnight, they didn't just write a check. And then you were shooting the next week,
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 6:25
three weeks later, we were shooting? You know, it was a it was a long journey. Also, I was right. Right. It was a little ambitious. And what I wanted to do with the actors were obviously it was very conceived to be in one location, a villa with just like a car scene outside of it. So something that would make sense, but I, I, my ambition was to work with great actors. And even with writing, I already had an idea of who I wanted to approach for those roles. And they were important actors in Europe and in, in France and in Italy. But, you know, and that's what all that time, you know, took, but between finding financing. And you know, I still have some debts from that, by the way. I do really?
Alex Ferrari 7:16
I'm sure you do.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 7:17
And coming around to those actors, which eventually, you know, embraced the project and did it. That took a while. And that was my first. You know, I did I did video stuff beforehand, it was a video maker, I did stuff for the internet, stuff for hire small, silly things, but that I would I will consider that short film, which is called darky, my first piece of work as a filmmaker, for cinema, let's say. And that. So I guess that's how I got into the business the answer a very long.
Alex Ferrari 7:49
Fair enough. Now, when you made your first short film, what was the biggest lesson you learned on that? Because you must have been being bombarded with lessons on a daily basis during that year and a half, and even through production, and afterwards. So what's the biggest thing you learned making that first film?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 8:06
Well, something that I happened to me, I have to say naturally was over preparing. And one big lesson I learned is it's never enough. All that time that all that hardship that I learned, not during the making, but I guess during the development is, you know, be ready to be sad all the time, and depressed, and feel like it's never gonna work out. And if people say no, and then they are even worse, they say yes. And then they change their mind and to say no, and, you know, especially looking for funding. But, you know, by the time it got to set all that time had passed, I hadn't thought about every inch of this short film, how I wanted to shoot it, how I wanted the performances to be in everything. But all that preparation, I realized, a, you know, I understood, first of all, something that is pretty obvious, which is the amazing luck of working with big performance, because I could have envisioned everything. But then the most beautiful thing is when one of the actors like really girl who is a very natural actor who goes by very much by his own instinct and intuition, everything that he came up with, I could not have envisioned was gone. But to go back to what I was saying earlier, there's still so many unexpected things that happen when you're actually shooting something and just even, even like this example, also, the things that come out of collaborators and actors. There's not no limit to how much you can bring in and then still be surprised I and then also There's no limit to how much you can prepare and still feel unprepared on the day. Because because of the unexpected, and so, you know, that was a, I guess, a hard a hard lesson to learn. But what one, you know, I listen, I learned even later in making my first feature, and then eventually my second is the importance of sleep. I learned that on my short film, I did not learn that because I basically did not sleep for the whole six days of shooting, because I was excited because I was worrying about everything. And you know, on day five, I literally walked into my hotel room and I fainted it to sleep. But I because I hadn't felt I hadn't slept all day, because it felt I had more important things to do than sleep, I have to think about tomorrow to go over the shots I envisioned and you know, prepare. But that was a mistake. And I learned only later the importance of you know, shutting down and actually falling asleep and letting sleep do its work as well.
Alex Ferrari 11:10
Absolutely. No, trust me, I completely understand. And as you get older you realize about sleep. Because when you're young when you're young, you think
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 11:18
you could do anything? Yeah, yeah, I was a little young when I started with that did that short film? So of course, I couldn't even physically do that now.
Alex Ferrari 11:29
Yes, me too. No, did you know so when you went to your when you went on on day one with your, with your short film, I do this all the time. And especially when I was first starting out, I really did this. I showed up. And I showed my first ad and my dp the shots, the shot list for the day, at least for the first half of the day. And I would show up with like, you know, 175. And then the and then the season First, the first ad in the season dp would go, that's nice. What do you want to cut? Did you did you do that? Or do you kind of show up with a bunch of like, you know, I always like to overshoot. So I always prepare like 30 or 40 shots? Well, knowing that I'll get 10 of them. If I'm lucky that day, but at least I have that just in case there is where things are moving, things are going quick. And then I kind of get what I want. Is that the way you approach that first,
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 12:22
I'm at probably out of enthusiasm. I didn't have more than was feasible because of course, I didn't have the experience to know what would be feasible, for sure. However, in general, I have to say my approach is different. And I tend to do the opposite. And try to think more about how less shots can do the trick, though, actually. I mean, it depends also on what the what the film is and what the story requires. In terms of pace, for example, that was a blight. You know, that short film had to do with something that was burning slow and and under occurring and building tension. You know, it wasn't action packed or anything. And it was about the hidden part of a relationship between two friends that say, and the tension that was there. And then it sort of bursts for a moment. So you know, I didn't think I would need fast cutting anything, you know. So in that sense, I have to say, even though I may have over over, you know, overestimated, it will be good shoot, I don't have that tendency. I didn't have that tendency on that or on my first film, but rather, I guess the difficulty of the shots that I came up with whether you know, they were realistically
Alex Ferrari 13:46
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 13:47
or not. That was a pain and yeah, and it's all of this is gonna be covered in rain. And then we'll have the rain out the window and the lecture. Yeah, we can't or that there's just one guy spraying water on the window. Right? Right.
Alex Ferrari 14:02
Yeah, in the in the, in the directors imagination, you have rainmakers you've got you know, rain all over the place, you've got the wide shot, you've got lights for a mile down, so you can get these full view shots. And it ends up with it ends up with a grip with a hose on a window.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 14:19
That's exactly how it actually works. We couldn't have the hose because it wasn't the second floor. So it was literally breaking
Alex Ferrari 14:27
some pork ribs outside which Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Now how did you how did you leverage the short film into your first feature film because that's a lot of filmmakers are trying to figure out getting their first short film and how they can leverage that to get access to making an actual feature.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 14:47
I am afraid I did not think that much ahead. Look, I had an idea for a short film, which was an idea, a concept and therefore would work For a short film, I actually am generally, you know, what I love about movies is something to do with creating a world and creating a narrative and then challenging that narrative and challenging the experience of watching the movie. So it kinda is about features. So this idea I had had, was not, was never really going to work for a future it was, it was something that would work for something limited in time. So in that sense, I just kind of conceived that project as it was as a as a any idea. I mean, I'll tell you, without getting into the story, that concept was also seeing as if it was a piece of a bigger film. But the only very important piece of it, you know, so you see those two people driving in the car, and they're, they've obviously done something before. And then something is obviously gonna happen later. But you've seen the most important piece. And that's it, that fragment of sorts, like dream, really, where you can't really remember what was before, and you can't really remember what happened after, but this is the important bit of the dream. So in that sense, I guess in terms of long lead projects, I did not think ahead that way. I thought, this is cool for a short film, let's make it the best way we can. And then, and then I actually I was writing a feature, which had absolutely nothing to do with this, which was going to be epic, obviously, obviously epic, obviously, to epic. And so when I realized how difficult that was to finance this short film, and then eventually how difficult it would be to finance that feature, which was to epic. Talking with my producers about this conundrum, then then this other idea came along to make what actually became my first feature, which was something smaller, more manageable.
Alex Ferrari 17:03
Yeah. And then, with the success of that, how did you get involved with Beckett? I mean, because that's a fairly big jump from where you were, to an F to an A to an action movie with a major major up and coming star if not already a star, as well. And yeah, Oscar Oscar winner, with Elisa there. And I mean, it's just amazing. So how did you get involved with Beckett?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 17:28
Look up. First of all, I should specify that it depends the perspective. But my first feature was, you know, it had a beautiful festival run won awards. Got some very nice reviews. But you know, it only got distributed in Italy. It wasn't an N on and on movie internationally. But you know, it was it was a tiny film, it was a very nice thing. So it comes into play. But it's not I would say because of, well, I guess you can be the judge of that. I'll tell you how I think it comes into play. Because actually Beckett and the genre of Beckett, which, let's say is sort of a dramatic manhunt thriller, something I have always wanted to play with. Something I have always loved in movies ever since I was a little kid. In fact, you know what my the first filmmaker I ever loved very much was was Brian De Palma. When manhunt manhunt aside, the way he deals with genre and different ones that that would such a personal point of view. And such warm and and dramatic characters, was something that always inspired me from the get go. And then I guess that inspiration, I applied for manhunt, literature, but also movies. And so I always knew I wanted to make a movie in those in that round, let's say. But obviously, it was going to be something more ambitious. And that could not have been something made as a first feature, or at least the way I envisioned it the way I wanted, you know, to create a worldwide wide enough to contain something as strong as I would like it to be. But so you know, what happened is I concede this story based on on what I loved and what I wanted to make more personal than mine. also adding something that would be that would feel fresh today in the genre, because of course, we have seen many mahound films. But I like the idea of trying to make something new as I'm sure everyone does. After an after finding my angle, you know, we approached these actors. And, you know, the first thing that happens is they react to what's on the page. JOHN David liked what he read. He liked the idea that this character was completely unusual for the job. Right. And it was a dramatic character, a man who was going through a personal crisis, and it was completely unfit to be, you know, experiencing what happens in the film, and definitely not your typical hero per se, not skilled as a hero of these types of films. And then I guess what my first feature, you know, when he read that we sent him my first feature, just, you know, this is the guy who conceived the movie and is gonna direct it. And then we had our meeting. And when we had our meeting, the first 15 minutes, john David spoke about my first feature, because he loved it. I love this, I love that I love that performance. And he spoke about that scene in the beginning. And I think that it was an amazing icebreaker, of course, because that movie was so different, you know, it was a portrait of a poet from the 1930s. But yet he could connect to something on there. That was that had to do with the portrayal of character, which, of course, would come into play in our conversation in Beckett, because actually, Beckett is a dramatic character. And so in some ways, there was something there, I guess, to argue similarities, at least an approach, then, of course, genre would be different. So, you know, I like to think that that first feature I did, even though john David would not have seen it unless we'd sent it to him in the context of reading Beckett, it helped our relationship, our dialogue, maybe even his belief in me, you know, so it did come into play in that sense.
Alex Ferrari 21:35
And then, so you just basically sent the script out to john, David's people, he read it, he liked it, he met with you. At that point, then you started looking for financing, or was Netflix attached? How did that work?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 21:49
No, Netflix was not attached. We we financed the film completely independently with the hard work of, of my producers. It was in tandem, you know, we were we were shopping the movie to financier's and simultaneously casting. And then of course, when john David decided to make the movie that that was, it started to become a very specific package that we could have. And then eventually, we managed to finance it actually with mostly European money, a lot of Italian money, and a slice of Brazilian money. And then we made the film completely independently. And then Netflix picked it up once we'd finished it as a distributor.
Alex Ferrari 22:30
Interesting. So then, one thing I've always found, I found issues going through my journeys in Hollywood, especially when I was coming up is when you do one genre like you did with your first movie, which was much more character based. And you want to jump genre to essentially a dramatic action film, you know, because there's a lot a lot of stunts a lot of actions. A lot of times, especially if you're just the director, they say, Oh, well, he has no directing. He has no skill, and he has never shot action before. How can we give him millions of dollars to shoot an action. But the big difference with you is that you were also the creator behind this. So you kind of had to like if you want the movie you got to bring me along for the ride. Is that how it worked? And did you did you come into those walls? Did you hit those walls?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 23:14
Well, no, no, you're absolutely right. I had gone ask the question, why? Many times? Why you made the poet movie? Why do you want to do this? What's the problem with doing I love poets. I love artists, I thought that movie had a reason to exist. Because it was interesting to me to see, you know, there aren't that many movies about poets and I thought it would be interesting to make a movie about poetry and the creative process of a poet. And I also find it interesting to make a manhunt film with a very dramatic character that center why why can't that be? And I'm a kind of expert in that genre, even though I've never shot it before. And I like the idea of with my perspective, finding my angle through it, you know, and then on the script I wanted to collaborate it with with some someone American, especially because of my background and my European perspective. I like the idea because of course, we were playing with genre tropes that mostly belong to American cinema, even though not exclusively, but mostly. I like that are two different perspectives with Kevin rice, who eventually became the screenwriter on the film. You know, that collaboration, that formula? So I got asked that question a lot. And my answer was always look, I mean, someone even suggested Oh, and then we'll have a great second unit your actions. Right? And I'm like, No, I want to shoot back and see.
Alex Ferrari 24:49
That's the fun part.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 24:50
I mean, I mean, of course they're pro look at we called amazing stunt. I sent an amazing stone cord and a tour and stuff performance to Help us in the movie that, of course. But why in conceiving the action, no, I want I want to consider the action I want to, I want to decide how to shoot it, and tailor it on what this character is the specificity of this character who by the way happens to be it not a, you know, a trained killer. And on this story on my tone on my locations, which informs so much of what the tone of the film is, so yeah, I got asked that question a lot. And it's always the argument is, look, I, you know, I find this story to be interesting, both because of this characters perspective, but also, you know, because of the genre, I love the genre I want, I want to find my way into it. And it was sometimes it took hard convincing, and sometimes probably, it was not convincing.
Alex Ferrari 25:51
But you gotta but you got it in you got done. Yeah,
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 25:53
yeah. And independently, that's what's interesting, you know, the look, we did go around with, of course, the problem, aside from the genre to is, I had only one feature,
Alex Ferrari 26:08
one dramatic feature one dramatically dramatic feature. Yeah.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 26:11
So of course, it was gonna be hard. But then, you know, yeah, we got it done. It was it was a lot of it was a lot of hard work. And, of course, having the the producers that I had as a team behind me, both, because, you know, they're, they're amazing. credibility, but also, because of sheer work. You know, finding the right people to talk to and proposing it correctly. Setting up are very difficult meetings in which I got asked those weird questions. Yeah, so it was, it was all of those things. And, you know, for example, another example of that, what you ask is, oh, and then then you could get an amazing dp who's has a lot of experience and action. And I'm like, again, no, I love to work with my dp who shot my first movie, he's my favorite dp in independent cinema, he's the best. Even though he has not action, he has not shot x, oh, that's
Alex Ferrari 27:16
always a tough pill
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 27:18
to find our action language that is ours. And, you know,
Alex Ferrari 27:25
approach and what I love about and I was telling you this before we started the conversation, was I love the approach to the action in this film, it was so unAmerican in so many ways, which, which you can, I mean, I'm a connoisseur of cinema, obviously. So when I was watching it, I was like, Oh, this is so fresh, you can obviously tell this as a European director, this is not an American director in the best sense of the word because just the the focus on character, I felt john David throughout the piece, as opposed to just like some sort of puppet action, you know, 80s character who just go without any depth, there was so much depth, so much emotion, so much pain, in the action, and in that character that was so wonderful, and just how you shot the action was was raw. And it felt like a constant roller coaster like you were you You didn't give up. You didn't give others very moment, there was very few moments of break. You were just like you just on this thing. And like when you held on you got a hold of the audience, you didn't let go, which I loved. I love that about the action.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 28:31
Well, I find that to be again, I guess, depending on the kind of movie you want to make, there is a What is your focus? And in many movies, I guess, that are more or less thrillers or action thrillers, spectacle is important. And and as such, it sucks away, I guess from other aspects of work can be explored. And in my case, I definitely wanted spectacle and the sense of adventure of the genre to be there. But I wanted to only get there through this character. Because I found that, you know, having him be so specific, so unequipped for this experience, going through everything that he's going through, aside from the experience with his own personal crisis, found that that approach to this arrival at the spectacle would be, I guess what unique we have to offer. And of course, this is enabled, aside from, you know, conceiving it and planning it by the amazing performance of john David. So, you know, one thing is, is you say, all right, so he decides he wants to, he's running away from danger, he wants to steal that bike. And I guess in a movie, which focuses on spectacle, he steals the bike, any speed through the streets, avoiding all sorts of dangers and gets away in this movie, it does not go that way at all. Because what, you know, you try to steal a scooter from an angry Greek person who's going to do something very important, I want to see how that goes you as an average person, and I like the idea even of playing around with this concept of, first of all, challenging the probe. And second, really thinking about how would it go for this character, and not just for the sake of, you know, the spectacle, and again, doing what has been already well covered? Now, that I guess that this this angle, then informed of course, how the action took place, right? And then and then therefore, how its shot. As a consequence,
Alex Ferrari 30:52
if you are exactly in it, and you can tell that you you did not lead with spectacle, though there is spectacle in the film, no question. But it did not lead with that. And that's so wonderful about it. Now, I was and I was telling this to my wife, and we were watching it. I'm like, I think john David's in every single scene, isn't he? There's not one scene he's not it's pretty much every scene he's in. Yeah, yeah. So that must have been brutal for him as an ad like he's, there's not a break.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 31:20
I joke with him, I joke with him that he actually ran much more than Beckett, because he had to do takes
Alex Ferrari 31:27
on it and do it once. And I love and I love about him that you've given you gave him throughout his journey, things that would slow him down injuries. And, you know, all these kind of things that I equate with john McClane walking on barefooted on class in diehard Yeah, that you gave him a bunch of that you didn't have to because it was tough enough, but you added that extra level of stress to the character, which I thought was wonderful was just a nice little touch. Well, I
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 31:57
think this actually has to do with with, as Quentin Tarantino would say it, I guess, delivering the goods of the genre. I'm quoting something I remember him talking about Reservoir Dogs, I guess. Because he's he the way he was presenting it, I remember and then stop referencing him was, it's a heist film where you don't see the heist, but I still want to deliver the goods and the excitement of that kind of film. Okay, and reference. I get the point to me, you know, the great beauty and enjoyment of seeing a great Mannheim thriller, is it the kind of road movie, you know, there's, you know, you have to escape, and therefore, you cover ground, and therefore, ground landscape locations. They're very important. And so in that sense, of course, okay. So, he, he becomes the danger arise, and he decides he wants to go to the US Embassy, which happens to be not where he is at all. Now. Basically, in a film like this, and with this premise, the landscape can change the story, because if there's one highway connecting him to the embassy, it's one story, if there's five mountains, Four Rivers, seven trains, and, you know, a bunch of protesters, it's a different story, you know. So, that becomes part of the movie. So I would, I would consider it, I guess, more than a touch actually, part of the flesh of the film. And I will tell you that when I was driving around mainland Greece, where I wanted to set the film, looking for locations, I sometimes even saw something that was so striking that it was kind of backwards compatibility, like, Okay, so this is great. Let's adapt the scene so that it would work with this location, because he goes through here, then, you know, this happens as a consequence, and he it stays with him for the rest of the film. And in that sense, the land itself became a part of the movie, and I thought that was important for this type of movie, for that sense of adventure and spectacle.
Alex Ferrari 34:23
Yeah, of course. Now, do you have any advice for directing actors? Because, I mean, you have some amazing performances and Beckett. Well,
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 34:34
I look I am a little obsessive. So I like to do a lot of research and collect material for myself, thinking about the characters and how, you know, both in the writing process, but then also thinking about how to make them alive. And and I like to share that material with with the actors. I work with. That said, I would say my advice for for filmmakers who are starting out is be absolutely open to the instinct and the quality specific to that actor. Because maybe sometimes when younger filmmakers come with so much, so many ideas, and so much excitement about, oh, this character has to be like this. And like that, may very well be if you're the absolute master of, you know, filmmaking. But in many cases, that's not true. And in fact, something like I was saying earlier in our conversation that the actor might come out with with instinct, or, or reacting to the material you share, or, or just from their own baggage. And it's something that you may not have imagined is much richer and more useful at the end of the day to the performance that you seek. So and that actually works differently from actor to actor. So I guess, one has to have knee one needs that sensibility of understanding what is the level of dialogue and exchange or even how much you sort of want to give an actor or how much does another type of actor not want to receive very much and want to kind of do their own thing that is difficult to master, I guess, when you're starting out. Finding that sensibility of of calibrating how you work with whom I you know, at least that's how I do it. I know, people are different actors have different personalities and different methods for sure. So I always come with my baggage and my preparation and the material I like to share and then see what happens and calibrate accordingly, according to what happens next, you know, and then be open to their instinct and everything that they can enrich. Now,
Alex Ferrari 36:57
what was the toughest day that you had on set? What was the toughest production day? Like, you're like, Oh, my God, this is not gonna, we're not gonna make it. There's always a day like that. We're not gonna make it. It's not good attitude. Okay, how can how can we? How can we make it without without me dying? No, I'm joking.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 37:18
I'll tell you, I'll tell you the most obvious answer first. And we have obviously, there's a big, there's two scenes. One that is a rally a political rally, yeah, where a politician is going to speak, and then late, and then stuff happens. And then later, that rally has turned into a riot. Okay, so these are two scenes that are set in the same square. We were lucky enough that basically, the the municipality of Athens allowed us to shoot in syntagma Square, the Parliament Square, which is where what, you know, when they do rallies, they walk from areas of Athens, they join up, and they arrive in the Parliament Square. That's how it happens. In reality, it happens to be humongous. No movie could ever cover it entirely, because it's too big. However, they said, you can shoot there. And okay, luxury, amazing, beautiful, but you have only one day. Okay. So, you know, it would be one thing to have one scene to shoot, but we had two, and they were different. So I you know, that was the toughest day on the most obvious terms of what a tough day is. Because, you know, of course, we have to plan everything. Of course, there were unexpected things. And we just had to deliver so much storytelling, and also show so much stuff going on. Plot moments also, that's near the end of the film. So there's a lot going on. Not why. But there's also all these people Durango. But there's also the problem of even though we had a lot of extras, there was also 97% of the square was empty. Now it didn't look it. It didn't look it but yeah, well that's the thing. Yeah, find the angle. But then Okay, so that angle works. But then you have to go all the way there to shoot that scene. And then we had to go all the way up there to shoot that other moment. And so it was a nightmare. You know? It
Alex Ferrari 39:23
Yeah. And then there's a big difference in production design from a rally to a riot. As far as just dying, the sets and all that stuff. So like once you you're like okay, did we get everything for the rally? Okay, now let's start breaking everything apart. Let's start setting some fires. Let's start, you know, putting some debris down, because you can't go back. After you got one day you can't go back once you start once you've let that go. It's gone.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 39:46
No, one thing we did manage to to, which is kind of funny if you know it when you watch the film, but I'll say it anyway is we did manage to go back to shoot a couple of sites. blocks, which means basically that we shot, we shot the square scenes, and then there was like a moment that's only on a sidewalk, and all the characters are looking into the square to this amazing drama that's happening. And actually, it was just full of traffic, like every day, you know, does it. So you got you went to snack. And that's the extent that we managed to sort of, do get some feedback. But you know, the bulk of it, we shot on that day, and it was it was intense, you know, every 20 minutes, we had to move into something else. Or we, you know, the scene would would be missing plot points. Right, that wouldn't leave anything behind them, there was no plan, no possible Plan B.
Alex Ferrari 40:40
Now, what was it like, collaborating with john David as as a as a collaborator, as an actor? I mean, he, it's a pretty intense relationship, you guys must have had to do a film like this, since he's in every scene, it's action, you're in a foreign land and all this kind of stuff? how did how was that collaboration?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 41:00
It was beautiful. I think the first, you know, referencing, again, that first meeting that we had about the film, we had a great conversation there. And I think we understood that we were in sync, about our taste. And the idea of playing with genre, he loves genre cinema as well, very much. And he liked this idea of approaching it from this odd angle with this odd character. So that informed a lot of our first conversation, and then eventually our working relationship. Because with this exciting understanding that started our dialogue, it was all a nice sort of exploration hunt for ways to best express it. So again, I had I had a bunch of material that I shared with him a bunch of movies that I wanted to show him, and then he would react to those, and we'd had beautiful, long conversations about why that was interesting what we can take from that, what we should not take from that. And so that was I would say that was the most important part of creating that character, or at least I guess, informing that our working relationship leading to that performance. And then we did so much of that beforehand, that by the time we got to set we have short standing, we had a library of references to get to if we needed to like, oh, remember that moment from that movie that you liked for that? And that reason? Yeah, let's think of that. Or, or, you know, we talked a lot about the relationship that Beckett has with his girlfriend, April in the film, and the meaning of that relationship. And because the two characters are so different from each other, and yet, they are completely in love. And that, of course, because of what happens at the beginning of the film becomes important in the movie inside of Beckett throughout the rest of the story. What's going on, in his personal crisis, and you know, it was it was again, shorthand and easy to go back and reference that. And the thing about john, David is, is that he is obsessive, extremely passionate, and a master minimalist in many ways. So that we had this baggage, we had this dialogue, and then he would just go with his instinct. And that's when I got to sit back and enjoy. Without everything we talked about, it all sort of went away and disappeared. And then he went, he came out with his talent and his instinct, and then whatever we wanted to change, it was again, it was just like, oh, remember that thing we said about the relationship that she wished she could be? But then, you know, that's lost. And he thinks about it now. Just like 10 seconds conversation, it references a whole world that we already discussed beforehand. And we were able to have this complicity, which was, you know, a privileged and gold to me, also, you know, gave me confidence in and in the everyday production. Yeah. Now, the
Alex Ferrari 44:25
one thing I want to just kind of put a little spotlight on what you just said is, a lot of times first time directors or young directors don't realize how important collaborating with your lead actors are. And they come in with their, their ego, their way of doing it and they're very kind of concrete about, I want my character to do this, this and this, and they block and they just kind of disregard what the actor who's playing that character brings to the table and only through working with actors, you understand that the magic you hire Because of their bringing their magic to them to this character, so I'm sure that Beckett was, was created once on the page. But then once john David came in, and then both of you started working together, it became what we see. And it wasn't just all your way along, and all the great directors do that, because that's the way it should be. Right? Well, that's how it becomes better. You can take credit, and you could take credit for it as a director. I'm joking. Oh, yeah, of course, of course. I'm joking. I'm joking. The
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 45:30
point is exactly. I mean, my mind is limited to be in one mind. I conceived the project, I put together pieces, but you know, it is only through collaborators who each have their own job is obviously much better than me, come contribute with their ideas. And this is, of course, most important with actors who define very much the final temperature of the movie. The the soul of a movie in some ways. And that's, that's kind of why I think when you hear when you reading about film history and stuff, you're like, oh, and then this actor was going to play in that movie. But then, you know, he couldn't. And then this other actor played, and you're like, I can't imagine that. Because it's because that, you know, the actor, establishes, I think, the beating heart of the movie, or the soul of the movie, depending on how spiritual You are so much, that no matter how much you conceived around him, and inside him, that talent, and that baggage that inevitably an actor is, you know, Bertolucci always said, any feature fiction movie is, at the end of the day, a documentary about the actors, you know, because they're actors, and they act, but at the end of the day, there are these humans who go who are able to go places and deliver what the what the story needs. And you know, and and you can't plan all of that. Is it possible is silly. And if you did, it would be probably very shallow. You know, very, and it is an actor's qualities and definitely with john David, I got lucky. That that make whatever character is at play that real deep, and, you know, in this case, relatable, warm and strong at the same time.
Alex Ferrari 47:35
Now, when is a Beckett available for everyone to see this Friday, the 13th of August? Okay, very quick. And I tell ya, it's, it's a fantastically lucky day, I think you'll do fine. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice do you wish you would have gotten at the beginning of your career?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 48:03
I think, absolutely without boundaries, but then also revise with critical editorial mind, you know, to find the essence of what needed to say, you know, when you're when you're when it's so it's so expensive and difficult to make films that you know, when you're starting out, and you it's difficult to get any scene made, it's costly and everything and then you cut stuff, and it's on the cutting room floor, and you're like, Jesus had you know, if I'd known that I would have shot, you know, the other stuff. So, and, and it's impossible. I mean, you can't you don't you can't get there, but aspire to that, I guess that quality. And then of course, sleep
Alex Ferrari 48:55
sleeps, sleep, sleep sleep? And would that be the advice you would give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Or would it? Would that be some other advice?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 49:05
Well, I mean, look, it's it would be a mistake, I think to say to give the advice of thinking practically. Like, you know, come up with something that you can make. That's not too crazy. I think that's wrong. I think one should follow absolutely their instinct and their need to tell stories. Why do you even want to make this in the first place? That reason is what should inform every single decision you make, including how ambitious to project it, how ambitious the project is, how big it is. And then of course, you just have to be a realist and come with critical mind and understand how you can tailor it, let's say so, you know, I guess it's a more complicated piece of advice, but that's how I feel I should have you know, if I known that more efficiently. I would have been maybe faster to put things together.
Alex Ferrari 50:06
Very good. Now three of your favorite films of all time.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 50:11
I like that you say three of my favorite things. Yes. It's not the favorite three necessarily.
Alex Ferrari 50:16
No, it's the three that come of currently as you as we speak today.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 50:21
Well, I would like to, at least with one or two reference stuff that inspired me for this film, which remain among my favorite films of all time, and one is Three Days of the Condor by Pollock, wonderful film. And other is manhunt by Fritz Lang, based on an amazing novel by Jeffrey household called rogue male in the film of the novel are different, but both are masterpieces. for different reasons, and the film is amazing. It's called man hunt two words. And then what can I say? Something more recent. In reference to the amazing composer, I got to work with the viewer which is like a motto I will say. I'm sure to your surprise Snake Eyes. by Brian Alma.
Alex Ferrari 51:21
Yeah, I don't remember snake. Yeah. Oh, God, the opening sequence. Just the way that camera? No, I
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 51:27
just say it because I know in America, it's like, oh, that movie with that kind of with the crazy Nicolas Cage that are that? No, I love that movie. And he is perfect in it. He's a you know that the character is crazy.
Alex Ferrari 51:41
Listen, Nicolas Cage is a national treasure. And that has to be stated currently. I mean, I don't care what anyone says Nicolas Cage is a national treasure. Without question ain't paid. We're absolutely on the same page. I can watch his early performances, his crazy performances, his subtle performances. He's a national treasure.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 51:59
I enjoyed the night guys. Absolutely. This This, this, again, speaking about infusing genre with a personal touch. And with a drama, which you do not expect. Because you do not expect that when you walk into Snake Eyes, you will expect spectacle. And on a grand scale, but but then you're like, you're surprised to be touched and moved and then more spectacle?
Alex Ferrari 52:28
Well, when you can, when you can combine spectacle with character and emotion, well, then you have a hit. That's where some of the biggest, you know, some of the biggest blockbusters, Titanic, I mean, for God's sakes, and those kind of films that have that you're able to do the spectacle, but there's an emotional core that people attached to. That's why when you see these movies that come out of Hollywood, sometimes they're all spectacle. And then the executives are like, why didn't it make money and like because you get no heart in and it's not as just because you can, you can write you can blow up, you can destroy the world 100 times we've seen it 100 times. And it's not cool just to see that spectacle anymore. It has to be story. If you don't have story, you don't have character, you have something to hold on to. It's just empty. And in today's world, my God, we're bombarded with so much stuff, that when you you want that attached. And I think that is I think honestly, it's one of the things I love about Beckett is the connection, the human connection. I think that's what we all thrive for is human connection. And if you can connect to a story on an emotional level, the spectacle is just added cream on top of the cake.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 53:39
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I wish your statement was always true. example, if the example of snake eyes makes it not entirely true, because afraid that was not a hit.
Alex Ferrari 53:52
Oh, no, it's there's always reasons for it not to be a hit. But yeah, but they connect to you emotionally. And I think dipalma we can go for an hour about the poem because I'm a huge dipalma fan as well sisters, and oh my god, and just I mean amazing amount of stuff that he's done. And it's so fascinating that he left Hollywood, he's like, screw Hollywood. I'm just gonna go to Europe and just make movies now the way I want to make them and I'm like, thank God. Because then and that was beautiful. Yeah.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 54:21
Yeah, that made the movie he made in Paris.
Alex Ferrari 54:23
Yo, amazed me. It was stunning. No, no, it was stunning. But this is one thing. I've always I've said this to people on the show as well, privately. It's unfortunate. Some of these amazing directors. They might have a flop or something like that, or they highlight something that doesn't perform well. And then Hollywood takes the keys away from them. Yeah, it's sad. I mean, because I want to see another Peter Weir film. I want to see another Wolfgang Petersen film. You know, want to see these kind of another Brian De Palma film maybe with a little bit more money involved so he can do what he does, and get the take they take the keys away from so I'm so glad that someone like the Paloma I could just go to Europe and just make the movies he wants to make how he wants to make them.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 55:04
I would say that some, you know, it's interesting, this cross pollination between Europe and America, just like it's interesting for some European filmmakers to go work in America, you know, depending on the films they want to make. I think it's under understated undervalued, how much? Sometimes it is, it's interesting that American directors go to Europe, not just because they can't make a film in America, but because the context is different than maybe could be stimulating in a different way. And you know, different things. Go. The taste is like, I think that cross pollination is all you know, I believe in this idea of cinema is all one nation anyway, all of us have their own culture from their own countries. But we all meet in the same land. And I you know, of course, we referenced a lot of American cinema, or British cinema. But I'm also just as much inspired thinking again about Beckett by Hong Kong cinema. Johnny or Johnny Tom movies. Or in Japan, Takashi Mika movies. Yep. So, so at Sure. I mean, I love I love to imagine there will be equity makers in different landscapes.
Alex Ferrari 56:26
And, and we'll end it on this. There's one filmmaker who got to cross pollinate over to America back in the 90s. Was Luke the sun. And he did Yeah. Which he did Leon, which is arguably still one of my favorite action films of all time. And, and I love his version of it actually, not the American version that was called the professional like when he added 15 extra minutes that they cut out because it was too risque. It actually made the story even better. Yeah, I guess that's what I mean with an American director. If you went to Europe, those 15 minutes would be in there, you know, right. And then we file because Lucas on became lupus on that the studio's like, well, maybe we should let him have his Director's Cut. And that came out it was Leon, which was originally the called Leon, but they never thought of that. But the reason why that movie works so beautifully is the emotion. I mean, you're you're crying at the end of an action movie. It's just brilliant. And that is a way
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 57:20
or a character who is most definitely despicable. Killer.
Alex Ferrari 57:25
He's Yeah, he's an but the thing that makes his character so wonderful, is that he's basically, you know, just a he's so loving with his plant. And also, he kills bad people.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 57:40
He doesn't go and more importantly, Gary Oldman is much more despicable than him if you
Alex Ferrari 57:45
have to. If you don't have Gary Oldman, then it's hard to root for Leon, because you've got Gary Oldman who is just so overcome whatever performance that was, Oh, God, all right. We can geek out about movies on that. But there's Fernando, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been a pleasure. I wish you continued success back it was is a triumph and and I hope everybody watching Netflix gets a chance to watch it. This Friday, August 13. A very lucky day here in America.
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