Insights from talented Filmmakers

“Mai” by Giulio Poidomani. A case study

How to make a successful Indie film with limited resources?

 

Director GIULIO Poidomani (31) is winning Film Festivals around the U.S. for his profound short Film “Mai/Never” (Vimeo trailer here), produced with a small budget and an avalanche of passion. When you watch “Mai” you soon recognize a very high value product. The aesthetic outcome and the impressions are those of a great substance film made out of a considerable budget. Wrong. the substance is truly great, but it’s made from limited resources. Many indie projects are characterized by low budget, but very few of them can boast a similar overall quality. Let’s discover the choices that led Poidomani to this result.

giulio-poidomani-portrait

Director Giulio Poidomani

 

Giulio is a New York based Italian Director who, apparently, is mastering the art of making gold out of stones. We met him at the Miami Independent Film Festival last June 25th-26th, during the Mindie first annual event in Wynwood. We want to know more about his production and learn some tricks on how to make a high value film starting with a low budget.

 

INTERVIEWER

Hi Giulio. Congratulations for “Mai”, your film is very deep. It’s built on different levels of narration. How would you briefly describe this story?

 

GIULIO

Thank you. This is the story of Claudia, a lost soul who struggles to find herself in a place she doesn’t know. She goes to Modica, my hometown, to visit her ex-lover who rejects her. The night alone in Modica changes when she meets Sandro, who shows her the secrets of the town. Claudia doesn’t even understand what she wants, indeed, not even her own sexual preference. She’ll be able to find the key to open the right door inside her thanks to the unexpected encounter with Sandro.

 

INTERVIEWER

In the story we clearly see a transition of the character. In the beginning Claudia floats on her life without knowing were she’ll end up. In the end, she’s the maker of her own destiny. What is the underlying story structure? How did you design it?

 

GIULIO

Well, this is a short film. Too often, when we think about a short film, we believe that one of the three acts is missing – might be the first or the last, that’s what they teach in school. To make it simple: first act, we meet the hero in his world. But this system crashes as the hero is thrown into the second act, a journey across a different world. End of the journey, act three, the hero comes back to his world, but now he’s more experienced and stronger. To me, a well done short film needs to have all three acts. Claudia, my heroine, does the whole tour: I didn’t renounce any part of her discovery.

 

INTERVIEWER

Three acts to build a solid structure, then. How was the story born? Where did you start from?

 

GIULIO

I wrote “Mai” the night I watched a masterpiece, “L’Avventura” by Michelangelo Antonioni (1960, Ed.). Few films have perturbed me so deep in my gut.

(beat.)

When I wrote Mai, I was sure I was going to pack it with homage to Antonioni’s work. So many shots I loved from his film: I tried to propose them again from my perspective. In particular, the hotel scene, that is crucial in both films.

 

confronto-mai_avv-donna

“L’Avventura” by Antonioni on the left; “Mai” by Poidomani on the right

 

INTERVIEWER

So you have enriched your movie, made with a modest budget, by using references and shots that reflect great value. And you did it in a respectful way, actually: a great choice, Giulio. For example, how did you render the scene of the hotel that you mentioned before?

 

GIULIO

In both films the woman is reflected in the mirror, while the man is looking at her. Another feminine element is present in both films: the statue on the left in “L’Avventura” and two playing cards in my film. A Queen of Swords and a smaller Queen of Coins. In both works, the aim of this detail is to evoke the missing woman: Anna in “L’Avventura”, and Claudia herself in “Mai”. Claudia is searching for herself in this part of the film. The two queens are representing this ambiguity.

 

confronto-mai_avv-specchio

“L’Avventura” on the left; “Mai” on the right

 

INTERVIEWER

(nodding.)

Amazing, really. That’s why when we watch “Mai” we feel the sensation we’re watching a high level production: it’s rich in meaningful details recalling solid works. So it borrows their substance, somehow, still in a very personal and original way. The cinematography is just brilliant. Who was involved? Which technology did you use?

 

GIULIO

My wonderful DoP for this movie is Francesco Di Pierro. We shot with a Red Epic, but I believe the person behind the camera is far more important than the camera itself. Francesco understood perfectly what I wanted, and gave me more. He’s a great artist.

poidomani-e-di-pierro-on-set

Director Poidomani (right) with “Mai” DoP Francesco Di Pierro (left)

 

GIULIO (CONT’D)

I’m definitively in love with some shots he made: the one in the church, with that amazing light, and the one with the shadows of Claudia and her lover on Siracusa’s seafront. Oh, we had to wait for hours in order to get the right length of the silhouettes and the proper intensity of the shadows. But it was worth.

 

mai-poidomani-chiesa

A shot in Modica’s church from “Mai”

 

INTERVIEWER

As we said, all this effort results in a wonderful production made with modest resources. Let’s talk about the figures: what budget did you have at your disposal?

 

GIULIO

God, a low budget. We had around 10.000 €, me and Isabella Roberto, my partner and long time producer. We live in New York City, but we came up with the idea of going back to Italy to shoot in my hometown. There we searched for new budget in a very personal way: I asked to meet managers from the main companies based in that area. They usually accepted. We introduced ourselves, explained that the project would have reflected Modica’s beauty around the world, and asked for a contribution. Step by step, we increased our budget from 10k to 14k.

 

INTERVIEWER

(laughing.)

No way! Indie to the bone.

 

GIULIO

(laughing back.)

Yes, I swear! But it worked. Anything is permitted, as far as it works. You know, many locals gave us support by offering goods and props instead of money. Somebody offered food or coffee for the whole troupe. I am grateful to the people who helped. Maybe the budget was low, but the local community was a key resource for us. People is wonderful, you know.

 

INTERVIEWER

Totally, Giulio. The lesson is the one we Indie knew since the very beginning. No need for a big budget when you are surrounded by the right people in the right place. Thank you for sharing your insights and good luck! The question I leave with is: if Giulio was able to made a film like “Mai” under these conditions, can you imagine the hell of a film he’ll make once he’ll manage a big budget?

 

 

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