Tell us something about the process of writing the screenplay. Did the duration of the movie play a major role in the narration?
The process of writing was almost as a metaphor of how you would feel in a toxic relationship. The betrayal, being stabbed by the person you love the most, in the short is represented figuratively, but of course is not always the case, luckly, it’s just the feeling, not an actual wound, of something broken inside you, a feeling that you can’t undo and it hurts even more, because it lasts with time. The duration of the short is certainly a factor, everything can change in a moment, everything can fall apart in a split second and you are definitely not ready for it. It might be because you don’t wanna let go, even if you have a feeling of it, or because it’s so unpredictable that you can never tell what’s your partner’s next move.
You have adopted a minimalist approach which makes the movie fascinating to watch. There are layers to the story. The narrative hangs between hope and despair. Do you agree?
Definitely, if you truly care about your significant other, you always have that sparkle of hope in you. The minimalist approach was chosen because I didn’t want any distractions on the narrative and I hope the audience could relate to it.
Avid readers would associate stream of consciousness to the story. As the story resemble novels written by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. A mind travels various contours across her existence. Do you think the association would be appropriate?
That’s honestly a great compliment, thank you.
I used a stream of consciousness as the way to narrate this short story, the audience has to experience the events as the character is, as a continuous flow of memories and finding out what happened along with him.
In addition to it, I added a lot of symbolism in my visuals and internal (silent but visual) monologues. I never thought of this way to see it and I’m honored.
A sense of imprisonment lurks throughout the short followed by the eventual release. Do you believe it offers enough to the audience for them to create a profound moment of catharsis?
I didn’t explain much of this relationship, I gave some elements, because I want the audience to add their own experience to it. We all had bad relationships, maybe not to a dangerous extent, maybe not to the point of having a trauma, but we all can relate somehow. It doesn’t have to be a partner, it can be a relative, a friend, a classmate, toxicity doesn’t just live in love. For me they didn’t really die, it’s just how you feel in these situation, you probably try to pretend you’re fine, but you feel like dying inside, that’s why he laughed at the end, he thought that seeing her hurt would make him feel better, and he tried to feel better about it, but he has lost anyway. As with every story, there are two narrators and nobody is ever fully right. But if you are the victim, can you really recognize the elements to run away from it?
Tell us something about the performances. A lot had to be done by the actors through the portrayal of two kinds of silences, one of the victim, the other , the victor.
I see it as they are both victims and winners of this relationship, at the end of the day they both “die” and so there’s no way out. They didn’t end it in time to not get hurt. In retrospect, some things in life could have been done differently to avoid psychological repercussions in the future and it wasn’t done. We focus on the great memories with someone and when they do something wrong, we tend to erase it from our memories, and good times tend to prevaricate on the bad ones.They definitely did a great job, their performances were exactly as I pictured them in my mind. Even when you break up, in that denial phase, you just remember the good side of a relationship, never on the fights and the betrayals.
There was great chemistry between the actors and working with them on set, despite the theme of the short, was easy and fun. I need to thank my crew Jemimah Wade, Trey Peters, Einar Péturson and my actors Constantin Cascante and Jenna Tibby. It was a fun set.
Tell us something about your favourite movies and filmmakers.
Steven Spielberg shaped my childhood. His movies were the first ones I watched such as E.T, Jurassic Park, A.I and all his iconic movies gave me the motivation to start this career. Everything he touches is magnificent.
Baz Luhrman directed my favorite movie Moulin Rouge, that combined my love for movies and music and storytelling. That movie is just perfection, actors, visuals, production design, performances, dancers, everything is so well organized and beautiful. I am also in love with his Elvis movie, it’s such a different approach on a very well known public figure, I don’t know how he found a way to make me feel like I knew nothing about him, despite the amount of information, documentaries, and movies about him. You truly need to have a gift to do so. I love his way of visualizing his movies, I can clearly see the hard work behind every single project.
Robert Zemeckis is a genius, he also shaped my childhood with masterpieces such as Cast Away, Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Becomes her, I remember watching them on a loop. There’s something about his storytelling that makes you feel at home. I feel like a relative is telling me this incredible story and I totally focus on every single detail, I can’t miss anything.
M.Night Shyamalan is the reason why I love screenwriting, his plot twist skills left me speechless each time and I loved the way I felt about it. I immediately thought “I want my audience to feel this way” . Creating an original screenplay, something never seen before is such a hard thing to do. Fun and Scary are the most difficult emotions to take out from your audience and once you have that power, you can do anything in life. He definitely has this surprise element in him that is something I’m trying to achieve.
Last but not least, Tim Burton. Tim Burton taught me that being different is incredibly fun. When you grow up with Disney Princesses and suddenly see a tall skeleton kidnapping Santa, you feel like you were missing something, you think “Wait, this is different, I almost feel like I’m not supposed to watch this yet, but here I am watching this movie and it looks so cool and it feel so real”. Obviously I didn’t know what stop motion was, but once I learned about it, I understood that movies can be done in so many ways and creativity can push you further into finding new styles, new ways.
Tim Burton has created so many little worlds for us to navigate that I wanna live in every single one of them. Fun Fact, I was shocked to learn that when I moved from Italy to LA, I found a place in Burbank that wasn’t that far from his childhood home and that little information made my day.
Honorable mentions are for sure Peter Jackson, some works by Ryan Murphy such as American Horror Storyand Pse, Pirates of The Caribbean, the Chronicles of Narnia and all the Harry Potter Movies. I can talk for centuries about all the filmmakers and movies that still live in my mind and in my heart.
A great mentor was James Pasternak, the first professor I had at the New York Film Academy and he shaped my directing view and my storytelling style. He was the best teacher I’ve ever had and he recently passed away. (Aug 30th 2022).
Can one describe the movie as the projection of rhythmic chaos? Why or why not?
Rhythmic chaos is such a great definition, yes, images show how two characters that look like they are so in love, cook and eat together, dance, make promises in front of a sunset, can still hate each other to the core and hurt in unexpected ways. Memories are so confused and we alternate between love and pain and a tragic ending, all dancing with the soundtrack. Denial, anger and acceptance alternate in this eerie choreography of images.
Tell us something about the technical aspects in the movie, especially the music.
Most of my projects start with music. I listen to a song and my mind starts traveling and creating stories, everyone does. You’re in the car, music starts playing and you feel like in a music video. The song I used is Lost Into trying by Son Lux. That title spoke to me, Lost into trying..fixing a relationship? Trying your best, despite all the red flags? And my own experience started to play out like a movie, I saw all the things that happened to me, regarding this subject of toxic relationships, feeling trapped, and once I arrived home I started writing After You. Another thing was my crew, I had few people just because I wanted the set to feel safe and intimate, and it worked. I wanted the actors to feel like the situations they were living were actually happening.
How would you describe the importance of sound design in cinema today?
Sound design is incredibly important, so many movies can be remembered because of it, such as Star Wars, Jaws, Interstellar, Citizen Kane, Matrix…
My short is more of a music video, so it swings between silence and the soundtrack by Son Lux. I didn’t think I needed sound design, as the feeling I wanted to portray was of alienation, as almost what’s happening is not real.
But in general I think sound design is an art that not so many are aware of. I had a few classes with John Sisti at the New York Film academy in LA, and the stunning work behind it fascinates me. Sound design can become a character itself, especially if we have a new world, such as the Matrix, sound design is so important to establish this new reality.
You have explored the much discussed notion of love around its various connotations. It is an intense movie for the very reason that it indicates agony as the end result. Many violent and repugnant things done in the name of love. Why do you think this is a story that must be told sooner than later?
Because unfortunately it’s something that happens to many people. I have met so many individuals that have had tragic experiences. My short went to the drastic and dramatic way on how things can end if not cut on time. So many people don’t even realize they were in a toxic relationship. Some manipulations are so subtle and well executed, that we don’t even notice it. It’s so common it’s scary. With technology being constant and invasive in our lives we tend to observe our surroundings less, we don’t check on our friends and families, we need to step out of this weird rem phase and protect our loved ones from these horrible events.
How would you analyze the preponderance of a good story today? Do you think the story must always be the driving factor in a movie?
That’s for sure the traditional way to portray it. An emotion can be the driving factor of a movie, a conflict, marketing, politics, actuality. Anything can be interesting if portrayed in an engaging way. I tend to have a message at the end of the movie, I want people to reflect on the subject of the movie, what did they get from it? I love to hear it. After You for example has been perceived in so many ways and all of them are right, it doesn’t matter if that wasn’t my exact message, they got what they got from it and I can’t be happier.