Managing an international production is never easy, specially when working with a tight budget. However, having Italian origins, the idea of filming one of our stockfootage productions in my country was both exciting and challenging. It all started when I shown the Director at Reeldeal, pictures of my house in Tuscany. When we met again, his mind was full of ideas and we started developing a storyline.
The brief was based the renowned Fellini’s DOLCE VITA film but with a different twist and no happy ending unlike most stockfootage productions. Erwin de Boer the director behind the project and founder of reeldeal, wanted to portray the lifetime of a Italian couple, from their first date to the departure of one of the partners. We therefore developed a storyline, structured in five main sequences:
We choose for Tuscany as the perfect backdrop for this project mainly for its history and diversity of landscapes. The first focus was scouting the main locations: the church, for both funeral and wedding, and a farmhouse with vineyard, where to set the family dinner and the senior couple sequences. The Tuscany Film Commission was a great support finding these locations and permits.
Casting local people was crucial for this production as it helped the realism of the shoot, but also from a logistics point of view. During the casting we received an email from a girl living in Milan, Jessica; who applied also on behalf of her boyfriend, looking at the portfolio she sent, and the natural chemistry they were communicating, I realised we had found our protagonists.
After seeing the casting pictures the Director finalised the storyline: since Jessica is naturally fair-haired and Niccolò Mediterranean looking, they would have been a mixed couple, English and Italian who meet and fall on Holiday and fall in love. Now we only needed to cast a British actress to play Jessica’s mother which was easy to find among talent from our previous collaborations. Completing our on-set family was pretty straightforward after that.
In terms of budget, we knew that getting all the props and styling at a good price was difficult, especially for the wedding and funeral shots. Luckily for us, all the men had the suits we were looking for and additional wardrobe like bridal dress was shipped over from the UK. We found a local make-up artist to make sure the bride and groom looked picture perfect.
After we landed in Italy we had a list of villages that we wanted to recce for the different scenarios. Our final choice fell on Pienza, a picturesque town that was perfect with all its alleys, cute cafés/boutiques and panoramic surroundings. Getting permission wasn’t difficult, since we were a light-equipped crew.
The Director was particularly fascinated by the idea to shoot a scooter ride with our two main actors, on a cypress-trees bordered road. In Pienza we found a bike rental shop whose manager had good contacts with a Vespa’s owner.
The most difficult bit was, of course, finding the funeral props. When we visited the church, we spotted this beautiful long alley, surrounded by trees, leading to the local cemetery: we immediately pictured a hearse driving all the way to the graveyard. Thanks to the help of the volunteers at the church who welcomed us warmly with a bottle of prosecco, we found ourselves in Siena, meeting a funeral manager and were coffin shopping…
After our pre-production days the crew including DOP arrived from London. We decided to hire a steady cam in order to get smooth movements and it abled us to film from a driving car. We shot everything in 4K resolution to “future proof” this production.
We started filming the following day with the senior couple at the farmhouse: the owner lead showed them the wine cellar and the two actors had a early wine testing session. Followed that we went for a bike ride in Pienza and after some ice-cream we captured panoramic walks at sunset on Siena valley. Shoot day one was a wrap.
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The second day turned out to be more hectic with 14 crew on set and our actors family reunited for the first time. The weather was cold, but the atmosphere couldn’t have been warmer on the long table on the terrace of the farmhouse. Despite the differences in age and residency, it wasn’t hard for the actors to get along with each other and the family dinner was a success.
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The following day we all met up at the church for both a funeral and a wedding scene.
The weather forecast wasn’t ideal in the morning and we were ready to change our schedule last minute. Sometimes the meteorologists are right, but on few occasions they couldn’t be more wrong. Luckily for us, that day turned out to be one of those exceptions. It started raining the exact moment we shot the funeral, and after lunch break the sun was waiting for us outside to film the wedding.
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On our last day, we came back to the location where it all started, Pienza. A younger version of our first couple rode along the streets with a Vespa, ate ice cream and fell in love in one of the most amazing places we visited during this production.
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And that was a wrap! Watching the sun going down over the Tuscan landscape on our last day and with an Aperol Spritz in our hand we were finding ourselves living the Dolce Vita.
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