Following on from the FW12 collaboration with directors CANADA and the film “Beyond Mountains, More Mountains”, the creativity continues in 2013, however this time 55DSL have ventured overseas to discover the Italian essence in new frontiers. 55DSL proudly present their next short film for Spring / Summer ’13 – shot in its entirety in the blazing hot plains of the U.S.A. – entitled Italy, Texas.
For this daring departure from Italian soil, 55DSL enlisted talented filmmaker Aoife McArdle. And in the small town of Italy, Texas, not far from Dallas, the acclaimed Irish born director found the perfect setting to tell a story of unique and unconventional friendships. A celebration of creativity inspired by the new 55DSL collection. For two weeks this other Italy became the film set and its wonderful residents – including their pets – were the stars.
In the middle of the British winter, director Aoife McArdle travelled to the blazing hot plains of Texas to shoot the third in the series of 55DSL’s Kids in Italia films. Known for casting real-life people in her music videos, Aoife created a film, part documentary, part fiction, that depicted the lives of two best friends and animal lovers.
What initially appealed to you about the Italy, Texas creative brief?
I thought it was a smart idea to film in an alternative Italy. I love exploring places that are exotic to me and I’ve always wanted to transport the kind of filmmaking I do to the southern US, so when the brief came in I was excited.
How did Wild Souls in the Hot, Blind Earth develop from an idea to a script rooted in small-town Texas?
I’d always wanted to make a film about people’s love of animals and their unique, intimate relationships with them. When I started research, I found that animals were central to life in Italy. Small-town Texas also seemed like a cool backdrop for the idea, so I decided to mould the film around the location. I kept developing the script to assimilate characters we met, phrases I heard and behavioural patterns, so it stayed true to real life. The people of Italy are all so raw and earthy that in some ways the idea almost took on a life of its own.
What connections did you find between Italy, Texas and Italy the country?
There aren’t a lot, but that contrast was the beauty of it. People use the Italian flag and visual comparisons in an ironic way though there’s not a great deal of Italian culture present. But I loved the randomness of that. One story about
why the town is called Italy goes that it was named after a dying Italian man’s life-long wish to return to Italy. On his deathbed he asked his son, “Am I in Italy yet?” and his son told him he was. That night the residents named the town Italy to ensure the kid hadn’t lied to his father. This is a historical story but when you meet the inhabitants of this town you can imagine that it might be true. They’re all so straightforward and genuine.
How did you go about casting the real- life residents as characters in the film?
I went about it in my usual way. We chased people down on the streets, hung out at the local café, at the school, making friends with people, getting to know them, seeing what makes them tick. Developing those close relationships was what made it possible to bring characters’ uniqueness to the screen.
Why do you often choose to cast real people in your films?
I always thought it made perfect sense to cast people who understand the part from the inside and live it for real. It feels way more exciting to me. There can be more of a visual poetry to that, a visceral naivety that’s pretty arresting. I also love how spontaneous and surprising the filmmaking process is when you work with people who’ve never acted before.
Did you enjoy collaborating with 55DSL on this project?
I did. Working with a brand that wanted to do something as creative as this was a dream for me. They are really open to new ideas and gave me complete control. The whole team was inspiring, I have to say.
Your script was very ambitious – how do you figure out the line between ambitious and impossible?
I always aim for the impossible and keep going until the very last moment. Then at least you end up with something which has ambition and visible effort in it.
Finally, do you have any plans to return to Italy, Texas?
Seriously, I fell in love with this small town. I might move there.
Emily Hope escaped the grip of Hurricane Sandy to join the crew in Italy, Texas on the shoot of Wild Souls in the Hot, Blind Earth. For five days from dawn till dusk, she tirelessly shot 55DSL’s Spring/ Summer campaign around a predictably frantic filming schedule.
As a Londoner living in New York, what were your expectations of Italy, Texas?
Weirdly, I’ve been quite close to Italy before, so I knew what to expect. I’ve been around Texas a few times, and yes, it’s certainly very different from south London where I grew up, but I love it. The Deep South is dark but inviting at the same time, and really, there is nothing like Southern hospitality.
How was the experience of shooting around a film crew?
It involved a lot of guerrilla-style shooting, being quick and trying to be covert while the crew is working. I wanted to document Aoife’s mood and vision, and I was also looking to get my own shots set up with very little time. 55DSL’s brief gave me the freedom to shoot whatever I wanted.
You’ve modelled yourself in the past – does that experience feed into your work behind the camera now?
Only in the sense that I try and give as best direction as possible. In that regard, what I learnt from modelling has been invaluable. I learnt how important it is to make a connection with your subject to get the best from them.
What was your favourite location to shoot in?
There were almost too many good locations in Italy to choose from. It was as if the town was a ready-made movie set. I really liked the Uptown Café which was the hub of the community, with old newspaper clippings covering the walls and football jerseys and cheerleader outfits from the 1950s hanging up. Walking through the door was like going back in time. Sandy, the owner, was such a sweetheart and so welcoming, even though I’m sure they all thought we were a bunch of “skinty” – or skinny – weirdos.
Since picking up a camera yourself, who has inspired and mentored you?
It’s grown and changed over the years, but right now I’m really into Karlheinz Weinberger. As far as mentors, Collier Schorr has been important for me. I’ve never seen a photographer approach her work from such an intellectual and thoughtful angle. It’s influenced my thinking and approach to how I view my own work.
What do you want to achieve when you are creating a portrait?
I’m always trying to capture something beautiful or sexy or at least arresting
or humorous. I always try and take images and portraits that I would tear out of a magazine and stick on the wall above my desk.
Whose portrait would you like to take?
Oh, Patti Smith.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to forge a career in photography?
Go to school, study. Sneak into classes even if you’re not enrolled. Read books, look at photographers’ work that you love, and try to emulate work you’re drawn to. Not that you’ll end up copying it, because you never will, no two people can shoot the same, but from that your own style will naturally develop. Think about what images you’re drawn to and take or create them. And always keep a camera in your pocket.
What do you have planned for the next few months?
I have a few projects coming up in London that I’m excited about. I’m shooting a very cool actress for Rika magazine that you’ll hear about soon. I’ll also keep working on my ongoing book project that I hope to have out next year.