TRUE LOVE And Italy: Screenwriter And Producer Fabio Guaglione Talks About Making "Cool Movies"

In Italy they're known as Fabio&Fabio, a directing and screenwriting duo born in the Eighties and clearly influenced by everything released in the next two decades. Their real names are Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro and their story doesn't differ much from what we've heard from hundreds of other directors: Fabio&Fabio started  doing their own stuff without bothering to attend a film school or any kind of workshop. They just practiced the craft.  

In the last decade they both worked and shared any kind of filmmaking experience, directing four short movies that traveled through the sci-fi genre festival circuit. First one was Ti chiamo io (I'll call you), then the breakthrough with E:D:E:N (2004), The Silver Rope (2006) and Afterville (2008). For all these years they've been one of the few teams working on sci-fi projects in Italy, a country always ready to buy this genre from the outside, but never keen to really produce it.

And the word "produce" is the key, because in 2009 Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro decided to initiate a new procedure, and they began to produce through their own company, Mercurio Domina, firstly with MyShoes and then with their first feature length movie directed by Enrico Clerico Nasino: True Love. It has already been screened in London, Los Angeles, Rome and Shanghai and many others and now its theatrical releases have taken their first step: both Japan and Thailand decided for a full theatrical release, while Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and Australia decided to try with the home video option and, surprisingly, next to Portugal, in Italy it was only released in its digital version. Quality against market, one of the few Italian sci-fi movies, even a good and interesting one, deserves to get a wider audience, and we got to have a chat on True Love with screenwriter and producer Fabio Guaglione.

TWITCH: Having seen your and Fabio Resinaro's artistic career, how come you decided to let a third one like the good Enrico Clerico Nasino do the directing job for TRUE LOVE? After all you've worked in every production phase and sector, starting from the elaborate screenplay to your producing effort through your company, Mercurio Domina.

Fabio Guaglione: There are several reasons.

First thing is we were really interested in working on a project based on our concepts in which we were not necessarily working as directors. One of our goals is producing projects by interacting with young directors, so to create a real talent stable where we could give life to our ideas. In a certain sense our small production company, Mercurio Domina, was born for this reason. We'd love to create a sort of "brand" that could unite all our productions, even if there are several directors. Our role as ubiquitous screenwriters and producers would be of use to create a kind of stylistic continuity between these projects. The logline we have in mind for our production company is: "we only produce cool movies".

Besides there's to say True Love was born in a time when we were so busy in the development of some other projects with American production companies. But it was born from our will to realize a movie instead of being stuck in development hell for years. We were excited, we wanted to make a movie as soon as possible, and this is why we created the True Love concept in the first place.

So, considering our will to create a mini slate of film written and produced by us, and considering our commitments, we've chosen Enrico Clerico Nasino, who was our assistant director in many of our movies in the last few years.

Actually, we lately have manically followed the whole thing in every single step, from pre-production to the final mix. Other than screenwriters and producers, as proper indie filmmakers, we were co-editors, production designers, music supervisors too. Let's say we were very intrusive both on set and in post-production, so at the end the movie is the result of the work of three people.

The film more than once suffered the comparison to other movies with a similar setting, like SAW and CUBE. In terms of narrative it comes clear what's the difference between yours and those movies, but from where does the idea to set TRUE LOVE in a single closed location comes? Has it been settled for a matter of budget or because that's how you wanted to do it in the first place?

Yes, the most clear starting references surely were Saw and Cube, probably two films without which our movie wouldn't exist at all. Mainly the first one, Saw, its first fifteen minutes sequence shocked us, it glued us to the chair just with a simple dialogue between two characters closed in a rusty bathroom. Yet we believe our film walks its distance from those ones, both in terms of concepts and execution. An American website called it a "Saw for couples". Other influences, at least those we are aware of, surely were Lost, Silent Hill, French film Cachet and Inception.

True Love idea comes out of the question we asked to ourselves: "what's the coolest story we could tell spending as less money is possible?". The idea to close the actors in a cube was born from this, with us digging deeply in their consciences by simply asking them various questions. On top of this we thought of a way to increase the scope, showing character's secrets via some exterior scenes... which were essentially video stolen with mobiles, digital cameras, spy cams, webcams. Basically they were low cost shootings.

We think this is a smart way to produce a micro budget movie. It doesn't involve too much thinking on how to shoot an existing story with limited means, but to ignite a reverse process: to understand which story could be told in the best way with limited means at your disposal. You know... Blair Witch Project was produced with a few hundred dollars. Would it have had the same producing sense or would have it been a success if it was produced with two million dollars? Maybe not. 

The prologue involves since its beginning a critic to our contemporary society: the excess of power detained by medias, reality shows, and the control of truth. From what I saw, keeping in mind George Orwell's 1984 quote in TRUE LOVE, the audience might think that the whole story is set in Room 101, where Orwell's characters faced they're most recondite fears. I had the feeling that the room where Kate and Jack are closed in might be that same Room 101, where they have to confront themselves with the biggest thing we fear in our times: truth.

We won't deny to have filled True Love with subplots and sub-themes to make the film less explicit in its contents and to make it interesting for a second and third view. Surely in its DNA there's the usual idea of a Great Brother now technologically able to spy every moment of our lives. It could be possible to reconstruct a man's life in our digital era by using data hidden in mobile phones, laptops and security cameras in shops and streets. Is it right? Who could take advantage of it? If I could watch my partner's life in order to understand the truth, would I do it?

Obviously True Love doesn't speak about these matters, at least not only of these, but it gives a few cues.

Truth, both in a relationship and in a wider sense, it's the greatest fear to face: are we able to stand it, to accept it? At which cost? In the name of what?

We live in a strange era. There's a niche of people who's obsessively using every mean possible, mainly the web, to try to catch the truth. Meanwhile the biggest part of the people seems to have no interest in it, it looks like they only want to continue their lives in the way it's more comfortable for them.

Cinema and history itself have often shown how sometimes people could voluntarily - or not - part of a social experiment (THE TRUMAN SHOW, DAS EXPERIMENT), and now in these days we're in the middle of the Datagate scandal. Did the inspiration for TRUE LOVE and its motto "Love is truth" come out of a real event or from some cinematographic or literal influence you had?

No, even if we have read several things about mental conditioning experiments, inspiration for the True Love Project was taken out exclusively from our imagination, from the idea to portray something as complex as human emotions and interpersonal relationships in such a schematic, analytic and analyzable way. We believe that this dichotomy might be perceived as terrifying. 

It's all invented... but after the screening at the Shanghai Film Festival someone from the public asked us if the movie was talking about an existing couple therapy method!

Nowadays sci-fi seems to have forgotten its initial education, its scientific origins, but in TRUE LOVE, apart from the thriller and psychological sense of it, there's a constant reference to time and its strict relationship with space. Are there any scientific elements you kept in mind during the shootings?

Well, yes. This was a subtle layer of the film that just a few ones have caught, it's pretty hidden inside the story. We are quantum physics lovers so... nothing of what happens in the film is accidental.

Enrico Clerico Nasino had already worked in an international production, he was Tom Tykwer (THE INTERNATIONAL) and Richard Eyre's (THE OTHER MAN) assistant director. How was this new experience in a world different from Italy for you and Fabio Resinaro?

Enrico worked on both the Italian set of those movies you're quoting, so shooting in the US was a new experience for all the three of us. 

We have been cultivating relationships with American societies for years, but the set was an amazing experience. It was like shooting in our unconscious childhood land. Having seen so many American movies it was like we were almost born in Los Angeles, that's why even if many things were new, it was like we could recognize them. Suddenly everything tastes international. What we think it's incredible is that for an American that city is "just Los Angeles", a slice of his home. They're two completely different perspectives.

One of the best thing of shooting True Love was the linguistic aspect. The differences between Italian and English were a wall, bypassing and dealing with this linguistic barrier together with the actors allowed us to think and confront ourselves in every single line on the screenplay. It was a wonderful experience and enriched us personally.

And then we got to eat a lot of hamburgers and cheesecakes!

TRUE LOVE has an American cast, it was shot in Los Angeles, but the entire team was always keen to underline it was an Italian movie. It's a rare gesture in a time where most Italians would like to say the exact opposite, why did you want to keep this aspect clear?

We think is a matter of pride first. Why shouldn't we be proud of an Italian team who produced a movie sold in various countries around the world? It's not a common thing. The sales at the sales agency for True Love went beyond our expectations. In some nations, like Japan and Thailand, the movie was even released in cinemas. We believe in Italy there's now too much attention on what doesn't work. We made something that worked, even if it's a small thing, and we're glad to say it: it's Italian. Same as The Transporter, which is a French film.

What's the problem? Often in Italy we were accused of wanting to be Americans. Actually we love genre films, and we love to see the genre looked from a particular angle, Fabio&Fabio's point of view, which is what we did in all our former works, like Afterville, a short movie who won awards in loads of international festivals. Should Sergio Leone have been ashamed for his contribute to the spaghetti-western? We don't believe it.

There are a lot of young filmmakers in Italy who would love to make something different from the usual Italian film. The majority of the audience is tired of the same old comedies and auto referential dramas able to get attention only in a restrict festival circuit. By saying that our movie is Italian we want to highlight that a different Italian cinema is possible. A kind of cinema who doesn't find a sense only in its home, but that could be seen in the whole world. 

We're in 2013, it should be time for things to change. A cinema brave enough to confront a wider audience than the Italian one only. For example in France and Spain it's been years since they started to be exported in the whole world. There are many talents here in Italy who should just get channeled in the proper productions.

Ironically, the movie still hasn't been sold in the US... we hope to find one soon.

The movie is getting a release both in DVD and cinemas in these months, but in Italy you could watch it online for a short period at the beginning of the year, and now only it'll get a home video release but not an actual release in cinemas. Which one was the biggest satisfaction and delusion you had about the distribution process?

Discovering that our film was going to get an official theatrical release in Japan had definitely filled us with pride. The Japanese distributor had worked very well on posters, graphics and trailers... he really enhanced the product, which is not obvious, since we're talking about a small indie film.

News of releases in every new country is for us a matter of gratification, because is such a small film and every little step is actually huge. Knowing that thousands of miles away there is someone who's watching our movie, is feeling something and formulating theories... it's quite rewarding. It was interesting to watch the movie at the cinemas in various international festivals for this reason too, in this way we were in direct contact with different reactions from different audiences around the globe

We cannot deny our displease for the absence of even a limited release of True Love in our country. However these are decisions taken by the distributor. An immediate and direct feedback from the public was the silver lining of having it released for free for a certain amount of time on the internet.

We're very curious to see how it'll go with the next home video releases. Straight after its release in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Turkey, Thailand and Japan, True Love will have its Blu-ray release in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Usually we're excited to hear and read comments and theories from the audience. We must say that until now we found just one viewer who wrote a comment with the solution of the mystery! But we'll never tell him.

After the first time I saw TRUE LOVE it becomes clear that it's not enough to understand completely all the hints and evidences you left in the movie. Can you give an advice for those viewers who would love to understand its secrets?

You should buy the DVD and in those moments where in the room are projected random videos to confuse the prisoners... keep an eye to each frame. You'll find something very interesting.

And then... look at the scar.
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