DIRECTING - Six Weeks In Italy-Week one

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I was sitting on a bus. My initial idea of sleeping throughout the trip didn't exactly pan out so perfectly with the reality consisted of intervals of sleep being ended abruptly for a mixture of reasons. Between the man beside me who had no interest in holding a conversation but great interest in sounding like he was about to die a horrible death from a coughing fit, hitting my head against the glass window and over hearing the guy behind me trying his best to try it on with the girl next to him, my eight hour bus between London and Paris was just like I expected - an experience. This is where my trip to Italy began. 

I was going to Fete de la Musique, a one day music festival in Paris, to visit my friend Geraldine who was playing music that night. Throughout my weekend in Paris, Geraldine would tell me small details about a traveling film festival in Italy that she attended last year called CinemadaMara. Any question I had regarding the festival would be answered with, 'its hard to explain, you will like it, just come this year.' After another eight hours sitting on a bus, which was thankfully much quieter this time, I returned to London and contacted the festival regarding attendance. In a matter or minutes I had a response that had sorted the next two months of my life. I booked my flights with the realization that I would be leaving London in just over two weeks and then started to wonder what I had just signed up for. 

CinemadaMara is an annual traveling festival created in 2003 by Italian journalist Franco Rina. The festival hosts 100 young film-makers from all over the world giving them the opportunity to work and collaborate together on short films while they travel around Italy for 10 weeks, traveling through nine different regions covering a distance 3800km. Unlike other film festivals, the films are created during the festival itself and screened publicly at an outdoor screening at the end of each stop. Along with this there are guest speakers from within the industry that give lectures and workshops in numerous of the stops.

I went back to Ireland for a few days before flying to Naples. The festival had already started and I was meeting everyone in a town called Muro Lucano in the south of Italy. The way my flights worked out I had to wait a day for the festival to arrive so I stayed the night in a city not far from Naples called Salerno. The next evening I met up with Geraldine and our friend Muriel who had just arrived at the station and we travelled to Muro Lucano. While at the station I had my first experience of how god orientated some parts of Italy are by a conversation I had with an elderly man. We didn't understand each other but tried a few sentences which ended with perfect English, 'Are you Catholic?" followed by a stare that made me think twice about saying anything other then yes.

We got on a train that took about three hours. It left us at a station which seemed abandoned at the first glance. There was no platforms, you jumped from the train onto the grass between two tracks and then walk onto the road. There was also no bus stop. We asked in a garage across the road where to catch the bus to bring us to the town and were pointed at the bus that we were meant to wave down. We drove through open country for a short time until we saw a town in the distance revival itself. Built into the side of a mountain, overlooking vast empty space, we had arrived in Muro Lucano.  

When the festival first reaches a town, everyone settles into the new accommodation and normally sleeps for a number of hours for reasons I will explain shortly. The accommodation in CinemadaMara is perfectly basic. It varies from stop to stop with the normality being schools which are vacant for the summer. You have a blow up mattress and a sleeping bag and a small area to cook. That evening there is a production meeting where Franco Rina, the festival director, introduces everyone to the town along with a few words with representatives from within the town- town mayor, local film-maker etc. The film makers are then free to roam their new surroundings. The following morning there is usually a press conference where Franco Rina and the town repesersentives talk about the festival and the town in general. The participants of the festival are then working and calibrating on short films for a weekly competition with all the films produced been shown at an outdoor screening. Along with the participants of the festival creating short films, CinemadaMara also runs a separate film competition. These films are screened every evening in the town/city during the festival and the public votes for the best film. After the screening everyone gets back on the festival bus which drives through the night to the next town. The work schedule for the weekly competition is tight with the last day being a stressful mix of editing and packing, hence everyone being so tired when they arrive in the next festival stop. 

The accommodation for my first week on the festival was in an old convent situated just above the town. There was a run down church attached to the convent which was the location for my favorite film that I worked on during my stay in Muro Lucano, 'The Divorce' which I was DOP for. Most notable for this week I edited together a ten minute gangster style film which did nothing short of fry my brain for forty-eight straight hours. Largely due to the fact of the tight screening schedule but more from the film being very heavy on Italian dialogue. I got the film edited, sound roughly mixed, a slight colour correction on it and even english subtitles and bounced out with about ten minutes to spare! Unfortunately at the screening the film froze and jumped during a part of it so it didn't go off without a hitch but even in my zombiefied state I knew it had definitely been not only a great learning experience but just an overall experience! 

There was a two day street festival on in the town during our stay. You would weave your way through small streets without the faintest sound that there was a party with hundreds of people just moments away. Navigating the thousands of steps in the town to then suddenly find musicians out in full force being pursued by the locals who shouted them along. There was food on most streets with every street seeming to lead to a good time. The first night of the festival I discovered that my Italian improved with the local wine that was been shared. Talking to people within the town my curiosity always seemed to ask the question of what do people do within the town for work. Similar to Ireland, most people my age when I asked them questions regarding job prospects they all had the same story to respond. Leave. 

The night of the screening, evening in my brain dead state from my two day edit, watching the short films that I worked on under the stars with the people of the town and the festival I never had a stronger feeling of content. To make this feeling even stronger the short film, 'The Divorce', came third in the competition. After the screening I said good by to the new friends that I had met in the town and jumped on the festival bus. I feel asleep before the bus started and woke up eight hours later in Raggio Callabrio.  

The photos below were taken in Salerno/Muro Lucano. The short films from the first week will be on added to the site when they are released online.