Finding Your Voice: An Indie Filmmaker Profile

March 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

FILMMAKER PROFILE: Producing Your Own Short Films | Independent Film Blog


Every aspiring filmmaker has a story.  Each artist is inspired in different ways and I’ve always found it fascinating to learn about other independent filmmakers and what makes them so passionate about movies.

Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi has produced several short films over the last few years and is currently producing his first feature film.

His interest in film began at an early age as he devoured his Grandfather’s extensive Beta/VHS collection.  With so many movies at your disposal, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the inspiring world of movies.

“As a child, I’d religiously watch Hook, Terminator 2 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  I just love visiting different worlds, real or fantasy, though I tend to lean towards the real world which is interesting and inspiring enough.  It’s about where you were and who you were with when watching and making a film, the story behind the story, the experience, the trivia that only those who lived it can tell.”

The director’s short films have been accepted into many festivals over the years including his first short Game of Life.  A drama about fraternal twins who must decide who will live in an overpopulated world.

“My first ever festival acceptance was Toronto’s very own WILDsound Feedback Film Festival.  It was there that William Marshall, the co-founder of the Toronto International Film Festival and the event’s moderator, gave a few sentences of recognition: “You’re at your creative peak.”  I still smile when I think about that statement as it was only my first film.  Was I destined to fall from the “peak” that was Game of Life?”

Alfredo avoided ‘the plummet’ by continually producing new and unique short films.  It was definitely interesting to learn more about what inspired each of his films.

Roadside Florist

“A story about Graham Wool, a elderly man who dedicated the last twenty years of his life commemorating the victims of drunk driving with a single flower upon the accident site.  It struck me that I had never actually witnessed anybody leave a flower, wreath, or any other commemoration.  Not only that, but were these condolences left by relatives, friends, or perhaps strangers, or even the culprit?”

His next film created controversy due to the subject matter he wanted to explore.

Scent of Rosemary

“I remember watching a newscast in which a recently released pedophile told the press that he would surely commit the same child atrocities again.  Less than a day later, he was arrested for molestation.”

The film was met with a less than favorable critical reception but Alfredo was open about what the film taught him.

“The film never saw a festival thanks to its controversial subject matter, direct approach, and raw portrayal.  It was my first taste of finding out what people were really made of and who they really are.   Myself as well.”

Dealing with such a serious subject can be extremely difficult but taking risks and going where others won’t can sometimes lead to exciting results.  Alfredo took full advantage of these lessons and applied them to his next project.

Reverie Three

A film dealing with the whirlwind downfall of a foster child who exacts swift and calculating revenge on his surrogate family.

“It was with “Reverie Three” that I achieved my first Best Drama award and praise from audiences and critics alike.  This was the beginning of a new thought process for me; I wanted to think outside of the box that was outside of the other box.”

The 24 Hour Film Race & God’s Acre

Alfredo kept the momentum going by entering a local 24 hour film race.  He produced God’s Acre, a film he describes as a ‘parable of revenge and redemption’.  God’s Acre is a perfect example of doing the best with what you have.  In order to adapt and create in this fast paced setting you have to be able to think quickly while still creating something worthwhile.

It’s a challenge the director was thrilled to take on.

“The 24 Hour Film Race was a fantastic experience.  From the get-go I knew that, no matter what theme and prop element/action that the competition threw my way, I was going to do an interrogation-style film.  As it turned out, the interrogation became an interview which became a confession.  Friend, editor and camera operator Robert Toshoff agreed to have the film shot against a black cloth in his condo’s conference room.  This made things possible and gave a distinct look to the film.  I needed a story that was compelling enough to outdo the visual limitations.”

The film deals with religious themes and again the director again faced unique challenges from audiences.

“Because of the film’s religious undertones, many felt that I was some sort of spiritual advocate.  I realized why storytellers are sometimes careful with what stories they choose to tell.  My aim has never been to offend anyone; taking offense to something is and always will be a personal choice; however, I will never stop telling the stories I tell in the way that I tell them.”

The film went on to collect 5 of the top awards and screened at 8 festivals in the U.S and Canada.

His latest short film, Lavender Fields is in post production and the director hopes to complete it soon.  Looking back, Alfredo reflected on his filmmaking journey thus far.

“I’ve learned a lot about people; those I’ve made films with, those I’ve been inspired by, and, especially, myself.  I’ve learned to distrust people, to connect with people, to become angry, to smile, and, most importantly, to identify myself.  Thinking outside the box and creating something pure is a very lonely thing simply because very, very few do it.  I’ve developed such a thick skin that there is very little that a person can say that would penetrate my established mindset.  That’s the benefit of finding your voice.”

Finding Your Voice: An Indie Filmmaker Profile | Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi Interview | Independent Film Blog

The Filmmaking Process

Every single filmmaker faces different challenges on every single film they produce.  Whether it’s budget concerns, locations, technical problems and more, there are always hurdles to leap on your way to completing a film project.

“Budget it always a problem, one that can be easily solved if you have the means, or a rich uncle, or, even better, a scriptwriting mindset where you can be realistic with what locations, talent, gear, and other essentials, that you can acquire. For instance, with “Lavender Fields” I knew that the film would employ sign language.  I don’t know sign language or anybody who did, but I knew that had to hire somebody; that’s a cost.  For gear, you always want your film to look its best, but at what expense?”

There are countless decisions that go into producing a short film.  Can you find a balance between story elements and the best available equipment?  Does one out weigh the other?  The idea is to do your absolute best with what you have.  This can lead to creative revelations and sometimes, a lack of a budget can force you to think outside the box.

“It’s only now, after all these years, that I’ve been able to afford an even better arsenal of gear than what I’m accustomed to.  I had to wait to become my own “rich” uncle.”

One way to keep your costs down is to forge productive relationships with others who aspire to work in the film industry.

Actors and crew, relationships and friendships.

Above all else, if you have a story to tell, do whatever it takes to bring it to life.

“In the end, a film could take hours to prepare (“God’s Acre”), days (“Game of Life”), weeks (“Reverie Three”), or months (“Roadside Florist,” “Scent of Rosemary,” “Lavender Fields”).  It’s really up to you, who you end up working with, and how you go about your production.”

Producing Your First Feature Film

Alfredo recently embarked on the biggest challenge he’s faced in his young career.  A feature film.

“Snow Angel will mark my feature film debut.  I’m very excited, yet very conscientious of the chasms to avoid.  This time around, there is money involved; not a whole lot, but just enough to get it done and done right!  That being said, the film is truly unique in style and shooting technique.  Due to the unorthodox nature of the film/story, the shooting schedule consists of only two principal photography dates.  Why?  Well, you’ll just have to wait until you see the film.”

“I’ve done a lot of planning for quite some time and it will be interesting to see it all come to life.  I absolutely love writing and, essentially, living with a character in my mind and on paper, and then, quite literally, rubbing shoulders with him and/or her on set.”

Alfredo is a perfect example of knowing what you want to do and going for it.  Each of his films have evolved his skill set as he continues to work towards his ambitious goals.

“You have to be true to yourself”

Snow Angel is currently in production.

Special thanks to Alfredo for the interview.

Check out his website here for more on the filmmaker and his production company Arcilesi Films.

XTRA: Finding Your Muse: Interview with Writer/Director David Spies