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Giovanni D’Amaro – ” The accomplishment I am most proud of is the work I did on my script The Guilt.”

Exclusive interview with Giovanni D’Amaro – Writer & Director

Giovanni D’Amaro is a writer director based in Rome. He previously graduated in Architecture at the University of Naples Federico II with a thesis about cinema and the city, and subsequently turned to filmmaking, attending masterclasses with Giuseppe Tornatore and Nanni Moretti. He also took part in some acting and directing courses in Naples and Padua, as well as cinematography  at the CSC – Centro Sperimentale in Rome. As a result of this training he went on to write and direct some award-winning short films. His commercial for Pompeii won a 3000 € prize and aired on networks worldwide, from China to USA.

In 2014, helped by a letter of reference from Oscar-winning producer of The Great Beauty Nicola Giuliano, he was shortlisted at the NYU Tisch School – Graduate Film Program and accepted at the prestigious Master in Filmmaking at the London Film School, where he studied under the guidance of Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh and Ronald Harwood.

Having dropped the course for financial reasons, Giovanni went back to Italy, where he earned a scholarship at the Master in Screenwriting at the University of Padua. Here he wrote his first feature screenplay, Death is Contagious, under the guidance of screenwriters Umberto Contarello and Paolo Virzì. In 2017 he enrolled in the Master in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Silvio D’Amico National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome, where he studied with Ugo Chiti and Dacia Maraini, and graduated with Honours. In the same year he attended the intensive workshop Showrunner – TV Drama Writing with Professor Neil Landau at the prestigious UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles.

In 2019 he completed a 6 months-internship at Rai Fiction Department of International Co-productions. He worked as a story editor on HBO series My Brilliant Friend 2, Medici: The Magnificient 2, and as a 2nd assistant director on the RAI-ZDF series Survivors. 

In 2022, with his short script The Guilt, Giovanni placed as a finalist, semifinalist and quarterfinalist among the most prestigious screenwriting competitions in the world, such as the ISC, Screencraft Film Fund, Slamdance, Austin, Shore Scripts Film Fund and Reno Tahoe. He has just drafted A Christmas Tale, a feature script currently in the hands of an Italian producer. 

NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.

I have got a very optimistic temperament, but sometimes I am also very pessimistic and cynical. Maybe it’s the contradictory nature of life that causes me to act this way, or maybe it is the influence of my family and relatives, as they all they have very different temperaments. It seems that growing up with them, I have been influenced by all of them. I am saying this, because it is this kind of wide-ranging temperament that makes me both sensible and logical, warm and icy when it comes to character and stories. My artistic sensibility always fluctuates between a watchful eye on how people live and a sympathetic tenderness for human miseries. That also makes me a curious and passionate person about almost everything around me, including psychology, art, music, literature, and even physics. Cinema is my greatest passion because it sort of includes and encompasses them all.

NY Glam: Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?

 As a child I used to watch historical and Biblical epics with my mom and I have always been astonished by the power of film to build an entire detailed fictional universe and move people through it. Later on, at high school I studied humanities and became fond of art and literature. Over those years I kept watching and studying movies of all genres anytime I could, until I watched Titanic on the big screen. That movie sparkled the idea to become a film director, as I thought this was the only way to make my memories and visions real and tangible for everyone beyond myself.  

NY Glam: What are you currently working on?

 I have just finished a feature script titled A Christmas Tale, that is now being read by an Italian producer. I am also working on the treatment of another feature and a novel. The movie is a revenge story set in Rome during the lockdown 2020 and takes inspiration from both Pasolini’s movie Teorema and the Greek myth of Uranus and Cronos. The novel is a fantasy that takes place during the Years of Lead in 1980’s Italy and blends historical drama with fantasy and mythology as experienced by Marco, an 11-year-old boy. It is something along the lines of Rowling’s Harry Potter and Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

NY Glam: What makes a film interesting for you? What are three qualities that you look for in a movie?

Basically, a movie is as strong as the storytelling at is core. Form and style play a pivotal role, because a great scene can be directed intelligently to convey meaning or just be squandered in an amateurish way. However, without these three qualities, namely a well-developed concept, a meaningful theme, and fascinating characters, all the technical efforts are just a waste of time and money. There are many movies featuring in the critics’ best lists that are just smokescreen. Perhaps they advanced the art of film with their filmic qualities, but they are often sustained by poor storytelling. Ultimately the test of greatness is time. In 20 years from now, will this movie be watched and loved by everyone? That’s what really matters. And every known masterpiece passes this test pretty easily: The Godfather, Some Like it Hot, The Silence of the Lambs, Cinema Paradiso, Chinatown, Life is Beautiful, Back to the Future, Schindler’s List, Amélie.

NY Glam: What project helped you launch your career?

 The project that launched my career and means the most to me is the commercial for the UNESCO Archeological Site of Pompeii, which ended up winning a 3000 euros first prize and aired on worldwide networks. I shot it with the help of just two friends: a cinematographer and a young actress. I was young, full of ideas, but out of budget and crew, stressed by the heat of August and bothered by the tourists constantly looking into the camera. Anyway, it reveled to be the ultimate learning experience, because every skill I had learnt up to that point came into place in a satisfying way.

NY Glam: What are you most proud of? Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?

 The accomplishment I am most proud of is the work I did on my script The Guilt, as I placed finalist, semifinalist and quarterfinalist in some of the world’s most prestigious screenwriting competitions, such as the ISC, Screencraft, Austin, Slamdance, Reno Tahoe, Big Apple. Over the past year I received astonishing reviews that hailed my script as an ideal strong competitor among the world’s best film festivals, assuming that the movie will get produced.

NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?

I believe that Ancient Greeks’ wisdom never fails. When Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that story is more important than character, he was right. I always come up with a theme and a series of events that whet my narrative appetite, and only then I look for the most appropriate characters that can embark on that particular journey. That said, character is so important in storytelling and, in order to captivate an audience and become unforgettable, he needs to have certain qualities. He must be provided with flaws, a need, an objective for whom he should struggle, and a self-revelation that marks the end of his journey and measures how far he has gone from the initial flawed self to the new self he has achieved overcoming lots of obstacles.

NY Glam: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

 I want to become a writer director and more specifically I would like to work both in Italy and Hollywood. Directors such as Inarritu, Del Toro and Cuaron inspire me for their ability to switch hats and work both in their country and in America. Indeed I believe in a kind of storytelling that blends perfectly the boldly structured Hollywood tale with the specific cultural heritage of my country, Italy. I want to tell stories that are deeply rooted in a specific arena and at same time have the power to resonate on a universal level.

NY Glam: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re super excited about?

 Recently I started working on a project that is probabily my darling. It is actually a free adaptation of Pirandello’s The Late Mattia Pascal, a 100 year-old novel that has always excited me for its freshness of ideas and its ability to stand the test of time. The set is no longer an imaginary Italian Liguria but contemporary New York. More specifically, the adaptation I want to make keeps Pirandello’s theme of identity and the desire of its protagonist to disappear and leave all of his troubles behind, and adds a revenge storyline and that sense of dissatisfaction about life that is so typical of the contemporary man. Social media also play a pivotal role in the story and in the life of the protagonist. I cannot reveal other details here, but I think it could be the movie we all need to understand who we have become.

NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the film industry, especially as a film director?

 I’ve got two big advices for newcomers. The first one is to carefully study the principles of dramatic writing and to use them to shape their own story. Not by chance Alfred Hitchcock said that film students should first make films with their typewriter, and Orson Welles thought that the film technique can be learnt in a week or so. Indeed, our primary concern is not to learn how to use a camera, but how to tell an involving story that can elicit emotion in the audience. Loads of contemporary movies, although technically well-crafted, fail on a storytelling level. The second big advice is to act like a sponge. Travel a lot and absorb everything, read all kind of writers, watch a Bergman movie but also a Marvel one, hear how people talk, study human behavior and psychology, pay attention to your dears’ suffering and to yours too. Ultimately put yourself in other people’s shoes. Eventually all of this exposure will nurture your own sensibility and provide you with an original vision on what it means to be human, a vision so strong to stir other people’s hearts. That’s what really distinguishes an artist from a craftsman.

NY Glam: Can you discuss any future projects or direction you are taking in regard to film making?

My current objective is to have my feature script or the short script sent to the ISC produced. It looks like my feature A Christmas Tale is now on its way to get optioned by an Italian production studio. I hope to make my long awaited debut as soon as possible.

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