Exclusive Interview with Giovanni D’Amaro – Writer/ Director
Giovanni D’Amaro is a 36-year-old writer and director from Naples who lives in Rome. After his graduation with honors in Architecture at the University of Naples “Federico II” with a thesis about cinema and the city, he decided to pursue writing and filmmaking. He started by reading books on cinema, taking classes in acting, cinematography, writing, and directing at the National Film School in Rome, and attending masterclasses with Giuseppe Tornatore and other directors. As a result of this training, he made short films, such as the commercial for Pompeii which won a 3000 € prize in 2010 and aired on networks worldwide, from China to USA.
In 2015, supported by a letter of reference from Oscar-winning producer of The Great Beauty Nicola Giuliano, he was shortlisted at the NYU Tisch School and accepted at the Master in Filmmaking at the London Film School, where he studied with Stephen Frears and Mike Leigh. Having dropped the course after a few months for financial reasons, Giovanni went back to Italy, but felt not discouraged at all. Instead, he kept pursuing his dream by earning a scholarship at the Master in Screenwriting at the University of Padua, where he wrote his first feature screenplay, Death is Contagious. Shortly after Giovanni realized that, although it had a strong premise, the story was not well told. It needed to be more vast, more ambitious, more imaginative, just like the stories he had read and loved. So, he started over by writing it in the form of a novel, with the aim of publishing it and someday writing a film adaptation from it.
In 2017, feeling he still needed much more control on his writing, Giovanni enrolled in the Master in Screenwriting at the Silvio D’Amico National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome. Having developed an interest in writing for tv, he also attended the week-long workshop Showrunner – TV Drama Writing with Neil Landau at the prestigious UCLA Film School in Los Angeles. Two years ago, he went on to complete a 6-month internship at Rai Fiction, working as a story editor on HBO series My Brilliant Friend 2 and Medici: The Magnificient. Last year he worked as 2nd AD on Survivors, a drama series coproduced by RAI Fiction, France Televisions and ZDF. Giovanni is currently writing a revenge story feature and a fantasy novel.
NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?
My current writing efforts are mainly devoted to a feature script and a novel. The feature 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 something along the lines of Rowling’s Harry Potter and Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
NY Glam: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
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 a well-developed concept, a meaningful theme, fascinating characters, and unforgettable scenes, the technical efforts are just a waste of 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: 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: How important is for you being a finalist at International Screenwriting Competition –ISC?
I still find hard to believe that I am an ISC finalist! Thus far this is the closest to the fulfillment of my dream, that actually is making movies in America. My favorite mode of narration and of film directing has always been the American one, both Hollywood and off-Hollywood. I always strive to tell stories as strong and involving as those written by American storytellers. So, being exposed to the American film industry and audience is a sort of holy grail for me. Being an ISC finalist is also the validation that I have grown up as a screenwriter and that I am ready for the industry. As a finalist I also hope to be exposed to a wide range of different different cultural backgrounds that will ultimately enrich my life, my vision of the world and my writing skills.
NY Glam: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
The project that 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.
Another top moment that has shaped my skills has been working as a story editor on the scripts of HBO drama series My Brilliant Friend 2. In 2019 I was making my internship in RAI Fiction and was so eager to work on a top-notch project like this, as I already was a fan of Ferrante’s novels. Along with the series screenwriters, RAI and HBO producers, I learned how to adapt such a complex novel and how to turn a first draft into a shooting script ready to be filmed.
The third most interesting project I have been involved in is the series Survivors. Being an assistant director gives you yet another perspective on film. It allows you to see how the written words turn into the practicalities and intricacies of a film set and budget, and then forces you to go back to your typewriter and pay much more attention to what you write and how you write it.
NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
The reason I love cinema so much is that it allows you to bring into play a great variety of skills and interests. My favorite form of expression besides writing has always been drawing. I think that since childhood it has been the first tool that I used to conjure up an imaginary world, replete with characters and settings. I could say that in my creative life the images came first, then came the written words to sustain and give depth to those images. Another creative form that I enjoy is singing, even though I did not take professional classes. Anyway, when I sing, I feel a childish pleasure and light-heartedness that other art forms hardly give me.
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
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: What can we expect from you in this actual year?
I cannot predict what may come, especially in such hard times. However, I strongly believe this will be the year of change, the turning point in my career. First of all, I expect to shoot the short film I sent to the ISC competition and send it to worldwide A-list festivals. Or at least I will try. I also expect to captivate the attention of a producer, Italian or foreign, by submitting my feature script set during the first lockdown, and also getting in touch with a publisher sending him my fantasy novel. I sense that this year all of my longstanding efforts will finally make sense.
NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website
I’ve got both a Facebook (Giovanni D’Amaro) and an Instagram (@moviebrat04) profile and I constantly update them with personal and professional news.