Wholeheartedly: An Interview With Theo Francocci
Why do you make films?
I make movies because they are a mix of everything that I love - Stories, people, photography, and music. But most of all, I make movies to send a message and transmit emotions.
How did you start making film and what was your first film project and how did it go?
When I was a teenager, I used to spend time making music. Then, I discovered that my passion for music and sounds could become a job. Soon, I became a sound designer, and I worked on several projects. As much as I enjoyed that, I felt incomplete, and I decided that it was time to create my own films and personal stories. I moved to Los Angeles, where I discovered the art of screenwriting. So I wrote my first short film, “Wholeheartedly.” The project involved people and friends from both the U.S. and Italy and we miraculously finished the project to submit to film festivals. So far, “Wholeheartedly” has been awarded Best Drama Short at Hollywood Just4Shorts, Best International Short Drama at Venice Shorts, Best Indie Filmmaker at TopShorts, Award of Excellence at Global Shorts, Best Director at Toronto Short Film Channel, and multiple Honorable Mention awards at Los Angeles Film Awards and Independent Shorts Awards.
What kind of films inspired you as a director?
I believe that every film we watch has the power to transmit something and teach us not only through its message but also through its art and technology, no matter the genre. In my personal growth as a director, I always brought with me some elements from movies that I watched and loved. As a kid, I remember learning aspects of cinematography from Walt Disney’s The Lion King. I’ve been inspired by the Characters of The Dark Knight and Gladiator, and the incredible narrative structures of Memento, the Matrix, and Fight Club. I feel very connected to emotional movies that can touch you through the combination of multiple elements; some of these movies are Vertigo, Amelie, Wall-E, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful.
What genre of filmmaking are you trying to work on as a filmmaker?
Right now, I am exploring the possibilities of drama. I believe that emotional connections are powerful there, and drama offers not only the opportunity to interact with realism, but also with different elements from other genres such as thriller, action, and romance. Moreover, I am trying to work with animators on future projects. My projects in development are “Doride,” a fully animated drama short about environmental preservation, and “Living in Color,” a half-liveaction, half-animated movie about the problems of unhealthy relationships.
Please name three of your most favorite directors?
I draw much inspiration from contemporary directors such as Jennifer Lee. She entered the animation world as a writer and then became the first female directing a Disney animated feature — Frozen. Her storytelling style is bright, and her emotions flow gently. Secondly, I am inspired by Damien Chazelle, the youngest director to win a best directing Oscar. He is bold and not afraid to experiment, and I appreciate his sensitivity to love and music very much. Last but not least, Jordan Peele, for his chameleonic style and incredible work on the expressivity of the actors he works with. He is not afraid to explore topics such as racism in his films, and he can convey emotions in different genres.
What is the most challenging thing about making indie films?
What I find very challenging is dealing with low-budgets. Often, in the writing stage, I let myself be free to be creative, but then I have to face the problem of budget limitation, and some scenes need to be re-written to compromise with the reduced crew or the limited equipment.
Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker?
Absolutely. As an indie filmmaker, I am more in control of my story, my voice, and my style. Of course, this freedom is limited by the budget, but it is definitely an advantage in creativity and independence.
Do you plan to continue working independently as a filmmaker?
My intention is to maintain a position of independence and creative freedom. The plan is to always have my independent projects at my side, but I also believe that teaming up with a major production studio will offer my voice the chance to reach a bigger audience.
What was the inspiration behind the making of Wholeheartedly and how did you find the cast and the crew to film the project?
“Wholeheartedly” is a story that drew inspiration from a person very close to me, my sister, one of the strongest women in my life. Together with the production team I assembled, I developed a story that aimed at sending a message of strength and empowerment. Finding cast and crew was a combination of luck and networking. Being a student at UCLA Extension helped because I was exposed to many other creative and passionate filmmakers. I soon found people that believed in the idea, the story, and the style, starting from the director of photography, Guadalupe Hernández, and the Producer Matthew Richardson. Word of mouth, together with the social networks, definitely helped. Moreover, my multiple connections in Italy allowed me to work remotely on the VFX and color correction with Luca Attilii, and with the great guitarist Marco Piazzolla. I don’t want to sound too cheesy, but I like to think that destiny made me find the right people for the project. The lead actors, Andrea Mendez and Kylar Miranda, are very talented, passionate, and it was fantastic working with them.
How do you plan to find a larger audience for your short films and what do you think about the distribution of short films in the film industry?
The idea is to target audiences that could care about the film, not only via film festivals but also through online distribution. Starting from this point, I firmly believe that the short format has potential in the world of OTT platforms. Disney + already has a vast repertory of short films, and Quibi demonstrates that a “bite” format is appealing and entertaining. Another option is selfdistribution. Of course, having a brilliant film is not enough, so it could be great to have a little help from crowdfunding campaigns and self-promotion on social media. My suggestion is to have marketing materials ready, like a movie trailer and a press kit, along with social media pages.