Documentary serves as a fantastic medium to gain insight into the life or lives of another. I've always enjoyed watching documentaries as the human condition is something that I'm very interested in. Even if the documentary subject isn't an individual, it has been moulded and produced by a person into their take on that subject, in this way still supplying a glimpse at that person's outlook. With this in mind, taking on such an open briefed project for documentary recently has been incredibly exciting.
My group consisted of myself Producing, Duane Adamoli Directing, Edoardo Galeone as Cinematographer, Luise Guertler on Sound, Hayley Leclair Editing & Jessica Holme as Assistant Producer/Data Wrangler. Being in a group of refreshingly ambitious film students naturally led to us wanting to tackle a difficult subject matter; after countless group meetings involving the pitching of various ideas it became clear that we all wanted to travel to do this project and with having two Italians in our team, our focus drew to Italy. At a stage I can no longer recall, as it all seems so long ago now (despite only being a couple of months), we were introduced to the city of L'Aquila by Duane. L'Aquila and it's surrounding towns were devastated by an earthquake in 2009, killing 308 people and leaving over 60,000 Aquilans homeless. 7 years later, the city and surrounding towns remained in the subsequent effect of the earthquake with the city repairs only beginning recently. Naturally, a city essentially left in limbo after the effects of a natural disaster drew on our interest and we began our research into the event.
We found out that 7 scientists who specialised in seismology and so forth were persecuted for manslaughter as a result of downplaying the earthquake which grasped our attention as one perspective for looking into the events. We searched for methods in which we could contact these scientists, Twitter - believe it or not - proved the most effective, though the contact we gained unfortunately fell through. However this only meant that we looked for another avenue into this subject, eventually all agreeing that it should be those affected by the disaster. We struggled in finding a subject for this avenue, as an organisation we partly relied on fell short of our expectations but to our surprise and relief, Edoardo had a contact that provided immeasurable help in gaining contact details of an individual we could focus on. We agreed that sending Duane and Edoardo ahead of us to Italy, despite having booked non-refundable plane tickets for a later date, would prove very helpful. Recce trips are an absolute necessity however our group budget didn't permit for a trip independent of our production trip, hence sending the boys ahead of us turned out to be the next best case scenario.
We regrouped with Duane and Ed in an airport in Rome on the 3rd of March, with no secured subject to cover for our documentary. Tensions and concerns were high, but we had just made it to Italy and enjoyed our first night indulging in pizza. Moments like that were as crucial to our group dynamic as our group meetings were to our documentary itself; if we didn't allow ourselves time together when we weren't solely focused on work we wouldn't have worked well as a unit. Early on in our week in Italy though, we came into contact with 22 year old student, Giovanni Baiocchetti who became the focal point of our documentary. In honesty, we were very lucky to have found someone so willing to share their personal experiences, some fear invoking, some grievous, without knowing us very well. Forming personal relationships with the people we would be meeting along the journey to create our films is vital in developing trust, a foundation that the production of documentary is built on, but a foundation we lamentably didn't have time to form and so Giovanni's openness was gratefully received.
Alongside speaking to Giovanni, we visited the city of L'Aquila and a couple of it's surrounding towns. The city was enveloped in construction, the scaffolding that covered the buildings looked like spines outside their bodies, all you had to do was look up and you'd see cranes towering over you and if you couldn't see it then you would certainly hear the buzz of machinery. However unless you deliberately looked inside buildings in the city, you wouldn't sense the abandonment - none of the flats were inhabited, a classroom we glimpsed into through the window was still masked in dust, the city was absent of vitality but not through the fault of it's past residents. We ventured out to smaller towns, particularly Giovanni's old town, of which were substantially more haunting - if I'd been told that the earthquake had occurred mere weeks ago I'd have believed you. I wouldn't like to describe the condition in which the towns were left in as I feel I wouldn't successfully convey it's magnitude so I'll be leaving our documentary's visuals to do the communicating. Whilst walking through the town I tried to imagine the sensation of an earthquake but couldn't get my head around what, to me, is secure in it's totality, the ground beneath our feet but which ideology betrayed these people.
With such a heavy subject matter at hand, when in each other's company and away from our work setting we would divulge our attention to menial, unrelated, jokey conversation to lighten the tone. Going abroad to create a documentary calls for an unprecedented amount of time with people you wouldn't normally see for 24 hours a day for, in our case, 7 consecutive days and so the group rapport of individuals who all got along and enjoyed one another's company was pivotal.
We're currently in the post-production period of our film now where we're seeing the project in it's entirety come together. I've undoubtably got the post-production blues that we aren't going through filming process of it anymore, though I'm beyond excited to see the final product and for our group to share it with everyone. Needless to say I've learnt a lot from this film, a note I would pass on for anyone thinking of filming abroad in the future: language barriers are difficult and call for ceaseless communication, even when one third of your team speak the language.
Thank you again to everyone who helped make this documentary come to fruition.