Feature Films: Southern Italy Wine Filmmaking
Next October I’ll be up Etna, picking grapes. I get goose bumps every time I go to Sicily, just like you probably do when you come to Italy. 11 months after that I’ll be back in Puglia working the harvest here in Salice Salentino. And in those eleven months, I plan to write, shoot, mic, drone-pilot, edit and promote a feature film. Yes, the kind of film that you pay for a ticket and sit down in the dark with a bunch of people you don’t know to watch. If I actually knew how much I still have to learn about filmmaking I would be terrified. As it is though, I’m only excited, a lot like the dog that still doesn’t know that the car is actually pointed at the vet’s.
Part of the reason that I’m not as scared as I should be is that I’ve made the trip from Sicily to Puglia by bicycle nine times now, visiting producers, tasting, researching and learning as much as I can about Southern Italian Wine. And I’ve been teaching wine now at our Cooking School in Italy for 15 years. And writing about it for the magazine too for nine. Content-wise, a lot of the heavy lifting was done years ago.
That leaves the actual filmmaking. There are parts that are more difficult than others. Drone flying isn’t easy, or rather, it’s not that hard to fly one but very difficult if you expect anything usable in 4k (in my short films, three batteries of 45 minutes of flight time might produce 15 or 20 seconds of usable content). We’ve all underwhelmed with a camcorder in our hands. Now imagine that that the camcorder were flying. And rather than a dance recital, you’re trying to film yourself while dancing. That comes pretty close.
And audio. Moving from still to moving pictures is less of a transition than from video to audio. Sound is difficult because you can’t see it and playing it back, even with earphones in the field, it’s all easy to get home and realise that there was more wind that you thought, or that someone had too much spit in his mouth. Or that you didn’t notice the jet that passed. Or that you inexplicable used the wrong word and no one bothered to mention it at the time. That I’ll be recording myself primarily is an added level of complicity. And with my speech ticks- stammers, stutters and greased-uzi delivery, it’s unlikely that I’ll shake my ‘twenty-take Tony’ nickname anytime soon.
That leaves two elements that I suspect that I’ll never overcome: colour grading and editing for pace. I’m certain I’ll need external help on both.
I’m actually relieved to be doing it all alone, as no one will be standing around waiting for me to get it right, or called back each time I need to film retakes. My glaring errors will be recorded over, no one the wiser.
And then, a few years from now you’ll see the film on Netflix and see why I love Southern Italian Wine so much, the faces, the landscape, the history, the intimate story told digitally, the painfully-extracted fruit of 10,000 hours.