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“Today there is no easy place to make films”

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Mirko Pincelli • Director

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- We talked to Italian documentarian Mirko Pincelli about his feature-length fiction debut, The Habit of Beauty, which was selected at Montreal

Mirko Pincelli • Director

We spoke to young Italian documentarian Mirko Pincelli about his feature-length fiction debut, The Habit of Beauty [+see also:
trailer
interview: Mirko Pincelli
film profile
]
, which was selected at the Montreal World Film Festival and was produced by Orisa.

Cineuropa: You already have quite some experience as a documentary maker with strong civic engagement, and now you have made your debut fiction feature. What led you to embark upon this project?
Mirko Pincelli: I have always been interested in those stories that are often forgotten and ignored. I went to the Balkans - Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically - making my first feature-length documentary in 2011. It was a story focused on the struggle of teenagers (of three different ethnicities) to reconcile with each other and live together after the war. The documentary, which took three years to make, was fairly successful, receiving a nomination at the Raindance Film Festival and then worldwide distribution by Journeyman Pictures. This led to a second, then a third, and then somehow I felt the freedom to focus together with my business partner Enrico Tessarin, and we wrote our first feature film as a writer-producer-director team. We started writing The Habit of Beauty with the same approach we had adopted while making our docs: writing about issues that we particularly cared about and have personally experienced, paying particular attention to people who suffer and struggle. We wanted to make a film without compromising, following our instincts as storytellers and filmmakers. I wanted to make a film about real-life stories, universal stories that could have happened to anyone. We wrote stories of Italians who emigrated to London, as we did, and their clashing with a very different British culture. As in our documentary movies, we never talk about fictional stories, but we base everything on real events.

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The film boasts a very refined, "mixed" cast and crew, not just from an artistic point of view, but also technically speaking. Was it difficult to organise the production workflow of this film?
We had had specific people in mind since the very beginning, and we wanted to work with them at all costs, simply because we believed that their experience was essential in order to make the film we had in mind. I also think we have been very lucky in gaining the trust of an extremely talented cast and experienced crew. Working together was an important experience, where we all learnt and shared a lot. Having said that, yes, it was difficult, especially because, as with every co-production, we had a mixed cast and crew, half Italian and half British. On a film it's very important to "become" a family, where everyone works with the same passion and intent. This is, of course, not always possible, but it was our priority when making this film. You then always end up lacking some key role (both in the cast and in the crew) while preparing a film - but in our case, people who embraced the film at an earlier stage were extremely helpful in building up the rest of the great team, and in some cases, they even helped financially. I am extremely grateful to them.

On the production front, you are rather active with the London-based outfit, together with Enrico Tessarin. Is it easy making films in the United Kingdom? Are you scared about the consequences of Brexit on potential European co-productions?
Today there is no easy place to make films, I think. The main difference is that England, and London in particular (where we both lived for over a decade), probably offers more opportunities. It's a bigger place, with influences from everywhere, where if you work hard, you will get results. I started studying and then worked as a photographer at the age of 20; I then opened my company (mainly focused on documentary) together with Enrico six years ago, and before the age of 30 I had made my first film. I am not saying that this doesn't happen in Italy - not at all - but it's definitely more difficult. So I am inclined to say that in London you got more chances. I'm using the past tense because I have now moved back to Italy, after 12 years, because I really hope to adopt the same approach here: always working on co-productions, with international stories and investors, but with a closer relationship with Italy. Financing films in the UK is very different from Italy, where you mainly rely on three main sources of funding: the Ministry of Culture, national TV and regional funds. In the UK, I think you have more opportunities to meet private investors willing to fall in love with your story. What I think we have that is so precious in Italy are extremely experienced crew members, people who work for years as assistants on many film sets around the world, honing their skills and becoming excellent at what they do. Brexit is worrying for everyone, but I think that whoever loves films will always find a way to make them, even in difficult times.

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