Davide Melini Interview

Davide Melini, cyoungmedia, The Sweet Hand Of The White Rose
Davide Melini directs the "Sweet Hand Of The White Rose"
(Today I'm talking with up and coming director Davide Melini. So far he has 6 short films under his belt and has been an assistant director on "Rome" and "Penny Dreadful" not to mention getting to work with "Giallo" icon Dario Argento.)

Davide, what was your childhood like? Have you always wanted to work in the industry? What filmmakers have influenced you the most?

I have to say that I’ve grown up in cinema, because I’ve got an uncle who's worked there for 30 years. I started to visit him on the job, and I loved it from the beginning. For me it was incredible to discover the world “behind” a movie. Step by step (and very slowly), I started to study it and many years ago, I wrote my first screenplay. I’ve continued to write until I directed my first short film, "Amore Estremo" in 2006.

When I think about who influenced me the most, many names come to my mind (a truly endless list!) I like to say that I’m influenced by everybody and anybody. I mean, while I’m watching a movie, I analyze it from all the points of view. Watch a movie and study – this is the best school! But after that, every director has to be able to develop his own style.

Amore Estremo, Davide Melini, cyoungmedia
Tell us about your first short films “Amore Estremo” (“Extreme Love”) and “La Sceneggiatura” (“The Screenplay”).

"Amore Estremo" was a very dark and violent thriller, which was based on a secret and impossible love between two young people (Michela Bruni and Leonardo Pace). The main idea was to find out the limits of love. Despite being a good screenplay, the film leaves much to be desired. It was the first time I was working behind the camera and the result was a bit amateurish. But “Amore Estremo” has definitely been a necessary step in my development, because I realized how difficult it was to bring a screenplay to life. In the same year I tried again, making "La Sceneggiatura", a pure horror short film, where a young award winning screenwriter (Matteo Pianezzi) starts to write a horror film, despite the reluctance of his girlfriend (Claudia Nicosia). But soon he realizes that, sometimes, mixing reality with imagination can be very dangerous. With this film I started to see things in a different way and although it’s not perfect, I consider it the first professional movie I've made. With “La Sceneggiatura” I began to participate at festivals and won my first award.

Davide Melini, The Puzzle, cyoungmedia
You caught the attention of film critics with your third short film "The Puzzle". How did that come about?

I was pretty happy with the "La Sceneggiatura", but my hunger to grow better was too strong. I absolutely wanted to discover why the films I watched in the cinema were better than mine. There was still too much of a difference! So I started to study in a deep way all kinds of films. I took a break for two years in which I also moved to Spain. Here I met the producer Ezekiel Montes who gave me the opportunity to realize my third short film, "The Puzzle". After arguing with his son (Alessandro Fornari), a woman (Cachito Noguera) decides to relax, doing a puzzle. But sometimes puzzles hide dark mysteries. When Ezekiel Montes only gave me one night to shoot, I started to think on how to involve the audience, but it was very difficult. What could I do with so little time? I knew how to do ​​a four or five minute short film and I bet everything on rhythm. It was the only thing that interested me. I thought that if I could not tell too much with the story, I would have to rely entirely on the visual part and this is exactly what I did. I think that's been the key to its success.

Davide Melini, The Sweet Hand of the White Rose, cyoungmedia
Two years later you made "The Sweet Hand of the White Rose", an amazing short film which won many festival awards and has been screened worldwide. What can you say about this movie?

In order to forget about a heated discussion with his girlfriend, a man (Carlos Bahos) decides to get in his car and go far away. But a little mistake and a meeting with "White Rose" (Natasha Machuca) will change his life forever... "The Sweet Hand of the White Rose" is a purely fantastic short film, it's a dark fairytale, full of dramatic moments. Compared to my previous "The Puzzle", this film is more soft, less claustrophobic. I must admit that I have fulfilled one of my desires which was to shoot in a cemetery at night! Most of the short was filmed in the Monumental Cemetery of San Sebastián, located in Casabermeja, the purest and most beautiful cemetery in Malaga (Spain).

You've also worked on mainstream television shows such as “Rome” and “Penny Dreadful”

Yes, we are talking about big productions, with high budgets. The set design for "Rome", built inside the “Cinecittà” studios, was really incredible! And what about the Roman soldiers costumes and all the make up and special effects? Simply amazing! "Penny Dreadful" was another very complex production, whose crew was made of more than three hundred professionals and almost all of them were from Dublin. There were twelve assistant directors and only a guy from Barcelona and I were "foreigners". All the others were coming from Ireland! We shot for three weeks in the desert of Almeria and inside "Fort Bravo", which is the biggest Western-style film studio in Europe. Working with Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson ("Rome"), Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett and Wes Studi ("Penny Dreadful") has been a real pleasure!
Josh Hartnett, Davide Melini, Penny Dreadful, cyoungmedia
Josh Hartnett and Davide on the set of "Penny Dreadful"

What was it like working with Dario Argento?

Another realized dream! Seeing him on the set it’s really amazing. When the Master speaks you have to be quiet and open your ears, because it’s like a film class! He has perfect knowledge of cinematic language, each technique and all objectives. To see how he works and the way he shoots a film is something exceptional. As a lover of horror movies, I can’t not love this great director.

Some film critics consider you a natural heir to Argento. How do you feel about that?

I say that there is no point of comparison. Dario Argento released masterpieces like "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", "Deep Red" and "Suspiria" (to name a few!), while I have only worked in independent short films. I thank the film critics, because it’s always nice to hear good words about oneself, but the truth is that I’m light years away from the Maestro.

Davide Melini, Lion, cyoungmedia
Currently you are working on two new short films. The first one is titled “Lion”. Where did the idea come from? What kind of film is it and what should we expect?

When I write a screenplay, my mind has to be clear, always. There must not be any kind of restriction. This way the story almost writes itself. In the case of “Lion”, I felt the need to write something newer and stronger. My idea was to enter into the darkness and explore real terror. I set only one key limit: the characters should be totally isolated, so I cut off any way of escape. I immediately imagined an isolated chalet, lost in the middle of a snowy forest, so that the focus shifts inexorably onto the only available light: the house. Knowing from the beginning that it will be impossible to escape, the chalet is charged with an even more metaphorical power. And once the audience will be in the corner and can’t run away, I will show them all sorts of horror. All I can say is that once inside the house, you will pray to get out.

What about the cast?

The film stars Pedro Sánchez (an 8 year old who has already had experience in some TV commercials), Michael Segal (a very popular actor in Italy) and Tania Mercader (a talented stage actress). I’m really very proud of their work!

Deep Shock, Davide Melini, cyoungmedia
The second one is “Deep Shock”, which is announced for 2017. What can you tell us about it? Is this a giallo film?

“Deep Shock” does attempt to pay tribute to the Italian film genre called “Giallo” and the title of this project is inspired by the most famous horror movies of two of the most important Italian directors: Dario Argento (“Deep Red”) and Mario Bava (“Shock”). It’s a short film that mixes thriller and horror elements. The goal is to recreate the magic and true intrigue from the 70s, adapting them to the technical evolution and development that this genre has experienced all along. It was shot with the same crew as “Lion”, but the cast has obviously changed. “Deep Shock” stars Muireann Bird, Francesc Pagès, George Bracebridge, Lorna Larkin, Erica Prior and Luis Fernández de Uribe. It’s my biggest and most important project and it represents my last short film, before trying to move to a feature movie.

How did you obtain financing?

The principal producer of “Lion” and “Deep Shock” is my cousin Luca Vannella, and it’s only because of him that I’ve been able to produce them! In the space of a few months, five of Luca’s colleagues (Alexis Continente, Vincenzo Mastrantonio, Bobby Holland, Ferdinando Merolla and Roberto Paglialunga) joined him to finance the shorts. Besides, I also had the opportunity to work closely on “Penny Dreadful” with three of them – Luca, Alexis and Vincenzo. I remember that it was a magical and surreal period for me: I was working in one of the most famous TV series around the world and, at the same time, I had the opportunity to talk every day to them about my short films. Aside from the economic aspect, they were also very important on set, because they put their wide film experience at the service of the crew.

Do you have a regular crew you prefer to work with?

No, although I'd like to. What's better than counting on film professionals who helped you in the previous film? Unfortunately the independent film world is very difficult, full of idlers and envious people... all it takes is winning an unknown festival to feel like a God! It is a long and complex speech. Maybe it’s better if I leave it for another time, hahaha.

What was the greatest moment of your career?

I'm still waiting for it, lol.

What advice do you have for other independent filmmakers?

This is a difficult world, where all that glitters ain't gold. The way is very long and full of obstacles, but if one believes in his work, he will have no regrets. My advice is to be humble and strong at the same time and keeping your feet on the ground is essential (don't get excited too much for winning a festival award and do not get too depressed when a negative review comes out). Remember that we must always improve ourselves, because there will always be someone who knows more than us.

Where's the best place to find information on your projects and see your work?

You can watch all my short films, see posters and stills, read reviews & interviews and discover all the festival awards and TV premieres by visiting my official blog. I also invite you to follow the Facebook pages for "Lion" and "Deep Shock". You can discover all the latest news there.


If you like this interview, you might also enjoy my talk with Sevé Schelenz.

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