Diego grew up in Italy before moving to London where he began his career working for commercial production companies like Somesuch, Prettybird UK and Biscuit Filmworks. After relocating to Los Angeles he completed a certificate in Film Directing from UCLA Extension and started focusing on narrative filmmaking, with an interest in thriller, mystery and horror stories. His latest film, Scars, a supernatural period horror, is now screening at festivals around the world.
You grew up in Italy but went to study in the United States. What is the reason for this? Are there no good film schools in Italy? Please tell us more about your path to the professional cinema.
Before choosing to come to the US, I moved from Italy to London where I worked for several commercial production companies without having no formal education in film or contacts there. That was my first real “film school”. My plan was to cross into narrative filmmaking and eventually work in Los Angeles where I thought there were more opportunities in film. I figured out a film course was the best option to take a year or so off, focusing more on writing and directing while getting a visa at the end to be able to work in the US.
Have you made two short films? Were these films made as part of training assignments or are they unrelated to school?
I made several short films both inside and outside school before Scars. Within, the short I made just before Scars in 2019 started as an assignment for a directing class. The good thing about film school is that it forces you to make films even when you don’t think everything is in place to produce one because you have a deadline to deliver a project. Scars only started as part of a directing class but then became a bigger project outside of it that needed more time and resources to complete.
What classic and modern horror movies do you like? Which horror film directors are you interested in?
I love horrors that does not rely only on jump scares but that are built around real dramas masked as horrors. Classics like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Others, The Ring but also Alien. As for modern ones I really like what directors like Robert Eggers and Ari Aster are doing, focusing more on slower psychological horrors with a dramatic story behind them, rather than stories built on jump scares targeting a generic teen audience just looking for some thrills.
Do you think the horror genre has a future? Given the fact that humanity in 2021 is very difficult to scare. In addition, all genre techniques and cliches no longer work as well as before.
I think horror can have an exponential growth in the future and more and more horrors are crossing genres and challenging dramas in terms of intensity and importance. It’s also the genre that will grow the most in terms of recognition in festivals and even maybe at the Oscars. Get Out is a recent example of that. It’s a film that works as a genre film, is commercially successful but also has a dramatic story and a social commentary that makes it relevant for awards consideration. The Lighthouse as well has been nominated last year for Best Cinematography, which has not been very common for horror or genre films in the past.
How do you see your cinematic future? Do you want to shoot only horror movies or are you interested in other genres?
I’m interested in stories that resonates with me and that I think would be great to tell, regardless of the genre. In general, I think writers/directors are inclined towards some kind of stories more than others, so it’s very difficult to see one doing horrors and suddenly switching to comedies, although there are exceptions. I think I’m inclined towards dark stories, thrillers, mysteries, horrors, as well as sci-fi.
Your movie Scars was shot in the same location and with the same actress. At first glance, nothing complicated. However, what were the difficulties on the set? How quickly did you make this film?
Scars was shot in three different locations around Los Angeles over three days. There were no specific difficulties in general but each location had its challenges. The biggest challenge of them all is always get the best scenes out of the limited time you have a location available for. Some of the scenes that required more time were the more physical/intense ones, those can take quite some time to get them right. Thankfully we always made it on time by the end of each shooting days without the need to reshoot, thanks to the amazing crew, especially my production designer and DP.
Do you have any plans to make a feature film? What will it be about?
Yes, I hope I will be able soon to direct a feature but it’s way more complicated to get there compared to a short of course. I’m developing several ideas all in the thriller/horror genres. Probably the first I might direct might be a story in a contained location with a few characters cause it’s easier to develop and get funding compared to a big story that requires multiple locations and characters.
What prospects open up in the United States after graduating from film school? Is there a real need for new film industry personnel? Which path would be more comfortable for you as an artist: studio director or independent director?
There is always the need for new people working in the industry. Of course, it depends on the specialization and what you want to do on set or in an office, but in my case as a writer/director the path would be to develop, write and pitch new and fresh ideas that hopefully a producer or a production company is interested in buying or shooting with me attached or not. I see myself in independent cinema in the next future but many people make the big step towards studio films even after a couple of indie projects, if those projects are very successful. This is due to the fact that the medium budget filmmaking is dying and they produce either an independent film under $10 million or a big budget studio film over $100 million. Working in a studio system has its cons in terms of probably having less artistic control over everything, but it all depends on how the studio wants to work with you and I think there is no director who wouldn’t work with a big budget and a studio backing the project under the right conditions, compared to the struggles of indie filmmaking.