Thank you to all the fans that supported this film!
2014, 86m, adventure, documentary, sport
Can a region surrounded by land produce world class surfing waves? Internationally acclaimed surf-filmmaker, Jason Baffa (Singlefin: Yellow & One California Day) documents surfer, artist and environmentalist, Chris Del Moro on a pilgrimage back to his Italian homeland on what most perceive as a 'Don Quixotian' quest but transforms into a modern discovery seeped in culture, tradition and passion. Moreover, it is what Chris finds in the beauty of Italy and the distinctly passionate connection the Italian people have with family and tradition that reveals a greater truth.
Produced by: Scott Griest, Anh-Thu Le & Greg Schultz
Cast: Chris del Moro, Dave Rastovich, Leonardo Fioravanti
10 questions with Bella Vita director, Jason Baffa at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
1Hi Jason! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Spring Festival. First, what was it about Chris del Moro that made you want to make a documentary about him and his experiences? Thank you guys for the support!
Making any documentary film is really a long journey and when I'm about to go on a journey I usually enjoy it more with someone easy going who is fun to be around and Chris del Moro is certainly both of those things. Moreover, when I learned of his experiences growing up in Italy I was reminded of my own family and that got me really excited to explore the story further.
2This is a surf doc, but it's more than that. It's also about a man returning to his roots and giving back to a place that had given him so much. How important was it to tell a story that doesn't solely focus on surfing? This is a great question and truly represents why I made Bella Vita, I said yes to the project because I knew that we needed to go beyond surf action to make the film work. My previous films, Singlefin: yellow and One California Day were really focused on surfing and I was excited to do something different. Italy is not known for world-class waves, so our intention was to create an emotional travelogue with surfing as a back-drop to bigger experiences. I'm so grateful that Chris was open to the process because as wonderful surf-action is to watch, I prefer films about people and their stories.
3The footage in this film is absolutely incredible. What camera/lenses did you use and how long was your shoot? Thank you for saying that as we tried really hard to make something visually stunning. We were in Italy shooting for 108 days. We had a very difficult time with weather (lots of rain) and finding waves. Although I knew the film wasn't focused on the surf-action, I was really hoping to capture something memorable as I felt it would bring some added attention to the project via the global surfing community. To do this, we shot primarily 35mm Film. My director of photography, Scott Kassenoff and I had shot 16mm and Super 16mm on my previous projects and we wanted to raise the bar. This was particularly challenging in Italy as we only had a 3 man crew and we were often in rural country areas away from camera-rental houses and support. We had ARRIFLEX motion picture cameras and standard cine lenses. We also supplemented a few Super 16mm shots from a specialty water-housing and some Canon 5D digital cinema. Some of my favorite shots in the film are the water cinematography Scott did with the 35mm Motion Picture film camera, all KODAK 250 daylight and 500T.
4Can you share a war story from the shoot? Well, one sequence... the opening to the film with the priest and the FIAT car. This idea came to Chris and I in the early weeks of our time in Italy (before the crew had arrived). We were meeting people, getting to know the area, making our plan. Every morning we woke up to these Church Bells ringing. Depending on how late we went to bed, this could be rather annoying and yet memorable all the same! We thought it would be fun to open the film by showing a priest ringing the bells, this evolved to showing the priest arrive in a classic Italian car, etc. etc.
First, we quickly learned that few of the old churches actually ring real bells, they all use a recording. What a sham!! Once we found actual bells our friend, Piergiorgio Castellani, introduced us to a local priest who was perfect. We then found the car via another friend. Mind you, this is just Chris, myself and Piergiorgio juggling all of the logistics, very non-traditional as far as filmmaking. When the D.P. Scott Kassenoff arrived, he and I shot that entire opening sequence with 35mm Film in one afternoon. I think I counted 22 set-ups in about 4hrs, so about 10min/shot - and with no crew - it was CRAZY!
5What impressed you most about Italy? What were some of things you took away from Italian culture? Well, I'm Italian, my father is first generation American and his parents (now deceased) lived in Southern Italy before they moved to the U.S. to raise their family. So, I guess I had a certain sense of what being Italian is and I think I feel even stronger about it having spent so much time there making Bella Vita. Italians are by nature familial. We got so much support from everyone we met. Yes, we made the film with no crew (Chris, our D.P. Scott, his camera assistant J.T. and myself) but the real CREW were all of our friends we made in Italy. Everyone was so eager to help, to pitch in and they didn't want anything in return. They were just excited that we wanted to make a film that celebrated Italy and to me that says a lot about what it means to be Italian. It was also scary, as I didn't want to disappoint them but I'm happy to say the film has garnered great reviews.
6Which came first, surfing or filmmaking? Do both these passions hold equal weight? Ah, yes... filmmaking came first in my life. I often say that my love for surfing has been a great distraction to what may have been a very successful career in Hollywood, hahaha... I think they are both passions for me and surfing has certainly become a favorite muse to my filmmaking efforts. But I do consider myself a filmmaker first and a surf-aholic second. I'm trying hard to focus on new stories outside of surfing... so that I can just surf for fun with my friends and family and not worry about dragging camera gear around but I do love sharing these surf-inspired stories with the worldwide community of supporters. It is very rewarding.
7What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? Raider's of the Lost Ark. That's an easy question. It is still my favorite film that I can watch again and again. I think Star Wars was a big influence too. I was about 7yrs old when A New Hope premiered. So it had a huge affect on me. It's funny, I used to watch these PBS documentaries on the Making of Raiders and the Making of Return of the JEDI... They were hours long, you might be able to find them on youtube. I would learn about model making, blue-screen, bullet squibs and stunts - mind you, I was about 9yrs old. Kinda ironic how much I loved those documentary films and that now I primarily make documentaries.
I should add, as a surfer, the two films that have captured my love for surfing and story-telling best are Bruce Brown's Endless Summer and John Milius' Big Wednesday. I can also watch these again and again.
8I loved the scenes where the younger generation got to see how much craftsmanship Italian people put into all of their work. It's something so wonderful to see, yet sad because it's rare to find that now in the states. What's your take on that? I love these scenes too... I think Italy really holds onto old tradition, some of my friends there even think to a fault. In the U.S. we seem to be very focused on progress, moving things forward, advancing. It seems that lately, the younger generations in America are embracing some of the older traditions. We see more people farming their land, making things but is definitely a knee jerk reaction to all the commercialism we are surrounded by. There is a simple beauty in the pride the people of Italy take in doing one thing well. Whether a cheese-maker, a vintner, a waiter or a violin maker. They are not driven by some idea of "success." They just want to love their work and live a simple life with food on the table, a roof over their head and quality time spent with family and friends. There is definitely something to be learned by that.
9This film also deals with environmental activism. What are your thoughts about the status of our oceans after traveling and seeing beaches all around the world? The oceans are in bad shape. It's pretty scary when you dig into the real facts. I was asked to make a little film on youtube called One Beach that was a real eye-opener for me. The good news is that the public is waking up. We are seeing more on more bans on things like the plastic grocery bag. Single use plastic is probably one of the worst thing man-kind has invented. Why make something that lasts hundreds of years but we only use for a few minutes, if not seconds! It makes no sense at all. Much of this plastic ends up in our oceans, on our beaches and in the sea and bird-life (who eat it thinking it is food).
So awareness is a first step. Just let people know they have a choice. I do believe we can make a difference and it's great to see many communities and organizations doing their best to activate support. I only speak as an observer but it certainly seems that education leads to action. My 4 year old loves picking up trash at the beach when we leave. It is our game, take three pieces and throw it away. Every little hand can help to make a difference.
10What's next? Currently, I've been hired to direct a film about the never-before-told-story of the Golf Caddie. Ya know, that random person carrying the bag. It is truly one of the more unique roles in all of sports. It's been different and fun and like most small independent documentaries a bit difficult to make. We are currently in post-production and we hope to premiere the film at the Telluride Film Festival. I also continue to direct commercials and chase waves on my free time but with a 10month old baby and a 4 year old, time is limited!
I should add that after finishing Bella Vita, the winemaker Piergiorgio Castellani approached me and Chris about doing a wine project. The label is called ZIOBAFFA and is inspired by our time in Italy. The Italian wine is 100% Organic and sustainably produced, we utilize recycled materials in all of the packaging and bottle in a zero waste facility under the guidance of the Castellani Family. You can learn more about the project and use the "store-locator" tab to find it at: www.ziobaffa.com // and if ya like, follow Bella Vita at Facebook.com/bellavitafilm
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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