SICILY: ‘YOU, ME AND THE SEA’

Post graduation, life seemed deflated until an invitation to a residency in Sicily perked it up. Artist collective Alterazioni Video (participating from New York via an unreliable Skype connection) set the challenge of creating a Turbo Movie – a short film that engaged with local tensions and disobeyed the rules of filmmaking.

IO TE E IL MARE (You, Me and the Sea) was to be the title of this highly collaborative, experimental project, involving a whole host of creatives as well as the local community.

With Italian film Swept Away providing our inspiration, we set about composing an intentionally clichéd tourist-falls-for-fisherman plot.

Once written, our majority-female group sent the script to the unabashedly masculine Alterazioni Video.  Unsurprisingly, we received a contradictory script in return: sexy fisherwoman catches dead sailor, sadistically assaults him with squid before force-feeding him a cocktail of fish-eyes to arouse his senses…oh, and must contain shocking sex scene!

We considered this long and hard (no pun intended) but with no one – particularly not the protagonists – willing to re-create this plot, we boldly reworked the script. Eventually it was agreed the film would adopt the idealistic tone of a Dolce & Gabbana perfume advert, while my artistic input saw the dead sailor transformed into the now cult idol of Lipari, Glitter Marinero.

Lipari ‘Glitter Marinero’

Our plan was born. After scavenging for actors and props, and location hunting across the island, we set out with our loose script and improvised.

One scene saw us hire a fisherman’s boat, circumnavigate the island to find the most suitable rock, then jump into jellyfish-infested waters (camera in precariously upheld hand) to film the capture of Glitter Marinero and his inflatable dolphin – much to the bemusement of tourists on passing boats.

A particularly challenging scene saw us spend three exhausting days in a gloomy cave at an archaeological site, the intense heat and cramped confinement causing tension to mount between the group for the first (and luckily the only) time.

Our biggest obstacle, however, was the clash of visual expectations – those from a film background sought polished cinematography, while the art-based individuals among us embraced technical difficulties (poor lighting/blurred movement) with artistic licence. Compromise was key here, and all were eventually pleased with the neo-realistic pop aesthetic created.

The residency culminated in Party Scenario – an evening of entertainment in which visitors were invited to participate in the shooting of a secret scene.

After receiving permission from local authorities, we collaborated with the island’s folk performers, theatre company and brass band, and sought sponsorship from local businesses who provided food and wine.

We paraded Glitter Marinero through town to distribute invites, and as the curious crowd began to gather in the evening, the impromptu wedding scene performed by our protagonists enchanted them. The audience then enthusiastically followed the procession around location before eagerly awaiting the next performance. It was thrilling to see our collective hard work paying off.

Collaboration on such a scale takes patience but the rewards are undeniable. When all involved are as driven as they are focused, such an ambitious project can be fulfilled. The more creative input available, the more fruitful results can be, and sharing the experience with the public made this accessible to everyone.

The more the merrier, I’d say!

Article written by Amy Exton

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