Salvatore Assenza is a highly respected TV and Documentary Feature Director based in the UK. Salvatore began his career in film as a 3rd AD for an Italian police series before crossing over to the big screen. After collaborating on a UK film shot in Spain he relocated to London where he directed documentaries for major UK and US broadcasters like the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5, Discovery, and National Geographic. Sal brings an international approach to storytelling and loves to push boundaries.
Your project takes part in our festival. What is your project about?
"I Am Not A Princess" is a biographical documentary that explores the challenges of modern womanhood through the life of Irina Meyer, a Venture Capitalist, mother, and rebellious Russian-American who relentlessly works to create space for women in business.
What were your requirements for actors to take part in your film?
We had no actors in the film.
How did you communicate with the cameraman?
The only direction I gave to the cameraman was to capture the moment as it unfolded in front of us to keep the truth of the moment. I have a very collaborative approach to film making and for every scene filmed we try to film cinematic shots to compliment the storytelling without losing the cinema verité style of some scenes.
For the head and shoulder interviews we chose again a central position on screen to focus the viewer on the story rather than being distracted by the location.
What locations did you choose for your project? And why?
Some locations where dictated by the story but the ones chosen for the film had to be simple & stylistic to reflect the personality of the subject of the film and not distract the viewers from the storytelling and yet be visually enticing to create a harmonious picture.
Why should distributors buy your film?
This biography is not a film about a series of unfortunate events that happen to a woman, but a story of resilience, of making it against the odds and a tremendous testimony that if you work hard, no matter what life's throws at you there's always a chance of success. It's an inspirational story that touches the heart. This is a lens into a Russian-American woman who learned to stand up for herself at the tender age of 15 in Moscow and after moving to the US, through sheer hard work and determination, climbed the corporate ladder, and after much success in the gaming and media industries, entered the male dominated Venture Capital world- all despite getting a degree in computer science and simultaneously raising 2 kids. This story is a much needed positive example to all people out there who feel constrained by the boxes society have created for them, and also a guidebook for women who need a source of strength.
What expression elements did you use in your project? How would you characterize your work?
For this project I decided to keep the storytelling as linear and straight as possible. It was important for me to keep the film real and to the point as some section of Irina's life are extreme and hard to comprehend. The focus of the film is Irina's life story and I didn't want to saturate it with copious arty sequences. Her experiences speak volumes. We did use graphic illustrations to give strong visual impact to the most compelling points in the film.
At what festivals have you had success? Has the film already premiered? If so, where?
We have been officially selected for the following festivals: Los Angeles Film Awards, Berlin Indie Film Festival, and WRPN Women's International Film Festival. We are an award winner for the CKF International Film Festival. The film has not had a public premiere.
What motivated you to become a filmmaker?
I've always been fascinated by stories that tell human resilience and filmmaking seems to be a perfect way of both exploring the resilience of the person's story you're trying to tell and also your own as making a film will test you and the strength of your ideas in many different ways.
Which movies are your favorites? And why?
My all time favorite films are the "Big Lebowski" by the Cohen Brothers and "La Vita è Bella" by Benigni. Both films in a very different way glue you to the screen and immerse you in a magical world merging fiction with reality.
What topics do you like to deal with in your work?
I don't have a specific topic, if it's a story worth telling then I'm in.
What genre do you like to shoot and why?
I love to shoot documentaries, especially unscripted ones where you don't know exactly where the story will take you.
What project would you like to shoot one day, what would it be about?
I'd love to develop a documentary project about the weird and wonderful music history from Naples in Italy.
What do you do if you're not thinking about a movie? What are your hobbies?
Nowadays all my spare time goes into spending time with my little boy and planning the next family adventure.
What projects do you plan to shoot in the future?
I'm in the process of developing 3 new projects all very different but equally fascinating;
- The life story of a young man who lost his short term memory due to a brain tumour and his unique way of dealing with it
- Mussolini's accidental Gay Paradise, an incredible story of fascist's gay persecution, just before the Second World War, which turned a tiny island in the Mediterranean into a Gay Prison and accidentally created paradise for people who could be themselves for the first time in their lives.
- The perception of beauty, what is beautiful and who decides it? An exploration into how beauty has been perceived over the years and how we're dealing with it now in the era of social media and selfies.