Your new movie Face of
Evil - in a few words, what is it about?
On July 4th, private Jay Williams returns
home from the Middle East, but a mysterious epidemic breaks out and
infects his friends at his party. On the road to salvation, Jay is joined
by his ex-sergeant, who reveals chilling secrets leading to a conspiracy.
The night has just begun, as they embark on a survival quest for the
This is not another shootout zombie flick (spoiler alert!). It's about the
inner journey of a person on the run from his demons, real or not, from an
unknown enemy, who may attack anywhere, anytime. Perhaps it's the story of
a victim, a brainwashed pawn, a scapegoat in a devious system, or perhaps
it's just the story of an unwilling executioner. As fear confuses and
deforms reality, Jay meets surreal characters and learns bits of truth on
his way to salvation, or perhaps to damnation. The movie touches
contemporary issues, like mysterious epidemics, terrorism paranoia, vets
PTSD, mass shootings, big brother conspiracy and more. It's a contemporary
tale of realistic madness. That's what this movie is about, in more
than just a few words...
of Evil being a sort-of zombie movie, is that at all a genre dear
to you, and some of your genre favourites? And what do you think makes
your movie stand out of the crowd of zombie fare?
was always into horror movies, and horror movies can be placed in a
realistic scenario, with causes justified by topical events. So my
inspiration about the look of the infected came from a real nightmare I
had when I was a kid, and that stuck to my mind. When I decided to make a
horror movie, a few years ago, I adopted that look, but I thought it would
be pointless to make just another genre movie about zombies... so I wrote
the first draft in one month, a plain zombie action script, but it took me
over one year to turn it into a psychological thriller that would make
sense from the lead character's point of view. From a directorial
standpoint, I think with horror or thriller you can express yourself
better, show your style, leave your footprint on the product, while with
comedy or action you heavily rely on actors, their charisma. You hear of
horror movies directed by such or such, but for most genres, you need a
star. Plus low budget horror is safer since it always sells, even in the
worst case, which I hope it's not mine.
sources of inspiration when writing Face
Jacob's Ladder, 28 Days
Later, and masters like Carpenter, Kubrik,
Scorsese, Leone, but
eventually it's the product of my own experience, with a European
sensibility to the American practical style.
To what extent could you actually
identify with Face of Evil
's lead character Jay on a personal level, meaning are there any
autobiographical traits in him and the stuff he goes through (apart from
the zombie outbreak I hope)?
are always autobiographical elements to the style and the story. In this
case, I believe in some conspiracies, in many topical issues such as
people being too mistrustful and paranoid, as I previously mentioned.
Also, I feel close to the military, whether I agree or not with some
ethical issues, because my dad was and army colonel. Since I did not
follow his footsteps, I eventually wrote about a soldier. Also, after
making this movie, I got PTSD from the stress, haha, so I am very close to
you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
guess I can offer the creativity and sensibility of my European background
with the practicality, technique and let's do attitude of the American
way, which I learned in the last twenty years. I think it's a pretty good
deal, and I hope I have brought this into my work. In particular, the
golden age of Italian cinema in the 50-60s has brought a new realism to
the eyes of cinema. In the 70s Italian horror was the new wave. Not to
mention the spaghetti western genre by Leone, who created a style, more
than a genre, meaning his style legacy is visible in many genres now. I'd
like to think I carry in my DNA a little bit of all that. But believe me,
Americans do things very well, but mostly, for everyone. The greatness of
the good ol' US of A is that our language (I say ours because I'm part of
it now) is a universal language, understood and appreciated by every
culture, because there are visual parameters and ways of communicating that
are common denominator of most, if not all cultures.
talk about Face of Evil's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
viewed a couple of thousand people online and auditioned most of them in
person, only to select a few good men and women of good will and plenty of
talent, to enlist in this mission. Auditions took four months, but it was
fun, especially finding the right face for all characters. It was great to
see how the characters finally took shape and matched exactly the idea I
had in my mind, and how I wrote it on the script. The cast is my best
asset in this movie. That's important especially when you write/option a
character-based script, with well shaped personalities. I like
character-based stories - if you notice, the most memorable movies are
character-based - once you know the story, it's no big deal anymore, but
if the story is based mostly on the characters and not just on their
actions, we will never get bored of watching those scenes, because we are
no longer interested in the story, but in the characters, you want to
meet them, hang out with them, say the same lines with them. Those movies
are evergreen, some become cults. That's why casting is so important.
What can you
tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
on-set atmosphere was pretty much relaxed, for an indie horror film! It was
not the typical production in terms of time frame and locations.
I wrote the script thinking about the shoot and the limited budget. So I
divided the film in two separate productions, and you saw they are almost
two different movies. The first half takes place in a house I found in the
valley. It was perfect as the owner was a hoarder so all I had to do is
re-arrange the mess in a way that mad sense for the action of the story
and the blocking of the actors. The second half was shot around LA, some
permits, some guerrilla style. I also shot in skid row. One bridge was on
Sixth Street by the industrial area. The other by Chinatown. The hospital
was in LACC, as they had a nursing department and I knew people in the
school. Finally, the desert scene, an homage to Sergio Leone's spaghetti
western, was just outside LA, I was driving the day of the shoot with the
two actors and a couple of crew members, knowing LA is surrounded by the
desert, but not knowing exactly what to find, I believe on the 14 freeway,
at some point I saw a town which looked exactly like a destroyed
Afghanistan town, even better than what I was expecting, so we stopped and
we shot. Note that every single shoot, location etc, was exactly planned
in details in advance. The more you plan in advance, the more you can
improvise on set, but that's true for any task in any business I guess.
For example, the gas station scene was carefully rehearsed beforehand -
since they didn't let us shoot on the spot, we went through the blocking
many times in another gas station, already knowing the map of the actual
gas station which denied us. Then we went on location, to the actual gas
station, and while one of us was in the market, buying something, acting
as a decoy, we promptly parked, shot with the two actors, and left in five
minutes! It came out great. The interior was instead shot in another
market in the valley. I could go on forever, but I'll stop here, that's
enough behind the scene trivia I guess...
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Face
of Evil yet?
of Evil has
been received very well so far, people like it. It has been selected to
the following festivals: Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival; Los Angeles
Independent Film Festival Awards; Hollywood International Moving Picture
Film Festival (Best Horror Feature, Best Director); Culver City Film
Festival (Best Horror Feature); New York City International Film Festival
(Best Horror Feature); Silicon Beach Film Fest, Venice (Best Sound
Design); Action On Film Festival, Las Vegas (Best Action Scene); Salento
International Film Festival, Italy.
Any future projects you'd like to
Next is to cure my PTSD from this movie, haha, then make a sequel, I also have a few ideas for
remakes (I'm not going to mention now) and some other ideas. I'm also
interested in optioning scripts, but smart, character-based ones.
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I was a kid, I watched a lot of movies. I often spaced out, imagined
stories, characters, but you know, you are a kid... Growing up, I
realized I was still living in la la land, plus, I was running out of
movies to watch (nowadays that would be impossible), so I thought I
should get real and learn the craft. I cautiously bought a few books on
filmmaking, I enjoyed reading them like no other textbook before, and
realized with big surprise that I already knew most of the theory, just
by watching so many movies in those years. I wrote a couple of shorts,
shot them with my mini VHS camera, and won a couple of small awards in
Italy. Encouraged by those little achievements, I carefully considered
all my options and realized the necessary step up was to physically go,
indeed, to la la land. In 1999 Vito goes to Hollywood to study Cinema! I
studied at LACC, SMCC and UCLA, I made a few more shorts, won a couple
of awards, worked also in TV, like E!TV etc. Encouraged by those little
better achievements, I realized it was time for a feature film. After
many drafts and brainstorms, Face
of Evil was born.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Face
I made a bunch
of awarded short films and videos and segments of all kind, as mentioned
before. Wrote a few scripts, and decided to make the most viable one, Face
Your favourite movies?
ones that inspired me, plus Blade Runner, The
Big Lebowski... Besides the
story, you can see that the common denominator is character-based films,
which you never get tired of watching.
and of course, films you really deplore?
that would take too many pages, most movies nowadays suck.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
guess I said enough, now go watch the movie :) Oh, yes, let me mention the
cast and soundtrack! My cast includes talents like Jamie Bernadette [Jamie
Bernadette interview - click here], who
has made herself a name in the horror genre, the multi-talented Janet Roth,
the ex hardcore star Charmane Star, and the two awesome leads Scott Baxter
and Chad Bishop. Music by famous Gram Rabbit, Kid Hustle, Raven Hughes
and, of course, filmmaker Vito Dinatolo, haha! Yes, me. It ranges from
electronica to ambient, rock, pop, hip hop and whatnot. It can all be
found on the film website shop page
for the interview!