LBB’s Liam Smith catches up with Italian directing duo and real-life couple Diego Indraccolo and Alice Gatti
Having met on a commercial set, the two began collaborating closely together on projects, and eventually started dating. They quickly found that their experience working together and the chemistry between them could be channelled into directing. And so, in 2015, they formed D I • A L (pronounced Dee-Al).
LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with the couple to find out about their recent commercial projects, short films, and what it’s like directing as a couple.
LBB> Can you tell me a little bit about your early lives?
Alice> I was born in the suburbs of Rome. I had a happy childhood playing outside in the countryside and reading a lot. I was a quiet kid. After watching Jurassic Park I wanted to become a paleontologist for a few years, but as I entered my teens I started watching music videos compulsively, as well as late night TV arthouse films (to the joy of my parents who basically lost control of their TV). It’s there I think that my life unconsciously changed and started gravitating towards filming.
Diego> I was born in Naples, but the sunshine, good food and amazing coastline wasn’t a good match for my broody personality, so I moved to London at the age of 18 to pursue a career in film. I began with photography as at the time I thought it was the most fundamental part of filmmaking, and I fell in love with it. So for many years I was a just a photographer, but with a strong interest in film it was inevitable that I would eventually shift to cinematography, which I now do full time when not directing with Alice.
LBB> How did the two of you meet? Why did it feel right to start D I • A L?
Alice> We met on commercial sets. I was an assistant director and Diego was a cinematographer so we worked closely together and found out that we really enjoyed collaborating - we had a very positive working relationship. But then we began dating and starting D I • A L felt very natural. Originally, we started working together because we wanted to do non-commercial projects. Our idea of fun was to film things with all the freedom and spontaneity that we were never allowed during our normal commissions, even with no budget. I think that phase was a great way to set an initial workflow between us, to really get to know our strengths and weaknesses. But it wasn't long before we got our first opportunities to shoot commercials. So we thought we could undertake these commissions together with the same approach we used on our personal projects. This is when D I • A L officially came to be.
LBB> What are the challenges and perks of being a directorial duo and also a couple?
Alice> I don't see any particular challenges, only lots of bonuses. It’s harder to stop thinking about work sometimes, but that’s not always a bad thing if you really like the project. We do have a ton of discussions, but they are all interesting and even fun sometimes. I think we are very lucky to be a couple and also be able to work together this close as directors.
Diego> Directing is a very personal process, so in order to share the creative decisions with someone else there needs to be peculiar balance between a very similar mindset and a complementary one. You also need to understand when you have to fight for what you believe and when to put the trust in the other person’s intuition. Ego can’t play a role and the priority must be given to the film. So many elements need to come together to have such a tight collaboration in directing that it either works or it doesn’t. I think the fact that we are a couple makes this symbiosis even more seamless.
LBB> The Yamaha Niken film you both did is super cool. It's cinematic with a twinge of cyberpunk, but also feels very grounded. Can you tell me about the brief from the agency, and how you brought it to life?
Alice & Diego> Several elements that the client wanted to communicate shaped the creativity for this Yamaha commercial. Apparently ‘Niken’ in Japanese means ‘two swords’.
“This new ‘three wheeled’ design could revolutionise riding the same way that the modern ski sidecut design has revolutionised skis. It needs to feel very Japanese and ‘technological’. It shouldn’t look like any other Yamaha commercial to cement the idea of a revolutionary product.”
The creatives at BBDO Milan came up with this unique narrative of a Japanese inventor forging skis from two swords, with which he will then ski on tarmac and at a certain point continue his journey on the motorbike, creating a clear parallelism between skiing and riding.
Since making skis from swords is not an actual real practice, we had to find ways to visualise this concept. That’s why we felt necessary to add the macro shots and the robotic arms. It was an interesting way to convey the idea and make it epic and technological as per the brief.
Then we divided the film in three parts: The first part was to create anticipation and mystery while showing the hero training and building something extraordinary, to be revealed at the end of the section. It had to be clear that the balance, discipline and craft needed for the creation of the skis is a combination of Japanese traditional arts and cutting edge modern technology.
The second part was about using the skis as a metaphor for a revolutionary achievement. This was to cement the idea that our hero has created something truly unique.
The third part is about the reveal of the Yamaha Niken, the revolutionary bike which needed to be shown as a great performing motorbike, as well as described in all its design details.
LBB> What were the toughest challenges for creating Niken and how did you overcome them?
Alice & Diego> Of course the most obvious challenge was to do a very ambitious sci-fi-movie on a limited budget and on an extremely tight schedule that would limit the amount of VFX we could do, but these problems are quite common in the current advertising climate.
We were lucky to work with ExChanges VFX Milan for the post production. They worked extremely hard to respect the schedule and the execution of the work. Given the amount of work and budget at their disposal, it was outstanding.
Other specific challenges were:
• We had to shoot in Italy and make it look like it was in Japan. That meant lots of concept set design with our scenographer Amos Caparotta, and lot of art direction work.
• For the main character we had to cast three different people with very different skills (a martial artist, a skier, a rider). To meet these requirements, we had to do intensive casting.
• The skier was actually skating, pretending to be skiing, and the skis had to be added in post. This presented many problems both in production and in post.
LBB> You recently launched a teaser for a new short ‘Blindman's Lane’. Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from this project?
Alice & Diego> ‘Blindman's Lane’ is our passion project. It's a weird crossover between a documentary and a supernatural story, it doesn't fit any particular genre. It's based on the real character of Dave Baby, an artist and a Satanist who transformed his life into a work of art. The movie follows his journey through the guts of London culminating in his meeting with the Devil.
LBB> Are you signed to any commercial production companies?
Alice & Diego> We are not signed to any commercial production company for now. Between personal and commercial work, we have worked non-stop for the last two years so we haven’t really looked into it. We’re sure that when the time is right, these things will fall into place naturally.
LBB> What D I • A L project are you most proud of?
Alice> Making ‘Blindman's Lane’ on a shoestring budget, which we produced, shot, directed, edited and for some scenes, post produced. We had no idea if we could pull it off at the level we wanted to, but we are getting a very good response at festivals. We shot it only on DSLRs and we were very worried about having the movie shown in a cinema, but Diego did a really outstanding job with cinematography on this movie, and when we watched it projected on a big screen in Leicester Square for the British Horror Film Festival it looked amazing! The next screening will be at Third Eye Film Festival in New York.
We also have to thank the many amazing professionals who contributed to the project: Diego La Rosa (colourist), Sarah Hezen (music), Daniele Famà (sound designer), Pierpaolo Mantuano (3D artist), ExChanges VFX and many more.
LBB> When not directing, what do you two do to relax and unwind?
Alice & Diego> I guess what most couples do to unwind, except that when we watch Netflix the ‘after movie’ discussions can become quite intense ;)
Alice & Diego> We have many projects this year and we hope to find the time to realise them all. Right now, whenever we have some spare time, we are working on two more shorts, one experimental film about ‘aliens’ and another with a more traditional narrative structure, set in the fashion world. They are both shaping up to be quite fun.