Milanese director on his creative childhood, the ‘new school’ of Italian advertising and why Mercurio Films is a “Mecca” for filmmakers like him
Mattia Molinari’s films thunder with emotion. A brief glance at his dynamic, action-packed directing reel makes it easy to figure out why he’s just signed to Mercurio Films for priority representation in Italy. Recently, he’s made films for Nike, Under Armour and Tesla that brim with drama and arresting imagery.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him to find out where it all comes from.
LBB> Where are you originally from in Italy? What was it like growing up there, and how did creativity impact your younger years?
MM> I was born in Milano and I spent 10 years of my life there. The,n because of my asthma, my family decided to save my life bringing me to a small village far away from Milano, close to the mountains.
Living there was awful, everything looked small in my eyes and all the people looked at me like an alien… only because I came from a city. In particular all the children of my age. So I started drawing by myself in my room, and my parents covered all the walls of the house with massive white papers where I could draw and write whatever I wanted.
I could feel the creativity inside taking over. I spent all my childhood drawing everything that came into my mind, especially monsters and puppets.
LBB> How did you first get interested into directing?
MM> I believe that since you were born, someone up there has been sending you signs to build your future. Since I was a child, I spent my days creating stories and playing like a puppeteer with action figures in my room. At primary school I loved directing all the recitals and I remember how I was enchanted by watching the advertisements after dinner on my sofa with my dad.
Now I am 31 years old and I direct advertising with the same love, fun and dedication as that little boy who played with his action figures in his room.
LBB> You first started your career at Veejay, part of MTV. What was that like?
MM> I was very young, 18 years old and after my last live MTV show I decided to pack all my stuff and go to the opposite side of the world.
My only dream was travelling for the rest of my life. I didn’t care about those jobs, I didn’t care about anything, I wanted to be a new Alex Supertramp… maybe not exactly the same.
I was so sick of that kind of stress and I hated being directed by someone else - ahahaha - I couldn’t know that five years later I would be in love with the same business.
LBB> Why did you recently decide to let Mercurio represent you? What attracted you to them?
MM> Since I started this job in Milano, as a director’s assistant, Mercurio Cinematografica was the ‘place to be’, a sort of Mecca for directors. It was early 2013 and I said to myself sooner or later I will shoot for them.
Mercurio is the beginning of a new beautiful chapter of my career and life. Every production, every pitch, every board they give me is something challenging and different from the other production houses I worked for. It’s a totally different way to work, you can breathe it from the first meeting with producers.
LBB> Your Tesla film is packed full of many different kinds of imagery. Can you tell us a bit about how you made it and what the big decisions were for you on that project?
MM> Tesla is the summary of my fears. When I started the project, the client left me free to create whatever I wanted - related to the concept, obviously.
For this reason I forced my brain to face all my fears, because fears move energy and after seven days and nights writing and eating only junk food, I got the script.
Inside you can find different styles, various aspect ratios, multiple characters… welcome to my brain.
If writing and directing were a sort of psychotherapy, I was totally in trouble to find the right sound for a car with an engine that doesn't produce any sound. The added value for an automotive is the sounds of the car, the roar of engine above 180 km/h, but Tesla has no sounds - it’s a silent car because of the electric mechanism inside. I really didn’t know how to give to the viewer the feeling of the power of this automotive.
I was lucky to work with a talented sound designer who helped me a lot, creating that peculiar and unique sound every time the Tesla appears like a light whistle.
LBB> What other projects that you've worked on are you most proud of?
MM> Next week my new director’s cut for a South African client will be launched.
The board at the beginning was totally different, but agency and client trusted in me and my vision. During the days of shooting I was so anxious as my imagery was very far away from the client’s work. After the presentation they even asked me if they could use my director’s cut to represent their brand.
LBB> What were the challenges in launching these campaigns and how did you and your producers overcome them?
MM> Every pitch, every production, every shoot creates new types of feelings in my soul and brain. I love comparing the steps of a production with the steps of a life and my producers, in this metaphor, represent the parents. From the beginning of a production, I love to create a strong relationship with the producer and DP.
LBB> What's your opinion on the current state of Italian advertising?
MM> As in the hip-hop world, we are in that particular moment where you feel there is a new school coming over. New generations of creatives, new ways to communicate, new techniques. The golden era is finished but I feel the change.
LBB> Where do you draw inspiration from?
MM> Everything I see, listen and feel has a potential inspiration for my works. I give you an example: I was shooting in Los Angeles in February and in front of my house there was a massive graffiti with two wings. 40 days after, in Shanghai, for an automotive project, the agency asked if I had in mind some interesting art piece to draw on a giant wall to emphasise the speed of the car…
I remember everything and every single thing reminds something that creates a thought in mind that creates another thought and so on.
LBB> What do you do outside of work to cool off?
MM> Outside what? I don’t know these three words.
In all seriousness, during the year I refresh my brain with many street art exhibitions, supporting my football team (F.C. Internazionale) any given Sunday and reading books about stories of pirates (yes it’s true ).
But when August comes I pack all my stuff and I fly to Bali, it’s my second home since 2014. Only there I reconnect myself with the world, recharging brain and heart for a brand new year.
LBB> What tips would you give to somebody hoping to break into the directing world?
MM> Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be scared to lose pitches. Be ready and prepared to fail again. If you understand what there is under your failure, you will be a director. You have to be patient, you will spend months without winning a pitch but if you don’t give up and work on the reason of the failure, this world will give you everything back sooner as you imagine.