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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Filmmaker Franco Volpi for "August Sun" (2018)

Interview with Filmmaker Franco Volpi for "August Sun" (2018)

Actors Miguel Di Lemme and Silvina Sabater with Franco Volpi

Argentine native filmmaker Franco Volpi, known for his previous film LOW COST (2014), premiered his latest work AUGUST SUN (2018) at the Palm Springs International Shortfest. Set in Buenos Aires, it's a heartfelt endearing story about an ailing mother reuniting with her estranged expatriate son. The film will screen next in Brazil at the Sao Paolo International Short Film Festival and has been selected as a semi-finalist at the Student Academy Awards.

I interviewed Franco shortly after Palm Springs International Shortfest. Here is what he had to say:


What inspired this story? Was it based on real events? 

FRANCO: It was a long-gestating project; the result of real-life problems regarding my own ailing mother, my late father and my personal life. During the tumultuous period following my father’s passing, I had to confront a series of difficult challenges, with my mother's well-being front and center. Settling on this project wasn’t easy. I tried opting for something else as my grad film. But I kept circling back to it. It kept gnawing at me — I feared it’d be too painful and too personal a project to take on, and I knew that it’d be very difficult to pull off in a short film format while doing justice to the source material, so to speak. But, in the end, these were precisely the reasons why I decided to make this film. With it, I wanted to explore the family dynamics that dictate some of our most important life decisions. The story touches on notions of moral obligations, loss, grief, memory and identity.


In a world where people are moving countries all the time, do you think there is a solution to a life split between two worlds?

FRANCO: I don’t believe there’s the one solution that can take care of everyone’s problems and needs. And this is an issue that I tried to tackle in my film: what we owe others as opposed to what we owe to ourselves. It’s the community-vs.-individuality conundrum. I felt torn between my duties and obligations towards my mother and the life I had built in a different country. It’s all about finding a balance between these competing commitments. It’s not easy. Living in another country, far away from yours, carries a high price. 


How did you go about casting the film?

FRANCO: The challenge I set for myself was to tell a linear, narrative film with a lot of dialog and indoor, tight, static shots that would nevertheless be emotionally engaging and thought-provoking. It was an uphill battle. Going into production, I knew all too well that the film could easily slip into a dour, heavy-handed melodrama. I worked extremely hard on the script and on casting the right actors in order to prevent this.

FRANCO CONT'D: I’m based in London, so I had to go to Buenos Aires two months before filming was to start to do most of the prep work. I spent a whole month going to the theatre, looking for the right actors. My local producers helped me compile a list of several performers for each part. I watched dozens of showreels and scenes from TV and film work of every single actor that was considered. I knew exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t. I knew that the film really depended on the strength of the script and the quality of the actors. Meeting the actors I was interested in and getting to know each other before finally casting them was crucial. Once we had the actors I felt really confident with, we started rehearsing as much as we possibly could, which is, apparently, a rarity in film work, let alone on a short film. But it was hard work that paid off, tenfold. 


You have directed a few shorts now. Do you think you will go on to a feature?

FRANCO: I’m currently developing the script for a full-length feature based on my short film which, incidentally, works far better as a two-hour movie than it does now in it’s short film format.


Who have been your greatest inspirations in film?

FRANCO: That’s a tough one. The simple truth is that everything I come into contact with inspires me and informs my creative process. most of the time, this happens without me even being aware of what’s influencing me. I could say that the films that inspire me the most are the ones that make me feel intensely alive after watching them, like the films of Luca Guadagnino or Pablo Larraín. Or the ones that just won’t get out my head and force me to confront difficult moral dilemmas, like the work of Asghar Farhadi and Michael Haneke. But, then again, I love a good genre film. My all-time favourite film still is Back to the Future. It’s all about the writing and the characters.


How did you begin your career as a filmmaker?

FRANCO: I’ve been in love with cinema since I was a kid. I resisted the temptation of trying my hand at filmmaking for a long time for fear that it would be a pipe-dream. But I realised that if I didn’t try to make my way into the film industry, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.


You recently attended PS Shortfest. How was that experience?

FRANCO: It was very exciting! It was my very first experience at a film festival. And I am so grateful that it was at Palm Springs. The sheer size of the festival; the meticulous logistics and organization; the pure love of unadulterated cinema. I saw incredible work that both intimidated and inspired me. And I met some really talented and awesome people.


How did people react to the film?

FRANCO: Quite well, as far as I could tell. I had people come up to me on the streets of Palm Springs (which is incredibly hot in June) to tell me about how much the film spoke to them. It was a reminder that, in spite of its very specific setting and idiosyncrasy, the story of August Sun has a universal appeal.


Interview with Filmmaker Franco Volpi for "August Sun" (2018)Actor Miguel Di Lemme 

Interview with Filmmaker Franco Volpi for "August Sun" (2018) Actress Silvina Sabater 


Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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