Macoproject Film Festival [New York, Los Angeles] interview with Christian Candido and Boombox Cast and Crew

The film takes place in Turin where you were born. How much of the script is based on your own upbringing?

I was born and have always lived in Turin. Boombox (The God of The Dance) is my tribute to a very lively city artistically and culturally. The locations chosen (the "Panta Rei" pub, the "Accademia Carma" dance school, the exteriors of Piazza Vittorio Veneto as well as Pepi and Stella's house) are places frequented by young people, artists and university students in Turin, and express its vitality as a city. But the locations also represent the knots of narrative of the different storylines. Indeed, Pepi and Boom meet in the city's central square; likewise, the "Carma" Dance School, where Pepi's character's maturation begins, is a renowned recreational meeting center in the city.
I studied Cinema in Turin, I graduated in Semiology of Cinema and Audiovisuals, and in my films I always try to express different levels of meaning. In Boombox, too, I worked on multiple expressive planes with a twofold aim: to entertain an audience as wide as possible, while focusing on my artistic and technical experimentation which, at a closer analysis, reveals the deepest level of content.
For example, in the scene in which Boom meets Pepi, I tried to showcase the beauty of the "Vittorio Veneto" square. The way in which I did it is noteworthy: I captured the magic moment by using a blur lights effect during theirr dialogue; later during compositing process I added a Boris Fx BCC Glare effect.

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I studied Cinema in Turin, I graduated in Semiology of Cinema and Audiovisuals, and in my films I always try to express different levels of meaning. In Boombox, too, I worked on multiple expressive planes with a twofold aim: to entertain an audience as wide as possible, while focusing on my artistic and technical experimentation which, at a closer analysis, reveals the deepest level of content.
For example, in the scene in which Boom meets Pepi, I tried to showcase the beauty of the "Vittorio Veneto" square. The way in which I did it is noteworthy: I captured the magic moment by using a blur lights effect during theirr dialogue; later during compositing process I added a Boris Fx BCC Glare effect.

How familiar were the locations (e.g. the pub?) Were cast members all locals? Childhood friends even? The opening credits slam about seven minutes into the film, after introducing the concept of the boombox.

The locations are very familiar for both the cast and the crew; the "Panta Rei" pub is one of the downtown Turin hangouts for artists, musicians, and creatives and is a venue we also go to frequently. It will return as a location in the TV series "Boombox (The God of The Dance)", for which I have recently finished writing the script. The owner of the pub was extremely helpful at the shoot ( much so that his character will also return with some strange gags in the series). The pub sequence provides the short film with a dynamic beginning, an
engaging visual and musical rhythm and allows for a natural introduction of Pepi, his collaborators, including the barman (played by Andrea Riccardo Conte), Holly J. (the customer who calls Pepi, played by Alessandro Conte) and other side characters. The Dance School  Accademia Carma" is also familiar to us since Francesca Annicchiarico (the actress who plays Pepi) learned Latin American dances at this school, and to me too, who took a year-long salsa course to prepare myself to shoot the short film. As I mentioned earlier, the audience will discover a deeper meaning which is also hidden in plain sight in the places that we see in the movie. When Pepi leaves the pub, she abandons her "comfort zone" and iss left alone in the city... She's walking fast, nervously because she has to prepare a few engineering exams and siss late with her preparation.Moreover, she also has to go home immediately to prepare dinner for her roommate Stella (Alessia Debandi), to whom she is bound by a beautiful friendship (Francesca Annicchiarico and Alessia Debandi are friends in real life as well), notwithstanding all the differences between them. The sequence plan that follows Pepi as she leaves the pub expresses all her insecurities, until she meets Boom and everything changes. The sequence was shot under the arcades of Piazza Vittorio Veneto, with hand-held camera and a style reminiscent of horror (there are echoes of Dario Argento's mysterious and magical Turin) to highlight Pepi's claustrophobic headache brought about by Boom's arrival in her world. From now on everything for Pepi will turn into a fairy tale: a talking radio that steals her voice, the misunderstandings with Stella, the character's immersion into the city, the final climax in the dance school.

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It is also interesting to note that the titles are displayed only after the arrival of the boombox, in the iterative sequence that sees Pepi and Boom wandering around Turin, or the one that sees them captive in the sped-up background shots, immersed together in the chaotic city traffic. Here it is again the music that guides the emotions of the viewer by expressing man's "getting lost" in the urban landscape.

 Why was it important to introduce the boombox before beginning the film?

I believe it was important to introduce the character of Boom (voiced by Manuela Villanova) in the first few minutes of the short in order to elicit curiosity and suspense in the audience. We do not know whether Boom is good or bad and why she appeared specifically to Pepi. These narrative aspects will be explored and detailed in the script of the TV series... What we do know is that the child-robot-toy character of Boom is funny from the start (see for example R2D2 or Grogu in "Star Wars") as he engineers mischief, steals voices, repeats words like a parrot, is very hungry, etc... Boom is at once (for us and for the audience) our Deus Ex machina, our Chekhov's gun, and above all, a  character who from the very beginning is able to share Pepi's difficulties, shyness, and adventures in the city. Cinema always communicates
emotions and describes bonds...right here, in the accelerated traffic sequence, the curious Boom’s link to Pepi is born! 

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Francesca Annicchiarico plays our main character Pepi but you have Manuela Villanova doing the voice of Boom. What was the decision behind different voices for what are theoretically the same character?

 [Response from Francesca Annicchiarico (Pepi) and Manuela Villanova (The voice of Boom) ]

Pepi and Boom are two different characters who play different functions in the main plot of Boombox (The God of The Dance); however, they have a very similar path for growth that will lead to agnition. While Pepi is the heroine, Boom is both her mentor (we will see that in the TV-series this role will be played instead by Professor Z. and The Mystery Girl) and a great comic sidekick. Their nonsense-filled duets vaguely remind us of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon's bickering in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" and hold the attention of the audience who begin to side - in a very short stage time- with this unlikely couple. The initial condition of Pepi, who is unhappy about her life and who in front of
Felix admits that she "never feels prepared enough" is paralleled by that of Boom, who, despite her technological skills and knowledge, is struggling to express herself correctly since she has to learn everything about the human world. It almost seems as if both are running away from something or someone, or maybe they are running away from themselves...

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 When Pepi begins to think of responses, we see flashes of photos, almost like she herself is an automaton. Are these images a part of the “Cartoon Version?”

When Pepi arrives at the dance school, all of her shyness and awkwardness come out.. Already in the scene with roommate Stella she herself admits, "You know I can't dance, I'm also clumsy!" When she faces the railing of the Carma Academy entrance, she is fascinated but at the same time intimidated by the place; finally she is literally pushed inside by Boom... Boom hears music and is curious about this place where humans broadcast songs and move to their own beat. Boom is so interested in our entire world that, through a continuous and
annoying process of frequency scanning, plays parts of songs, sounds, noises, and even the play-by-play of a South American fotball match! Pepi on the contrary is rigid, mechanical, robotic, and randomly answers Felix and Alex's questions;she even fakes her name by changing it to "Salsa," which she sees written on a poster hanging in the school lobby. 

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This pastiche sequence is also a tribute to Woody Allen’s New York humor , in "Annie Hall”’s the Friday invitation scene," where the awkwardness of the two characters is expressed in an almost surreal dialogue. Here, Pepi also becomes like a radio, issuing meaningless phrases such as the amusing "I don't drink at the Caribbean....". In addition, Boom's continuous interferences give the scene a fairy-tale and unreal atmosphere, while leading to a climax of delicate tension taking place in Pepi's head. Both the yellow cocktail and the billboard reading "Salsa" are mental images that alternate themselves in her mind as in a naive cartoon and blur with reality. The acting of Francesca, Cristian, and Chiara in the scenes filmed at the Dance School presupposes a complex alternation of comic and dramatic registers within a few minutes. Pepi's slight schizophrenia often makes her feel inadequate and inappropriate, but it is also the channel through which she
alone will be able to grasp the connection between our world and the fairy-tale universe from which Boom comes. This scene aims to provide a metareflection on the character who is unfit, quirky, unable to relate properly to other people, but who, at the same time, is so special: a character like Sheldon, the contemporary geek masterfully portrayed in the comedy show "The Big Bang Theory" by Jim Parsons. 

How much does the line, “in life, it never helps to be prepared” represent your own philosophies?

 [Response from Cristian Audino (as Felix – The Dance Teacher)]

This sentence means that in some circumstances in life it is important to "throw your heart over the obstacle"; which means to go beyond your preconceptions by questioning yourself and your own ideas. Felix's sentence has two levels of significance: the first corresponds ot main storyline of the shortfilm, epitomized in Pepi’s life lesson: "it is not always necessary to be prepared in life", sometimes what is just needed is to jump in, get caught up in your emotions and live them! For example, when we dance we leave thoughts and problems
behind and the fear of not feeling appropriate, in order to live the rhythm, the music, and the very moment. From this condition stems a deep sense of freedom that so much helps Pepi to feel fit for the world that surrounds her. This is in fact the great gift that Boom, Felix, Alex, and the Carma Academy present to her. In this way, the attraction between the dance teacher and the student is born. Initially, Felix judges her as a quirky and insecure person, then, thanks to some of her small and tender gestures, he discovers her deep and sensitive side.
Though Pepsi is a lonely and shy girl, she is nonetheless capable of taking on the challenge and changing her point of view.

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Felix will be the first who realizes Pepi's great empathic potential which will be fully shown in the TV-series. The second level of interpretation concerns the production of the short film itself: the difficulties that we encountered in shooting the scenes, the availability of
locations, the staging solutions, the writing of dialogues, the acting nuances, and finally the dubbing of all the lines.

 There is a clear juxtaposition between Pepi’s tender dance with Felix to the woman dancing solo to her headphones.

 [Response from Chiara Doria (as Alex, The Dance Teacher)]

Alex's character dances with her headphones as she lives within her own world, a world entirely made of Music. Being a DJ and a dance teacher, she has an intimate and special relationship with Music and Rhythm. At the same time, however, Alex has an open and empathetic personality, loves to share her opinions with others, teach dance, and team up in dance competitions. Empathy and curiosity are key features of Alex's character, as apparent when Pepi, exhausted and desperate, throws Boom to the ground and damages it, and she is retrieves it and tries to fix it. She does this out of sensitivity, but also because of her innate curiosity for any technological, creative, strange or new thing. Unsurprisingly, she is the first to ask, "A radio with afterburners...but where did it come from?" In the TV-series, we will find out that Alex, will play an important role in answering this question. Chiara Doria herself, who plays Alex, is a musician and songwriter. Alex and Pepi are similar and opposite at the same time; this is the charm of the two characters, the only ones who speak directly to Boom and to whom the radio speaks on return.

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You had experience directing dance theater before this film. What was it like working with the Academia Carma’s dancers for the climactic dance scene?

 Carma Academy Dance School, as mentioned above, turns out to be a familiar location for some of us. But this is not the reason why we preferred it as a location to other excellent dance schools. Together with Carma's staff of choreographers, we rehearsed salsa, bachata, and rueda, carefully choosing dance tracks and steps. We especially would like to thank master Mirko Volonnino for his charisma, experience, and joy in dancing. The secretary's office and all the school dancers who helped animate a stage set composed of the extraordinary warm colors and delicate gestural sensuality. So we made a sequence in which the dance floor itself becomes a main character, able to bring together all of the film's protagonists in a complex choral performance. As a director, I have always been fascinated by the choral scenes shot by Fellini, Kurosawa, Visconti, Scorsese or Zhang Yimou. I decided that the location of the climactic sequence of "Boombox (The God of The Dance)" would be the Carma Academy when I attended some milonga and tango classes there. It was like being inside an Almodovar movie...and I then became convinced that the story of "Pepi" could only culminate there!

What inspired the otherworldly sound design of Boom?

[Response from Mario Ordine (Boombox sound designer) and Christian Candido

While designing the sound, we beared in mind that boombox comes from another universe, in which the rules of acoustics and physics might also be very different from ours. We therefore worked together with Christian on the musical tracks, sounds, and noises that set the entire audiovisual rhythm of the short film, in order to create a single symphony. In this sense, Boom's "beeps" indicate a scan of the surroundings before her action. The radio then activates the afterburners to move after emitting a new set of "beeps." While the signal/noise disturbance "buzzes" also indicate interference between our universe and the "Sound Gate." It is time to reveal that Boom comes from a universe parallel to ours, consisting only of sounds, noises, and music, and arrives in our world through a quantum tunnel... This universe is better described in the script of episodes 7 and 8 of the TV-series, but at the moment we cannot reveal anything further... When Boom then appears to Pepi, she is like a little girl with big eyes and big ears, who has to learn everything about our world. She is equipped with an advanced quantum CPU that enables her to assimilate, record, and reproduce the entire human auditory spectrum, as well as infrasound and ultrasound, which are more common in her world. For this reason, she tends to repeat the words sounded out by Pepi and her friends: she is parroting because she is learning our language. Boom is in constant search for different radio frequencies and tries to discover melodies, tones, sounds, effects, and instruments, so that her continuous and uncontrolled tuning creates comical disruptive effects. Once she has learned human language, however, she is then able to formulate sentences, understand complex situations, suggest solutions, and empathize with people, such as when she says to Alex, "Boom helps Pepi!"

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So the sound design becomes almost a "language design," because Boom's sound interventions complement the style of the work on contemporary digital and youth language. Suffice it as example some brilliant intersections between language and music, such as the song "Technologic" created and directed by Daft Punk.

How did the radio’s role as “God of the Dance” manifest in cinematography, notably the final aerial shot?

Christian - When I wrote the script, the idea of Boom's character appealed to all the cast, all the collaborators, and generally all the people I was talking about the project... I'm a big music fan and every now and then I take a look on the web at music gears, peripherals and gadgets, as well as song charts and industry news. I am also very attracted to indie labels and remixes made by DJs, I like to listen to how they repurpose in timbre and effects the original track and give it a personal interpretation. I think the remix is also a visual format and particularly suitable for short films and episodes of TV series. For example, I really admire the rotoscope technique, especially the one used in some films by Richard Linklater. I remember that I was just looking at boombox radios on the web and the model you see in the short appeared in front of me. The big woofers, the ergonomic line, the black and orange colors were for me already an object of style, as well as a reference to design and look of the 80s-90s . Compared to other variants and brands that boombox really seemed to come from another world, or from a choreographed videoclip by the great Jamie King! So I immediately purchased it! Boom is conceived for all intents and purposes as an otherworldly subject, a lighthearted and irreverent spirit that presents itself to Pepi (and to the entire audience) as a boombox radio. I see Boom as a kind of "digital shapeshifter," but also a perfect "hook" for product merchandising, suitable for adults and children. We are already developing this idea in cross-media terms for series-TV […]

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Alberto – To what Christian said I would add that the character of Boom is not only otherworldly in a purely narrative sense, but is also otherworldly on a strictly filmic level; indeed, it gave us the opportunity to explore the power of subjective shots (which Cecilia Ravasio executed with great professionalism). We often see our world through the eyes of the radio with a frequency-jamming effect, and it seemed congruent with the narrative to describe its strangeness as seen from the outside, from a point of view that is foreign, alien, and for that very reason almost pure compared to the human one. Boom, after all, is similar to Pepi, she is nothing more than a teenage-child who changes her point of view and becomes an adult: the slightly geeky... geek who rises to hero status. In the final aerial sequence, Boom's subjective shot (perfectly executed by Sergio Amateis), where the radio finally sees without disturbing frequencies, like a human being, allowed us to visually render all the pain of the detachment from a friendship but at the same time the maturation of Boom herself. And right after that Pepi's smile in the foreground makes the audience realize the crucial role this new friendship played in changing the perspective through which the girl approached life. That way, also Boom becomes an acute and original point of observation on contemporary youth and adolescent reality, the "God of Dance" who helps the girl "dancing" her life.

Luca –  Once the staging of the final sequence was best resolved, a narrative dilemma lay before us: where would Boom go? And would she return to Pepi in the future? Given the good success of the short film at various international independent film festivals we slowly began to discuss a TV series that would investigate more in depth the characters sketched in Boombox, better discover their relationships, conflicts, fears and elaborate on their characters. So, Christian wanted to answer this question and further developed the Boombox universe by including in the eight episodes of the series new characters, new storylines, and a plot that we could call "mindblowing."

What about the use of shaky cam, notably when Pepi is lying?

The use of hand-held camera, when Pepi is lying, visually emphasizes the contrast between her being stiff and mechanical, and the musical atmosphere that surrounds her, which is instead cheerful, warm, and fluid. We needed to render Pepi's nervousness with as emotional a shot as possible, and the handheld camera visually translates all the girl's embarrassment in a situation unfamiliar to her and therefore uncongenial. This idiosyncrasy then dissolves into moments charged with narrative stasis, after the girl has thrown Boom to the ground. The time has come to reflect, to remember, perhaps to love. Only music, music again, with the upbeat of Boom and Pepi's theme (masterfully crafted by The Bakers), can best express the connoted meaning of the rising bond between the two. This is also the moment when Pepi finds in Felix and Alex two new friends...and we know how crucial their support will prove to be in her maturing process.

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What did you find to be the most difficult challenge during filming?

When you have an idea in your mind, whether you want to write a novel, a poem, a song or you want to make a painting, a film or a theatre show, you will always have to deal with writing, I would say almost with the purity of calligraphy... In other words, you have to encapsulate that idea in a form with which you will communicate it to others. Writing is already seeing. That's the challenge. But it's also an opportunity that we can catch today in new forms, thanks to the development of social media, a network of independent festivals and online reviews that exponentially multiply the channels for spreading a work. When you write and when you shoot, you have to think in artistic terms but also with cross-media terms, you have to set up an expanded and expandable universe that helps the audience "peeking" at your work with
curiosity from multiple points of view and perspectives. You have to take storytelling trends into consideration. In scriptwriting, we have often confronted with Simona Moraru, who has an innate imaginative talent and always manages to add interesting nuances to characters and narrative situations. One exercise that, for example, a good TV-series showrunner has to do is to develop a horizontal plot by knotting its threads, but in my opinion, at the same time they have to analyze the product from multiple points of view. It is like applying Einstein's relativity to film material to simultaneously preserve one's own point of view of the world and at the same time pose the question of how other observers from other points of view would see the same world. This is what we are trying to do in an innovative way in our next works: in my new short “Dreaming Vincent” on Vincent Van Gogh and in our Boombox TV-series. Wim Wenders said, "Great films begin when we leave the cinema," this phrase today is loaded with different connoted meanings, related to the triumph of seriality, the evolution of the digital industry, the role assumed by creators in social networks, the emergence of content made by Artificial Intelligence, and in general the globalization and complexity of contemporary society. Today, the greatest challenge for cinema is to explain this complexity with images and still be able to do so with the eyes of a child.

Some directors have their cast do research for their roles, listen to playlists to inspire them, or even try some method acting. Did you ask the cast to do anything of that sort to prepare for the show?

I don't have a precise method for "directing" an actor, nor do I seek one... As a general approach I like the Stanislavsky method and the Actors Studio, but I also appreciate improvisation and in many cases the Pasolinian spontaneity and ‘malleability’ of the non-professional actor. For Boombox (and in all my previous works) I wrote down the main features of the characters and recommended watching some reference films. For example, the character of Alex in Boombox is partly traced back to the Alex in Adrian Lyne's "Flashdance", but "imagined" a few years later and with a grittier and more technological nuance; for the rest, I gave Chiara Doria, who is also a songwriter, showgirl and singer, full freedom to express herself and work on the character. So, Chiara gave Alex a South American accent that was very consistent with Boombox location, storyline, and atmosphere. For the character of Felix, on the other hand, we worked a lot on the dance figures, thanks to the collaboration of the Carma Academy teachers and the willingness of Fabiana Augelli (who plays the school secretary) who personally coached Cristian Audino to the role. More generally, as Nicolas Refn put it, I am also attracted to that "thrill" that comes from shooting in chronological order without too much anticipation about the character. I talk a lot with actors, but without revealing "spoilers" to them, and I often leave the resolution of movements and dialogue on stage to their imagination. I let them "fall" into the role. I correct them only in the "landing" phase and advise them to enjoy the "fall" instead... During this "plummeting" I also play musical playlists, often created, even visually, for the project itself. As mentioned Boombox is a cross-media project, where everything that is sound, noise, language, music is of paramount importance in driving the narrative. For those who would like to "expand" on the short film's narrative and analyze its storytelling in more depth, dance charts compiled by Boom radio month by month are available on Vision in Motion's YouTube channel, in shorts and Comic Book style format. At this link you can listen to the latest one for the month of March 2023:

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To your mind, what elements constitute a truly great film or show?

In my experience, among the many factors that set up an excellent film, the most important is good writing. I return to the writing because it allows the director to best communicate the nuances of the characters, their evolution, their bonds, their idiosyncrasies, their dreams... A script made for the big screen, for the web or for mainstream digital platforms must also indicate the camera movements, the director's notes, the soundtrack intercut, at least in an early embryonic form. Best if the director himself takes care of the writing , perhaps in collaboration with the screenwriter, the showrunner, and the marketing strategist. This method allows in production to start together with the cast and crew from a fairly cohesive initial point of view and to have the time to develop the mise-en-scène as best as possible during filming. It also allows for the best possible preparation already during the filming of backstage material for the brand advertising and social media marketing phase. It is the work done by great up-and-coming talents such as the abovementioned Nicolas Refn in the "Copenhagen Cowboy" series, Audrey Diwan with "L'Evenement," John Patton Ford with "Emily the Criminal", Charlotte Wells in the masterpiece of sound design that is "Aftersun" or Ari Aster in "Beau is Afraid", with its horror style that so much owes to Wes Anderson's haunting animated atmospheres. All of them are both directors and screenwriters; as a matter of fact, they unleash a compact, layered but elegant style that is so perfectly recognizable. In their case, good writing opens up endless worlds, and not only filmic ones...

 Many thanks for this interview to Macoproject Film Festival -->

You can read the interview at this link --> Spotlight interview with the filmmakers behind 'Boombox'. (