One thing I learned from sitting down and talking with Annalaura di Luggo — albeit over Zoom — is that she can do it all. She’s a director, writer, artist and she can sing! It’s truly incredible and her talents are as unique as her art. Her new documentary, We Are Art— Through the Eyes of Annalaura explores this idea of inclusivity and creativity. But above all else, the most eye-catching (pun intended) part of her work is the way that she captures the iris. Her stunning technology — which she created — makes for breath-taking visuals that you won’t soon forget. Read on to learn more about that technique that she has created, her new film and why she focuses so heavily on the idea of inclusion. Thank you to Annalaura for sitting down and chatting!
Coastal House Media: Nice to meet you, Annalaura! How’s everything going very well for you?
Annalaura di Luggo: Good, good!
CHM: Congratulations on your film, We Are Art — Through the Eyes of Annalaura. You just traveled to New York, right?
ADL: Yes, we just arrived in New York.
CHM: What’s this experience been like? I know you’re doing a lot of press and how do you like being in New York?
ADL: I have been in New York a lot of times but I’m very excited for this new premiere in New York. The first one was very good, we had a lot of very nice people come and it [was] in LA. We had a very good Q&A, everybody stayed for the Q&A and [there were] lots of interesting questions. It’s very nice when you have the chance to share your thoughts and people get into the stories.
CHM: And you know, there’s so much content out there with all these streaming services and movies in the theater, so people kind of pick and choose what they’re gonna go see. Could you just quickly pitch your film to the average movie-goer?
ADL: This document depicts my journey when I undertook my most strategic challenge. So creating “Colloculi > We Are Art,” [which] is an immersive multimedia interactive art installation that is constructed in the shape of a giant eye that is made of recycled aluminum. And this is a way to symbolize environmental rebirth and recycling. And in this kind of huge installation, I incorporated [a] visualization of [the] lives of four young adult people. We found a spiritual path out of the darkness into the light and so they reclaimed their self-esteem and found a new value in life.
If I should describe [it] in two words, it’s like [a] documentary [and an] inspirational story of creativity, second chances and new beginnings.
CHM: I wanna talk more about the eyes in a second because I find that so interesting, but I know you’ve done a few documentaries now — I think maybe two or three other ones — has it gotten any easier with time with each one?
ADL: Yeah, I’ve been doing stores that were based on social inclusion. So social inclusion had been always my first thought. So it’s nice that I got more and more experience from my first documentary that was Blind Vision, and that was about a journey into the eyes and the world of blind people.
Then the documentary before this was Napoli Eden where I also work with my friend and partner Stanley Isaacs, who is the creative consultant of both Napoli Eden and We Are Art and with Greg Ferris who also was a marketing consultant in Napoli Eden and on this one. So it’s I’ve been doing a path through this journey towards social inclusion.
And at this time, I wanted to compare different young adults so I put together various types of challenges of these young adults so they also could feel like [they] have support from each other.
CHM: You kept mentioning this idea of inclusion and I just wanna ask you a little bit more about where does that stem from? Because I find it so powerful to push that.
ADL: All my life, I wanted to achieve my greatest desire of social inclusion. Because I believe I have a very deep spiritual thought and so I believe that all of us are incredible — God’s creations. So I mean, the reason why I want really to enlighten the value of our human being [is because] I think that every human being is precious and special. We all are God’s creation, we all are a work of art.
So this was the real thought that came out during the time and so I wanted this kind of experience [and] I thought it was very nice to put together people with different stories. And I believe that a culture of diversity equity and inclusion should be always our priority. And when you bring diversity and representation into the mix, you get views from various ethnic backgrounds, different abilities and so this turns into [something] thought-provoking and a new inspiration.
CHM: Something that you’d mentioned was the eyes and you said that you had created a specific lens for that?
ADL: Yeah, I did it more than 10 years ago when nobody ever thought about taking pictures of the eyes. So I made this special camera and I patented [it] and I still use my system. And this enabled me to catch the eyes of a huge number of people around the world. I was able to catch the Hollywood stars’ eyes like Antonio Banderas [and] Jeremy Irons, a lot of them, but at the same time, I wanted to catch the eyes of like homeless people who are challenged in their lives. Because every time that I [photograph] an iris, I always look for the stories of the people who I’m photographing because what I’m interested in is going beyond the appearance or trying to find traces of that person and their feeling and the meaning of life. And so, for me, [it] is always a very incredible experience when I see an eye because I always see something different.
CHM: So does anybody else use the same technology that you use for that?
ADL: I don’t think mine because the one that I did was really [made by] me piece-by-piece [laughs], so maybe there are other systems, but I did it [on] my own really sitting down, experimenting [with] every single piece of my camera.
CHM: So you filmed We Are Art in Naples, right? Was that, am I correct?
ADL: We Are Art was filmed in Naples, Italy. And now in two weeks there will be a big opening of the piece of art in the Naples National Archeological Museum that will hold the piece of art on display for three-and-a-half months in the biggest area of the museum next.
CHM: Is that exhibit something that would ever be considered to be brought over to the United States? Because I would like to check that out if it was in New York.
ADL: Yeah, I’m looking to have some answers to see when and how I can display the piece of art here overseas. But my greatest challenge in this work was to do a documentary that is like an audio-visual journey that uses languages of visual art and sound design. And so it’s in between like the documentary and this new frontier of video art.
CHM: Is there anything else from your works, it could be a film or any sort of artwork/exhibit I can see online, that you would recommend to me?
ADL: Blind Vision because it’s this journey in the world of blind people and it’s a very enlighting journey. So I was in the dark for two days, holding hands with these people. And I tried to meet them without looking them into their eyes. So that was a very, very great experience. And it came out a multimedia work and a documentary.
Napoli Eden was a great experience because it was like also in consideration for [the] Oscars as Best Documentary that also was a very joyful work and inspiring. And now I believe that this one [We Are Art], with this great team. I think [judging] from the first opinions that I received, I think that a lot of people enjoyed this kind of film and they saw that it was quite different from everything else they saw.
Also, their stories and what was going on during the shooting inspired me to write a song. So the song that is called, “We Are Art,” it’s in the commentary. That was also [a] great challenge because you know, it was really done during the moment while we were shooting and so we are trying to get into Oscar’s consideration for Best Documentary and Best Original Song.
We Are Art — Through the Eyes of Annalaura is in select theaters now. For more information, click here.
The Menu Composer Colin Stetson Talks About His Flavorful Score | Interview
‘The Menu’ is in theaters now.
Original cinema lives! Despite three new wide releases (Strange World, Glass Onion, Devotion) coming out during the Thanksgiving weekend and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still holding down the top spot, The Menu found a way to continue its strong box office run and coming in at fifth place during its second weekend open grossing $5.2 million. After opening to $9 million domestically a couple of weeks back, The Menu has gone on to gross $18 million domestically and $33 million worldwide.
Sure, the film has the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in its ensemble, but The Menu’s success feels like a win for all movie lovers who want a substitute — something you shouldn’t ask for in Fiennes’ restaurant in the film — to all of the IP galore that typically dominate the box office discussion.
And the film is just great. It’s certainly one of my favorites of the year and I just loved the way that it serves as a metaphor for the ideas of critics and artists. The Menu is like hardcore Chef (2014) — another film with John Leguizamo that is well worth a watch — and I can’t recommend it enough.
Colin Stetson’s an accomplished composer who has composed many haunting scores including this year’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot/sequel and Ari Aster’s Hereditary. While it’s unfair to call The Menu a “horror” film, it’s certainly got thriller elements and Stetson finds the balance in his score. Coastal House Media spoke with Stetson about getting involved with The Menu, the instrumentation of his score and some unique objects used in the studio.
Coastal House Media: Congratulations on The Menu — I loved the film. It blew me away the first time I saw it. I wanna start at the beginning and just ask how you got attached to the project. Had you worked with the director before on any projects?
Colin Stetson: I hadn’t, no. And so obviously this was going on without me, but what ended up bringing me into the orbit was that Mark [Mylod] and Chris [Tellefsen], the editor, had been working on the edit and as temp music was coming in, a few of my pieces got brought in on the temp and then a few more.
As that was feeling good, the idea of at least having a conversation with me about scoring [the film] got brought up. And at that point then, I was told and sent a script and I read that. If you’ve seen the movie then you can pretty much surmise that the script was excellent. It was really doing everything that it needed to do, It moves really freely and really, it does so in such a very lean and concise way — which is certainly not always the case with the script. And it was telling a story that I had not seen before.
So I got really excited, as I do when I read something that I haven’t seen a million times before. And, then we set up a meet[ing] and talked about what my initial reactions were to the film — oh, well, I mean, at that point, I hadn’t seen any footage; it was just a script there — which is a really fun moment for me just seeing what a director’s ideas are for the film already. You know, how my ideas then are feeling, for them, how those things work together and how open they are to what [I suggest]. I mean, ultimately it’s a pitch so [it comes down to] how open they are and how receptive they are to what it is that I’ve imagined based on that script and started to think up. So we had great initial talks and it just went well.
CHM: Can I ask you what some of your initial pitch was? Because this movie is so unique and I can’t even imagine you just reading the script without being able to visualize it. So I’m just curious what your ideas and what your kind of mission was going in when you were pitching your score.
Stetson: It’s really what the music ended up being. I mean, of course things get fleshed out as I start to really bring in more instrumentation, but the core of it was there. In the days after I’ve read a script, I do some deep-dive sits with the piano and with other instruments and just record all of that, I mean, it’s not improvising, but it’s improvising and grabbing hold of certain things and fleshing them out.
And so those initial notes really ended up providing the basis for a lot of the music for the film. I wouldn’t say that the whole of it was intact entirely from those initial imaginings, but there was a lot there.
CHM: And I feel like your score kind of jumps a little bit between different sounds — I can’t really hit the nail on the head with what they are. So I’ll ask you, the expert on this score, would you be able to classify this score under a certain genre, or is it too diverse?
Stetson: I actively don’t classify things [by] genre. I’ll always walk that question right outta the room.
CHM: Fair enough, I like to put composers on the spot, and you might not be able to answer this, but would you be able to describe your score in three or fewer words?
Stetson: How about “delightful,” “driving” and, for lack of another “d” [word] — although I’ll probably think of it later — “triumph.”
CHM: And I wanna talk a little bit about the instrumentation within the score. Did you use any sort of unique instruments?
Stetson: The basis for much of the score is a kind of chamber strings, a bit of a chamber orchestra. There’s very little brass involved in it, but it’s mostly a string ensemble. A lot of Pizzicato strings, violins, violas, cellos, basses, a bit of mandolin. There is a lot of percussive, plucked piano strings. They’re bo a lot of bowed piano strings. Although not primarily [in] there, there are quite a bit of Tibetan bowls played with bows. There’s an enormous amount of saxophones throughout.
Additionally, there are a few odd elements, things like water glasses and pots and pans that were played in various ways to give like a pointillism to certain sections and certain cues. Some of the key driving and more abrasive kind of grotesque string stuff is playing an instrument called a Nyckelharpa, which is a keyed, stringed folk instrument from Scandinavia. There are a lot of different things in play but that pretty much gets to most of it.
CHM: And the instruments in the string section that you talked about, are they something that’s unique to this film in your work, or is that something that you’ve used before? I noticed you did the score for Hereditary — it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film — and I felt like it may have shared some similarities to your score for The Menu.
Stetson: I’ve used strings for sure. I didn’t use any strings on Hereditary [but] I used a ton of strings on scores like Color Out of Space, a show called Barkskins that I did for National Geographic,] a show called Among the Stars [and] there was a documentary about NASA that I did for Disney last year. A lot of strings in those, in those projects to varying degrees and other things. So yeah, it’s certainly not something that is unique to this project for me, no.
I think that if there’s anything that sets this one apart, it’s [that] a lot of the rhythmic nature of it is different maybe than some of the things that I’ve done in the past. It’s just decidedly more rooted in the rhythmic and the polymetric.
CHM: I love the way your score sounds during the little segues that you get in the film between courses, you know, and they show like a dish or something. I felt like the score really came through in those moments. Was there anything different about those scenes or is it just that I was noticing it more in those moments?
Stetson: These are moments where there’s no dialogue and there are very little sound effects in terms of what’s going on on-screen and so I think at its most rudimentary, you’re probably noticing because those are the moments where the volume is up the most on the music and so throughout there the music is pushed [to the forefront].
This is just something that ultimately, I don’t have much say in but the mix that happens throughout the course of it, there are times when music is quite far back and other times when it is very, very far forward and those moments are some of those that the music is quite forward.
CHM: Earlier, you mentioned that in the studio there were also some — what’d you say? — pots and pans present in the score and whatnot… were those used to replicate the sounds of a kitchen, or were they also being used as an instrument, if that makes sense?
Stetson: Oh, no, no, no, no. We weren’t doing any Foley or anything like that. We were taking some of these elements — glass [and] metal — so to use a little bit of the DNA of that world, what was happening on-screen [and] use a little bit of the DNA of that in the sound world. But I kind of purposefully avoided doing anything that was either too on-the-nose — kind of pots and pans drumming or [that] emulated a kind of chaotic [sound or] something that could be construed as being part of the sound effects from the actual space on-screen.
So the majority of the things that were done with the pans and with the glasses were these more pointillistic, expansive, sort of shiny, shimmery walls of sound things that happen in several moments throughout the film.
CHM: My favorite track listening to the soundtrack again — and when I watched the film — was “The First Cheeseburger You Ever Ate.” Is that any different from the rest of the score? Cause that really felt the most poetic and I really love that track for some reason. Is there some reason I have some attachment to it?
Stetson: Well, it’s louder [laughs]. It’s a moment where the music is very forward, the music is very vocal. There are several very vocal-forward, choral-forward moments throughout the second half of the film. I would say, although there are vocals throughout, it really starts to become more of a heavy element.
I wanted there to be a kind of reverent, almost like “church-y” sort of vibe that happened throughout the end. And that scene is a very loving, sincere scene and such care was taken in the shots of capturing the moment of crafting and so the instrumentation there is kind of a combination of what was used before the bed; this sort of bed of arpeggios [and] dreamy saxophone and then the choir all over the top of it singing the melody and the harmonies. And then woven throughout the mid-step of it [are] bowed piano strings [that are once] again, kind of doing this squeeze box-y rhythm that almost sounds a bit like a harpsichord, so it has a sense of the baroque in it, but it definitely sounds like worship music.
CHM: When talking to people about the film, how do you pitch it to them?
Stetson: Thankfully, my job is not pitching the movie. Like, I’m not advertising the movie. I don’t have to market it. I don’t have to be the person who tries to put it in a box to sell it. I get to talk about the music, which is fun, but I don’t have to do that.
If I’m telling friends about it, I simply say, don’t watch trailers, don’t read anything about the film, just go and see it. It’s well worth the watch and it’s very fun. It’s great storytelling. It’s really clever but it’s also able to be very able to smuggle in a lot of very real human moments in[to] something that is a very odd and novel and very funny, almost absurdist film.
It’s something that I’ve certainly never seen before.
The Menu is playing in theaters now.
Dan Perri Talks The Art of the Title Sequence | Interview
The legendary title designer’s exhibit is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image now.
Speaking with legendary title designer Dan Perri enlightened me to a whole new aspect of film. Sure, we’ve all seen the Star Wars opening crawl or the smoking opening credits of Raging Bull, but have you ever wondered what the creative process of that looks like?
I was lucky enough to chat with Dan about his career and exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image and was very fortunate to be able to visit the exhibit for myself in Queens a week ago. In this interview, Dan and I talk about his career, working with Martin Scorsese and what to expect in his exhibit.
Thank you so much to the lovely folks at Sunshine Sachs for this opportunity and for allowing me the chance to see the exhibit myself!
Coastal House Media: Dan, let me first say thank you so much for your time. It’s really a pleasure and an honor to speak to you. I was looking through your filmography and you’ve worked on so many films that I’ve seen. It’s actually amazing. First I want to ask you just to start off, I haven’t spoken to a title designer, but could you tell me some sort of tidbit about doing this that maybe the average moviegoer doesn’t know?
Dan Perri: Well, in the future film business, and even independent and studio films, there are requirements that they have to have certain titles on screen because of tradition and contracts. So they have to present the name of the film, of course, and then usually there are contracts that tie the actors to the title. Like they have to be the same size, precede the title in some cases, and then other technical people might be tied to it as well. So there’s this whole string of requirements.
Over the years, filmmakers have realized the benefit of [title sequences] since the titles have to be there. [They realized] that they could use that screen time while introducing the titles and help the viewer to get into the film. So they will hire someone like me who is a specialist at creating something that helps the storyteller tell his story.
So, I go trying to find the elements of the story, whether it be the character, the personality, the setting, the era [or] anything unique about the story that I could find images from to emphasize that and therefore introduce that main element to the viewer and at the same time knock off the titles.
So for me, the titles are not the most important thing. It’s the story that might be behind the titles that I try to embellish and bring to the film and the storyteller and incidentally, the titles take place. Now, of course, there are times that only the titles on the screen, you know, screen’s black or red or brown or whatever, and so the personality is the only thing there. Then the job gets harder because you gotta find elements in the type you’ve chosen. And all the subtleties of that. Once you’ve chosen the type style, how they’re set, how they’re arranged, how they’re stacked up, how they come in and out, what color are they, what adjustments to the design [of] the letters — maybe some letters that joined together to create a logo. There’s a myriad of things that you can do in the simplest form, [like] just typing over a background, but all those separate elements in that simplest form are relatively insignificant separately, but collectively, they make [an] impression and impact on the viewer and on the storytelling as well.
CHM: It sounds like you’re contacted by a studio for a certain film, what was the first big project that kind of got you started on doing all of these projects?
Perri: The first big studio film I did was for United Artists called Electro Glide in Blue. Robert Blake plays a cop in the film, so it’s widescreen and images. Conrad Hall shot it and it’s set in the West and it’s about these kinds of Western cowboys who are cops. So I brought these Western elements to it and selected shots from the film and treated them in a graphic way so that it felt like they were from the 1880s.
And I did hand lettering for all the titles and did free frames and subtle dissolves and fades and so on, and it worked very nicely with the music. So that was the first big studio film. And then I learned later that — this was 1973 — Billy Friedkin heard about the film [and] that it had really good sound, so he went to see the film one day to evaluate the sound, and he later hired that sound editor for The Exorcist but he saw my work on the film and it’s hired me to do the titles for The Exorcist.
And once that film — which was one of the very first blockbusters — hit [theaters], I was known throughout the industry and everyone suddenly wanted me to work on their films. And I’ve been very fortunate [and] because of that and pretty much I’ve been working ever since.
CHM: Before I get into your exhibit, some of my favorites of your title sequences are your collaborations with Martin Scorsese — my favorite being the Raging Bull title design. it’s amazing. Do you have any tidbits about the work you’ve done with Scorsese?
Perri: Yes, my first film with him was Taxi Driver, and then I did seven more in a row and I was kind of his in-house, well, that’s the wrong words. I wasn’t working for him, but on every film he did, it was just a given that I would do it. So whenever it was time, he call me [and] I’d come in. I mean, I was presenting ideas and competing with others and because of the way he works, he’s so collaborative and willing to work with all of his creative people and support them and encourage them rather than tell them exactly what to do. And so as a result of that, he gets the best work out of those people.
And just the way he casts his actors, I see that he casts his costume designer and he casts his cameraman and he casts his title designer as well. So he chooses the right person and then he lets them do what they do. And as a result, he gets their best work. It then allows him collectively to do his best work. That’s why his films are so good.
I’ve done my best work with him cause of how he’s collaborated with me and supported me and always loved the ideas I’ve brought to him. So I can do them at my best, make all of the choices and the decisions along the way, and then bring the final product to him.
CHM: And a follow-up on that, just because I’m curious about how the process works, this can be in regards to any of the films you’ve done, but when you’re brought into a certain project, what have you seen at that point? Like, I don’t know if the film’s finished or if you have anything that you can base the font on and then how do you then come up with the ideas?
Perri: Well, I’m always brought in while the post-production process is taking place. Usually, they’re still cutting, so I need to see the film in whatever form it is in so I can have my own emotional reaction to it. And out of that ideas just come into my head. I still don’t know how that happens, it’s still a mystery, but fortunately, they still come.
And not just one idea; it’s always three or four or more ideas. So I have to sort through all of those as if another designer has brought me these ideas and I’ve gotta look at them all and decide which one I think is best. So I’m working with myself in that way, and these ideas come to me. I always work in the exact same way since the very beginning: an idea that pops into my head and I have to literally scramble and find a piece of paper, something to draw it on, on the paper with a pencil — it’s always a regular old pencil with me eraser on it so I can erase something and change it — but if I don’t jot it down right away, sometimes it goes away. It evaporates, it’s gone. I can’t even remember it.
So it’s that process has always been present in my work. Ever since I was a kid, when I started designing graphics and doing sign painting when I was in high school, I work with a pencil and a piece of paper and that has worked for me. So it has never changed. Of course, after I’ve made the drawing, I will scan it and take it into the computer and then I can manipulate it. [When] I would do that on paper and, one after the other would paint and brush and now I use the computer for that. But the idea still comes the same way and putting it down to visualize it is the same way I’ve always done.
CHM: That’s amazing. It’s like a musician when they think of a melody or something and they’ve gotta run home and jot it down.
Perri: Yeah, exactly. I was on a plane one time with Stevie Wonder — he was on the same flight [and] I wound up having dinner with him — but he and his assistant were together in two seats and every so often Stevie would motion to him and this guy would jump up and go to the overhead and bring down this little machine. It looked like a court reporter machine that Sony had made for him. And instead of typing letters and so on, it would type notes and anytime Steve would get a musical idea, he would write it on this machine that had been made for him.
So he worked exactly the way I worked and I think a lot of creative people do. You have ideas and you get them out in some way that you can translate and develop them. It’s a successful way of operating.
CHM: Not to keep you off of the topic at hand too much, but I do wanna transition to your exhibit. Is this the first time your work’s been in an exhibit before or have you done something similar to this before?
Perri: It’s the first time. I’ve never shown my work except for occasional screenings I might have for friends who wanna see the body of work together. And this is the third phase of a program that I’ve wanted to develop and apply, and that is the process of sharing my work, which has come out of my desire as a teacher to pass on and share what I’ve done and what I know.
So it’s my knowledge and my work that I feel obligated to pass that on to mostly students because that’s who would benefit [from] it, but there are lots of people who are fans of the work and fans of film and of title design and so on and I regularly talk to those people. But it’s mostly students and schools that I visit. I’ve had tours all over London, France, the U.S. Two weeks ago, [I] spoke to USC, their film department, and I’m talking to Cal Arts out here in L.A. next week. So I keep getting invited to these different places and I simply show my sample reel, which is like a minute-and-a-half collection of just the logos of different films and then there are tons of questions and they wanna hear the stories and like [what it’s like] to work with Scorsese George Lucas or whatever it might be. So, I greatly enjoy that. The sharing is where it’s come from, and that’s the first stage is to teach and share it with students, the second phase is I wrote a book about my career, which I self-published. It’s now on my website, danperri.com, and people from all over the world are buying it. I’ve sold about 500 of the 1,000 that I printed, but I get orders all the time from every part of the world and I shipped them a lot myself personally. So that’s the second stage to reach more people and share the work.
And the third stage is to exhibit the work. So I approached, uh, the Museum of the Moving Image and suggested they do an exhibition of my work and they loved the idea. So over the months, we developed it and cultivated and discussed the approach and so on. Barbara Miller and her guest curator, Lola, who runs Art of the Title, you know that site [and she] collaborated with Barbara, and they together curated the show.
I haven’t seen it yet — I’ll see it Sunday when I go there for the reception opening of it. But I’ve seen pictures of it, I imagine you have too, and it looks wonderful. I’m really thrilled with what you’re done with it.
CHM: Well, I’m going on Saturday and I’m so excited to see it. It seems like you had this yearning to start the exhibit, but how long did these conversations take and what exactly was being discussed? Was it hard to pick and choose what would go into the exhibits?
Perri: Uh, yes. Barbara initially had a good idea [when] noticing that a lot of films I’ve done happen to be set in New York or with New York directors. Like most of Marty [Scorsese]’s work is based in New York. Walter Hill, for example, did The Warriors which was set in New York so we were looking at the notion of the show being heavy on films that are set or take place in New York.
And so the films that Barbara selected were in that vein. But there are many that I felt were important to represent my work that wouldn’t have been in the show because they [weren’t] New York-based films, but still, they’re good examples of what I’ve done. So we kinda expanded that and there are now two video presentations.
One [features] sequences from the core films and then a group of others that are more general, that represent things I’ve done that were important to my growth as a designer and some of those films that are not as successful perhaps, but good pieces of work. So that’s how that happened.
CHM: My last question for you is, I know you kind of mentioned that the presentation of some of your work, what else can people like myself that are gonna go expect to see? Are there storyboards or anything like that?
Perri: Uh, no, I don’t really do storyboards much. There’s, there’s one on, on, I think the, uh, excuse me, the Species sequence, which I hand-animated, but it’s just the opening of the actual title. So there’s a storyboard on that, but I don’t. I don’t find [that] storyboards are effective to present ideas.
There are lots of artifacts from different films. I like to create things in reality whenever I can. Like [with] Caddyshack, the idea was the golf ball instead of the word “Titleist,” it has the word “Caddyshack” and it’s in the same type style as the word “Titleist.” So I had a ball made and they couldn’t make it the size of a golf ball cause it’d be too small to properly letter the letters so they made it the size of a softball. I then filmed it, and without anything around it, it looks like the size of a golf — so it served the purpose. But that [the golf ball], that is in the show. It’s in a glass case somewhere.
The license plate that I had made from Star 80 is in the show, which I had made and had chrome-plated and filmed it live and moved lights around so it looked like it was alive. There’s the logo from Freebie and The Bean, which was a big saddle with multiple colors of neon lights on it. So I painted that by hand like an animator would, and I filmed it with a live camera and then superimposed it over shots from film.
There are a number of original designs that I did on tissue paper and pasted down onto a piece of cardboard and put a flap on it and brought it to George Lucas on Star Wars. A few of the alternate ideas that are there in the case as well. There are the wooden letters that I used for Gangs of New York [which] were original letters that were used to print headlines in newspapers from the 1850s, which I found at an old type shop and assemble them, photographed them, and became the logo for the film. Those letters are there as well, and a few others that I can’t remember at this moment.
Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Design is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image now until January 1, 2023. For more information, click here.
Frankie Corio on Aftersun, Olivia Rodrigo, Paul Mescal and *that* Karaoke Scene | Interview
‘Aftersun’ is in theaters now.
Aftersun is my favorite film of the year, full stop. It’s a beautiful portrait of a father and his young daughter as they take a holiday in Turkey. The film is so tender and melancholic and sure to require tissues upon viewing. But on top of all of that, the film not only serves as an amazing feature-length debut for writer-director Charlotte Wells and another great performance on Paul Mescal’s resume, but it also features the amazing debut performance of the young Frankie Corio.
Corio’s first professional role is in Aftersun, but you’d never be able to tell from her performance. Over the last few decades, we’ve had an increase in the number of great young performances whether it’s Jacob Tremblay in Room (2015) or Woody Norman in last year’s film, C’mon C’mon, none reach the heights of Corio in Aftersun, in my humble opinion. There’s such earnestness and authenticity in her interactions with her on-screen father Mescal, and her performance reminded me of Natalie Portman in Léon the Professional many years ago.
I was genuinely over the moon when I was given the green light to speak with Corio. Thanks to A24, I had the privilege to chat with her last week over Zoom. Corio may be a relative newbie to this whole acting thing, but she’s a total pro both on and off the screen. Of course, we talked plenty about Aftersun but we also discussed our favorite Olivia Rodrigo tracks, New York memories and that karaoke scene. I genuinely hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it. Consider this my claim of a spot on the Frankie Corio bandwagon when she inevitably wins an Oscar someday.
Coastal House Media: First off, congratulations on Aftersun and, thank you so much for all of your time. It’s my favorite film of the year, and your performance is a major reason for that. What has this whole experience been like for you? Is this what you imagined when you signed up to be in the film industry?
Frankie Corio: No, it’s very cool and different. Definitely different. It’s mostly cool and exciting because I get to travel all over the world.
CHM: Do you have a favorite experience along the way? Maybe in New York for the film festival?
Corio: I loved [it] in New York, definitely. That was the best place ever because it was very fun. And we went to Empire State Building.
CHM: Did you try any pizza while you were in New York?
Corio: I don’t think so. I had lots of bagels because I love bagels [smiles].
CHM: Next time you’re in New York, you’ll have to try some of the pizza! To get into the film a little bit, the film mostly rests on the shoulders of your chemistry with Paul Mescal, who plays your father in the film. What do you think it was, in your estimation, that led to such believable chemistry?
Corio: I am not sure, but I think even without hanging out before [I knew that] we would still get along very well.
CHM: Really? What was it about Paul that made you think you’d get along? Do you guys have similar interests or something like that?
Corio: We both like Olivia Rodrigo, so that’s a good thing. And obviously, he is very easy to get along with and he’s cool and funny.
CHM: I actually saw Olivia Rodrigo because my cousin had an extra ticket and she took me to see her earlier this year in New York. Did you get to see her on tour at all this year?
Corio: No, I never got to go. At the time she was here in Scotland, we were gonna go, but we were on holiday.
Leona Corio (Frankie’s mother): She sent you a message for your birthday, though.
Frankie: Yeah, I got a video of her for my birthday.
CHM: What’s your favorite song on her album?
Corio: “deja vu.”
CHM: I’ve gotta get your thoughts on this song. My least favorite song on that album is “jealousy, jealousy” — I just never vibed with it. Do you like that song?
Corio: Really? I like that one, The one I don’t like is “enough for you.”
CHM: Interesting; that’s one of my favorite songs. I guess we’re juxtaposed on that.
CHM: Speaking of music, I know that you have the performance of “Losing My Religion” in the film — which is great — but was this a scene that you were looking forward to, either excitedly or anxiously, and how did you prep for it?
Corio: I was not excited at all! So me and Paul had that two-week thing before we started shooting and every time we went there we would always go over to that bit where I sing it and they would try and make me stand up on the stage and sing it. But I couldn’t, I just hated the song and I hated the thought of having to do it.
I was excited for it cause it was gonna be funny. I got up and before we started filming, I started just speaking [into] the microphone cause I liked it but I was also nervous cause it was a bit cringe [laughs]. There were a lot of people there, so it was a bit weird.
CHM: I know you said you don’t like the song, but have you been able to listen to it ever since then?
Corio: Every time I hear it, I’m like [jokingly hyperventilates].
CHM: So if you watch the film again, can you watch that scene? Is it easier for you to watch it than it was to shoot it?
Corio: Yes, but I went to go and watch it with my friends on Tuesday, and it was extremely embarrassing and cringy. I just like, “ugh,” I was hiding in my jumper. I hated it. But I mean, I’d rather watch it than have to reperform it again.
CHM: I read another interview where you mentioned Millie Bobby Brown as a big influence on your acting. Do you have any other influences? Truthfully, your performance really reminded me of Natalie Portman in her first film, Léon the Professional. I don’t know if you’ve gotten that comparison, but are there any other actors that really influence you?
Corio: [gleefully gasps and smiles] Again, like I already said in so many other interviews, the whole Stranger Things cast are [a] big influence on me. Tom Holland, Mason Thames from The Black Phone and the girl [Madeleine McGaw] also from The Black Phone. But yeah, all the modern stuff [laughs], all the people that are in modern stuff are my influences.
CHM: So you’re a Stranger Things fan… I’ve actually never seen the show.
CHM: I’ve seen a bit of the first episode and then my cousin tried to force me to watch part of season four, but what is it about the show? Why should I watch it? I’ve never gotten into it.
Corio: It’s just really cool and it’s great to watch because it just is. Plus, the main character is some sci-fi girl with weird powers, like, who wouldn’t want to see that? Plus, Millie Bobby Brown is in it and her acting is amazing. So like, who wouldn’t want to watch it?
CHM: Okay, well maybe I’ll give it a shot. Did you pick up anything from your director on this film, Charlotte Wells? What was she like as a director?
Corio: Uh, [she] was amazing. [She was] such a great director and she just helped me [with] so [much] stuff. Not stuff that I would be able to remember right now, but at random points, she would be able to help me with stuff, to see stuff and yeah, very good.
She would make me do it — not make me [laughs] — but me, her and Paul, before we started filming, this was mainly for my sake, we would do like a two-minute mindfulness thing so that we could all calm down — mainly me [laughs] — but yeah, she has some great tactics [and] directing skills.
CHM: I don’t know if you would remember whether or not the film was shot in chronological order or not, but was it?
Corio: [shakes head]
CHM: My next question has to do with the final scene where you’re kind of waving goodbye to Paul. Was that shot last by any chance?
Corio: I think that was shot last actually. I think they had to go back to London to shoot that, didn’t we? Yeah, I think those were definitely shot last, the airport bits, but I think those were the only things that were in order; the rest of ’em were filmed at different times.
I had to wear long sleeves so I wouldn’t get tanned [laughs], so I wouldn’t be going through different shades every scene.
CHM: So then with that final scene, did it feel emotional for you given that it was the final scene? I know that once “Cut!” is called, you know, you could still hang out with Paul, but did it feel like a final goodbye at all when you were filming it?
Corio: Not really; I dunno why. I don’t think [during] the whole [time] of filming, I was never really like, “This is gonna be the last time I’m gonna see you for ages,” [laughs]. After I left, we just like hugged. I was like, “Bye; see you soon.”
It was mainly at all the film festivals. Even though that’s when I’m gonna see them next, I’m still just like, “Do we have to leave? I don’t want to,” because people love being around me [laughs] — I’m joking.
CHM: Do you have any sort of mementos from the shoot?
Corio: Yeah, I’ve got two t-shirts with signatures on them.
So for my birthday, I got a white t-shirt and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to [me] — I have that still. I was very close with all the teenagers that were [in] the film, and obviously, Michael, who I kissed [smiles]. The boy that plays Michael is called Brooklyn [Toulson], [and] it was Brooklyn’s last day — well, [the] day before [the] last day — so we all signed shirts, like six or seven of us, and we’ve all got the hand prints on the back of the shirts where we have our names and the people that we play.
CHM: That’s cute! And did you say it was your birthday during the shoot of the film?
Corio: Yeah, it was my 11th birthday on the 7th of July.
CHM: So did everybody sing “Happy Birthday” like you do to Paul’s character in the film?
Corio: Yeah, I got a big chocolate cake. I never even knew what was happening, I just got told that I was gonna go to the catering for lunch today, I was like, “Okay, sure,” went down [and] sat down with Paul and my family. I should have been more suspicious because everyone was there — normally they were all doing their own thing — and then they started singing “Happy Birthday” and brought out a big, fat chocolate cake with strawberries and meringue on it. And I got a flower crown.
And it was after doing a pool scene. I remember [that] because when I look back at the videos, my hair was all soaked and I was wearing my dress and gown [laughs].
CHM: My final question for you is, looking back at this whole experience, I know that you’re gonna have a lot of work ahead of you, but is there anything specific that you’re gonna take with you from this experience on Aftersun and apply it to your next films?
Corio: If I ever have to do a karaoke scene again, I will make sure I sound a bit better next time, that’s for sure.
Aftersun is in theaters now.
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