It’s been six years since director Fabrizio Federico was deported from America, and since then he has been busy dividing audiences with his film manifesto PINK8. This new style of film making has been called everything from ‘Gutter Film Making’ to ‘No Budget Films’, to ‘The Orphan Film Movement’ and ‘Poundland Films’. Going for a film equivalent of punk and lo-fi music, he plans to create a stir and shake up the film world, starting with his new film, Black Biscuit. A non-plot film that defies the usual tedium of mainstream films, we decided to have a chat with him to find out a little bit more…
Where do you hail from, Fabrizio?
I was born in Derby and lived there until I was five, then I moved to Italy and then to America when I was twelve. I got deported from America about six year ago now and I’ve been back in the UK since.
What did you get deported for?
Nothing really bad. I was working there and I didn’t have a green card so I wasn’t allowed to work. You have to survive though, right? I did Sound Engineering at university in Boston and I was going back and forth to the UK and on the way back they got me. They chased me for a bit and eventually got me on a plane and sent me back. It took me a while to get used to the UK and its humour to be honest, it’s different wavelengths. I don’t know what I can say here sometimes, I don’t know if I’m going to offend someone.
So you did sound engineering, how did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve just always loved films. I used to watch films like Hot Shots and Sixteen Candles when I was living in Italy - they’re a bit behind over there, so I just watched lots of films. I liked The Simpsons a lot as well and I got into more daring cinema, like Harmony Korine and Dennis Hopper – have you ever seen The Last Movie? He made that as well as Easy Rider and it’s really out there and I saw that when I was nine and it altered my perspective on things.
You have a manifesto called PINK8 – tell us what that’s about…
I want to get away from mainstream cinema because I think it treats the audience as if they’re stupid, to tell you the truth. Especially showcase movies and I think we’ve got to the point where underground films should be in showcases. It’s 2011! It’s not happening though and I don’t think it’s going to happen for a long, long time and I want to push it and see what they say. I’m going to send my film to showcase and see what they think of it.
It's also about getting away from universities: I think they ruin your personal style because they tell you that you can only do things a certain way. Why? I think we’ve got enough pixels in our camera phones and videos and we don’t need to get any better. It’s just leaving people with no money in the dust, I think – not everyone can get a budget. I had to life model for a year to come up with money to make this movie - there’s scene of me doing it in the film actually. I got a cameraman in and I asked the life modelling group if I could record it. I filmed it but I got a letter from them afterwards telling me to pull the scene. I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m not going to cut it, it’s still in the film - I’ve got the release forms.
Why were they offended, you were the naked one?
A lot of people get really scared when you film them, not everyone but a lot of people do - I don’t get it because we’re filmed all day long on CCTV. We’ve also been warned by the police a few times when we’ve been filming in the Derby and Sheffield city centres. I had to give up some of my footage one time which really pissed me off because it was a good day of filming! The scene was running through fountains and we got stopped for doing that. I just did it another time instead. It’s fine in Nottingham, I was walking back from the station one day and I saw these kids so I offered them some money to run through the fountain as I thought it’d be a beautiful scene, and, yeah, they did it – for a quid.
Footage from the Market Square fountains
As a reaction to the budget cuts in arts, you’re making ‘no budget’ films/gutter films. Can you explain the ethos behind this style of filmmaking?
Be free. Do what you want. Use anything you’ve got; we’ve got a £54 blue and orange child’s camcorder. Use anything, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s so easy, there should be more feature films. Most people are doing short films, especially up and comers. Be free: don’t listen to teachers or cops.
That’s part of your manifesto, isn’t it, no short films. What is it about them that you don’t like?
I just think they get lost. How many short films do you know off by heart? I’d respect it if six or seven filmmakers got together their short films – you’ve got sixty or seventy minutes of film right there. Just put it into being because people don’t notice, I’m sure some of them are incredible but you never get to see them.
How do you feel about YouTube?
It’s incredible, it’s beautiful! I almost wet myself when someone told me what YouTube could do. You can show the whole world your stuff, I think it’s one of the best inventions ever. I like video mixing a well. If I see a scene on YouTube, even if it’s five second, and I want to use it then I’ll email them.
Who are your peers – is this a movement or the start of something?
There’s no-one really doing my kind of filmmaking, it’s all storyline based and I don’t believe in storylines. Life hasn’t really got a plot, has it? I figured I’d make a movie with no plot.
How do you go about telling a story without a plot?
It’s more of an idea and I got people who are in their early twenties, and you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, you’re drifting. So I picked a lot of drifter characters to be in the film. I’m in the film and I play the life model. I just met homeless people, an s&m mistress, a pimp… and I asked them if they’d ever drifted, so then I put them in the film. It’s got a spirit to it. My character would like to be a filmmaker and he’s stuck doing gigolo work and life modelling and he doesn’t want to do it anymore and he wants to make the best film he can. It’s a living film – I didn’t tell anyone in it what the plot was which was a bit rough at times because some of them wanted to know what it was about before they joined the project.
So it was an evolution then?
Yeah, I gave them little directions on how to take a conversation to a funnier tone, but nothing too much. It does and it doesn’t make my life as a director easier because you’ve still got to make it interesting. I like people to have fun though when they’re doing my projects…
How long is it and how long did it take to make?
I filmed it for a year and I edited it for a year, it runs at about 120 minutes long. I really wanted to take my time doing it: if I ran into someone and they had a ‘shine’ or looked like a superstar of the street but had never made a film before I’d go up to them and ask if they wanted to be in my film. You don’t run into people like that every day unfortunately – I wish you did. If I saw someone doing a tap dance in the street I’d ask them if I could film them, and that was done there and then. But other times I’d arrange to film them at a future time.
You must have had a lot of footage to go through after a year of filming?
Yeah… that’s why it took a year to edit! I’ve still got loads of scenes that didn’t make the final cut but that I’ll probably use for my next project as well.
What kinds of reactions have you had to it so far?
Mystified. Some people get it, some people don’t. I don’t care if not everyone likes it, I think it’ll be one of those films that’ll catch on later down the line, to tell you the truth. Hopefully not but I think in twenty or thirty years people will look back at it and see where I was coming from.
The majority of the roles in the film were played by local homeless people – how did this come about and how did you find working with non-professionals?
I say hello, get them into a conversation. I go up to them, ask them how they’re doing, just having a conversation with them. I like working with people that aren’t trained, even people that aren’t into film, because they forget about the camera sometimes.
You call them our ‘street superstars’ – do you feel in any way that your work is exploitative?
These people aren’t stupid, if they don’t want to do something, they won’t. I just love people with quirks and ticks, they’re beautiful. I ask them for permission, if they don’t like what I’m doing… there was some guy shooting up, I didn’t film it. I did get a really cool drawing that he did with the blood afterwards, a peace symbol. I mean, I never ask them to do anything degrading, I ended up doing the weirdest things in the film – I won’t go into that, you’ve got to see the film.
Who would you site as influences for your work?
I’ve got loads of influences. The main reason that I mentioned Harmony Korine though is that I think he’s got a lot of balls. He’s very daring but I’d like him to make more films. Every time he makes a film he get’s terrible reviews, I feel bad that happens. Keep at it, make more films!
Have you got any future projects lined up?
I’m just about to go to the desert in Spain, it’s not anything like Charles Manson, I’m just going to go and see what happens and what I come back with. If I don’t come back, please report me.
Tell us the cheesiest, most mainstream film that you love?
Hot Shot Part Deux.I love cinema, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I want to expand it. I don’t hate any cinema. I went to see The Inbetweeners last and before that it was a cartoon about meatballs. I’ll watch anything, I just want to push cinema forward. When it came to editing it, every single scene that I wanted to look different I put a different CD on to influence it. One day I listened to psychedelic, the next day blues… Britney Spears another day, I took a chance!
Anything else to say to LeftLion readers?
Check the Pink8 Manifesto – if anyone wants to follow it, or even not, I’d love to see your film.