Frankie (Italian Roulette) (United States | 2015, 19 min)
Directed by: Francesco Mazza
Written by: Francesco Mazza, Amos Poe?
Cast: Olan Montgomery, Christina Toth
“Frankie (Italian Roulette)” is a short film/pilot about the life and struggles of Frankie Tramonto, an Italian immigrant who comes to New York City to pursue the American dream. He soon finds out that the stars & stripes world he dreamed of couldn't be further from reality: incomunicability - particularly with women - underpaid jobs, a house in a neighborhood very far, in all senses, from the Manhattan he’s seen in movies. In this context of growing alienation, Frankie tries to survive by grasping for a stereotypical Italianity based on soccer, women and food. Working in a restaurant as a waiter, a customer asks him for some ketchup on her pasta: in that moment he understands he can't take it anymore. Maybe, with a green card, everything would be different. As suggested by the shady lawyer Frankie turns to, it's not that difficult to obtain: all it takes is the courage to take part in the “Green Card Lottery”, a twisted game played just for kicks by a group of big shots on Wall Street. The immigrants recruited by them are given a gun, with 3 shots loaded out of 6.
Interview:Francesco Mazza directed Frankie: Italian Roulette, which will screen at the 7th Annual NYC Independent Film Festival.
We hope you are as excited as we are to be in the upcoming festival in April. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and background?
I was born in Milan, Italy and I started working for comedy shows as a featured writer when I was 19. Years later, I moved to New York to pursue the dream of becoming a film director. Frankie is my first short film, I produced it spending a huge part of my savings. I’m glad it paid off: Frankie won the Oaxaca Film Festival and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Italian Nastro D’argento, the top award of the Italian film industry. And of course, it’s in the NYCIFF program too!
Such a great mixture of genres and all of them blended so intelligently throughout the film. How was it writing this script with Amos Poe?
One of my favorite movies of all time is Do The Right Thing for many reasons, but mainly for the “genre switch.” It starts out as a comedy but ends as a dark drama. I wanted to recreate something like that. Honestly, I think in United States too much attention is given to the whole structure idea. It is so important to know how genres or the 3 act-structure work, but if this ends up limiting your creativity, and you are just filling out a form, I see a problem there. Amos is definitely one of the most important encounters I’ve done in my life. He taught me to not worry about what cameras I am shooting on, whether to spend a fortune to use only prime lenses or a state-of- the-art Da Vinci to color correct, but to keep in your mind only one obsession throughout the entire creative process: the emotion, and how to deliver it to the audience in the best possible way. If you do that, nobody will notice your lenses, your colors, your super-ultra HD camera. If you don’t, you will have a terrible movie, just beautifully shot.
How did you find a real Italian actor for the film?
That was actually not that hard because the Italian actor is...myself. I acted in it as the main character, I am Frankie and the story is really personal, especially for the improbably dating routine.
What was it like filming on location in NYC? Did it enhance your film?
New York is the best location you can find on Earth to shoot a movie, but again, it’s really about the story. If you don’t have a compelling, tremendous story, than your movie will be nothing more than a city porn.
What inspired this topic of immigration and green cards? Was this a personal subject?
I think immigration is the most urgent problem in today’s society. I don’t think Americans, including the Liberals, know exactly what immigrants must undergo to get the chance to live in the U.S. I remember last year being at the Milan Consulate, asking for a one-year Visa to shoot in New York a documentary for a top Italian broadcaster (Sky Art). I had papers and everything, but the lady at the desk told me, with no reason, completely out of the blue you are lucky we are giving you this. We don’t want you in our country, you’ve spent too much time in the U.S. “Don’t come back next year because I will do my best to deny whatever you’ll ask.” This is exactly the opposite the issue of Immigration should be handled.
What is your favorite scene in the film?
When Frankie meets the shady immigration lawyer. First, because the lawyer is played by Olan Montgomery, one of the most underrated actor in New York City today. Second, because that scene revolves around the main theme of the movie that can be sum up as “What’s your life worth, if you can’t achieve your dreams?”
We all want to know! What happened to Frankie after the gun goes off?
I’m really happy you asked me that because if you care about Frankie’s fate, that means the open-ending actually paid off. I know exactly what happened, and that’s why I wrote the script for the feature film of Frankie called “The Green Card Lottery.” I’m trying every single day to find somebody interests in producing it and I know I’m gonna do it, the idea is too powerful to be ignored. Actually, if you know anybody who can help me out, my phone number is 917 246 1835 (yes, that’s my real number).