I really didn’t want to dive into the social media pool. Avoided it like the plague, until I said those immortal words, “eh, fuck it.”
The first site I joined up with was MySpace (the pre-Murdoch days), and through that quaint little network came across the music of Francesca DiGiovanna, an immensely talented singer and composer. We developed a mutual admiration for one another’s work, and one day Fran asked me how to make a slide show. She had recorded a cover of her father’s favorite song, Lucio Battisti’s “Il Mio Canto Libero,” and wanted to make a little tribute slideshow to an artist she grew up with.
After making The Fourteen Minute Gap, I was ready for a change of pace. The Gap and a piece preceding it (a promotional film) both dealt with heavy subject matter, filled with facts, figures, intrigue, deception, and an overall sense of “there’s a lot of bad stuff going on.” So, with that confluence of intention, I volunteered to make the video for her as a way to try something new… and not talk political intrigue.
And let’s be honest – when you hear Francesca’s voice, it’s impossible to not fall in love.
Fran sent me a collection of Battisti pictures, and I did what I could with it. As I was piecing it together, it became apparent very quickly that using only pictures for a song like this would have been a disservice, and I wanted to really push myself to try something different.
For about two months, I waffled around, trying to figure out what the hell to do with the video. Then I had a week around Christmas where I didn’t have to go into the office or work on other projects. So I took a shower (a five minute one, not a week-long one). It was in the shower that I decided that I wanted to tell a story using only silent film and archival film footage.
So I sent Fran a quick message that said “I’ve come up with a better video. Trust me.”
Searching through the Internet Archive, I found collections of advertisements, stock footage, and silent films. The “kissing” footage is all from 1896-97, and was considered scandalous. There’s stuff from Thomas Edison’s 1910 version of Frankenstein, of a Tod Browning (director of the Bela Lugosi-starring Dracula and the far-superior Freaks). The most recent stuff in the video is the cartoon footage – done by the Fleischer studios (of the hugely inspirational 1940s Superman cartoons). In fact, looking back on it, the entire video is a love letter to how I grew up with film – watching classic films that my grandfather felt I should see from the age of five.
There was just one remaining challenge: I didn’t speak Italian (and I still have no idea what lyrics are).
Fortunately, I went to music school and majored in composition. So, instead of interpreting the lyrics, I interpreted the music and the rhythm, and used that background in music and percussion to make the moving images a percussion section – adding another layer of rhythm to the song.
To this day, Il Mio stands as the work I’m most proud of, merging Fran’s insanely beautiful voice with my love of silent cinema and film history, and mixing in her love of the Italian Bob Dylan – even though I still have no clue what the dude’s saying.
But I am glad I dove into the social media pool.