Giorgio Serafini chats with INFLUX Magazine

by Nav Qateel

Director Giorgio Serafini is a filmmaker who’s been in the business since 1986, and known for making entertaining action B-movies and Italian TV shows. From working in Italian TV and making both films for Italy and the US, Giorgio’s career has been quite an interesting and varied one. He has acted, edited and produced, giving him an intimate and rounded knowledge of the business from both sides of the camera. In 2010 he made his first full-on Hollywood action film, Game of Death, which starred Wesley Snipes and Zoe Bell, then followed a thriller, Johnny’s Gone. More recently the writer-director has worked with the likes of double Oscar-nominated Peter Bogdanovich, Hunger Games‘ Isabelle Fuhrman, Vinnie Jones, Dolph Lundgren, Billy Zane and Gianni Capaldi. Giorgio was kind enough to talk to us.

Nav Qateel. When did you get into filmmaking and what was it that made you decide this was what you wanted to do?

Giorgio Serafini. When I was 9-10 year old I started shooting short movies on Super8 film with school friends. The first one was a spoof of The Persuaders a British TV series with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. My friends and I loved that series.

I spent most of my teens either at rock concerts or at the Museum of Cinema of Brussels. Movies have been my passion as far as I can remember. I don’t know if a specific film influenced me. I believe that the first film for “grown-ups” my father took me to watch was The Bridge On The River Kwai. It must have been a re-release. I’m not that old. Bridge had a great impact on my taste for stories in which the boundaries between good and evil are not clear. Stories that show men and women as victims of their social and historical background.

A big influence on my work was Frank Daniel creator of the Sundance Institute for screenplays. He is the one who told me:”screenwriting is simple but not easy.”

In college I studied Political Science and International Relations. While in college I was making money working as a receptionist in a hotel. I used that money to produce a semi-professional short movie: The Nickelodeon Type. It was a black&white homage to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, shot in 16mm. The fact that the film was selected to several Festivals was probably the trigger factor for the start of my career. Shortly after that I became the recipient of the European Script Fund and was able to develop The Good War a film about Italian POWs in Texas with Roy Scheider I shot in 2000.

NQ. Who were your influences and why?

GS. I am a big fan of David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Brief Encounter) mostly because I like how he always takes us on a journey, sometimes a huge one, by following a single character. He had a great sense of storytelling. I don’t think that any of my films were influenced directly by his style, but Lean is one of the reasons why I like to do films.

The list of directors that have influenced me is very long. So long that I don’t even believe I can make a list. I watch as many films as I can, of all periods and countries, all of them have influenced me in one way or another.
Rock music has a very strong influence in my work. I listen to music as I go on the set and I listen to my iPod during lunch break. It helps me to get into the right mood.

NQ. Is there a particular genre you prefer doing and if so, why do you prefer that one in particular?

GS. I love to do period pieces. Amongst the TV series I did in Europe, one was set in 1920, the other in 1515. I also shot The Good War set in 1946. I love to do research and try to understand a world that doesn’t exist anymore and to spend quite some time immersed in that world. Creating a world that doesn’t exist anymore can be as far out as to do a sci-fi film. The farthest is the period, the more the fun.

Recently I’ve done mostly action films. It’s a lot of fun for completely different reasons. To do an action film in 17-days is a real challenge. With the right crew, that challenge can be fun. The trick with those kind of productions is to try to be as creative as possible in the frame of that kind of movies.

NQ. Is there a film you would love to tackle or a book you would love to buy the rights to and turn it into a film?

GS. There’s a beautiful book written by a son about his transgender father. It reads like a letter. It’s an emotional story of acceptance. A beautiful tale of universal love. It is the story of a son who tries to understand his father – and finally does so. That may be my pet project if I could find the money.

NQ. You’ve done several TV series’ in the past. Is TV now behind you or would you ever consider trying a TV show again if the right material was to come your way, because TV shows are now big business with A-list actors working on them now?

GS. I’ve shot several Italian TV series. The problem with these shows is that they stay a local product. An Italian TV series, even if a huge success, is seen in Italy, in the Eastern countries and, maybe, in South America. Once I come back to the US no one cares about what I did in Italy.

From now on I am interested in doing only English-speaking shows that can be seen in many territories.

I am planning to return to TV very soon directing a beautiful show set in the 1600 and to be shot all over Europe in the span of a year.

NQ. Your last three movies have been action films with a cast of regular actors; Dolph Lundgren, Vinnie Jones and Gianni Capaldi. What was it like working with the same actors on three films in quick succession?

GS. Same actors, same crew. It was a fun experience. I especially like what we were able to achieve on Ambushed and Puncture Wounds. I am not a fan of what the producers have done with the editing in Blood Of Redemption.

It was a strange and unique situation. By the third film we knew each other much better and were able to experiment more. We start to hang out together, especially with Vinnie and Gianni. Vinnie offered me one of his trademark hats and wore my cowboy hat as we were shooting Puncture Wounds.

NQ. Do you have any plans to make any more films with this trio, because I like the films you’ve put together with this team?

GS. Everything is possible, but I don’t see it happening in the near future. I will definitely continue to work with Gianni. We are very good friends and an excellent team. I would like to find a project in which he can show all of his talent. Gianni is also the producer of one of my upcoming projects.

NQ. In today’s market, just how difficult is it to raise capital to get a film off the ground, and in your experience, is this a common problem for all filmmakers?

GS. It’s never easy to raise money for films. Maybe it’s a bit easier for action. There is still a market for those if you stay under a certain budget. It’s much more difficult if you try to make an indie drama. Still, the possibilities are out there. Yes, I do think that television is making a big difference. The whole market is changing and the quality of the writing is evolving. Television is winning big time versus low-budget movies, with very few exceptions. Not only the scripts and the acting are better, but they are more courageous with their ideas. Strangely enough is that TV today thinks outside the box.

NQ. What’s your new documentary Sin Fronteras / Without Borders about?

GS. Sin Fronteras / Without Borders is a feature documentary about deportation. It follows the story of Sergio Tamai who lives in Mexicali, a bordertown with California. He has rented an old, dilapidated hotel and made it available to the deported. This documentary is more a human drama than a political film. It’s all about what happens to the deported once they are kicked out of the U.S. I believe the most poignant part is when we interviewed wives and children that are separated from their fathers.

It’s a tough documentary because we have tried to be bipartisan and we showed that there is a part of those deported that are criminals.

NQ. What’s next for you and do you have any scripts that you’ve been considering?

GS. I’m currently working on three projects. Two action films and the period TV series. Unfortunately it’s too early to talk about it, but I will definitely send you more info in the next couple of weeks.