DOMENICO ONORATO was born in Naples in 1983. He studied Theory of Language in Siena and Paris. After obtaining his Master's degree he graduated in Directing at the Civica Scuola di Teatro Paolo Grassi in Milan.
He works as director's assistant at Piccolo Teatro in Milan, Teatro alla Scala and SELA Performing Arts in Tel Aviv.
In 2013 he filmed Avvocato di Strada, a finalist at the Milano film festival. In 2015 he worked as an assistant for Marco Tullio Giordana on the film Lea. In 2018 he was the author of Due Volte, a short film released in more than forty festivals around the world; among the awards, the one for best short films at Rai international festival, Tulipani di Seta Nera. He founded the directing duo Eléphantome Directors, which focuses on fashion films, video clips and commercials, taking care of creativity, direction and photography. For the past nine years he has been studying Vipassana meditation with the poet Chandra Livia Candiani. He works as Story analyst and is now preparing his first feature film produced by Rosso Film.
He is currently living between Rome and Milan.
HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM THEATRE TO FILM DIRECTING?
My interest in cinema came about almost by chance, without even considering that it could become my profession today.
It happened when, as a student of acting and directing, in a particular moment of my studies, I needed to escape, to take a break and get away from everything. When I came back, a collaboration with the Cinema School of Milan for the production of short films was starting. That change of perspective immediately gave me back the desire to work and the enthusiasm I had lost. Once I graduated, I decided I wanted to learn more about that and I attended a seminar on film acting with Marco Tullio Giordana, who chose me as his direct assistant on the set of his film Lea in Rome. He was my greatest teacher.
I am often asked how the transition from theatre to cinema was and my answer is simple, for me the camera is like the proscenium arch space that keeps moving and you can arrange it as you please.
I like to identify with all the characters I have in the script, I go through them one by one to understand what they do, how they move and, based on the scenes that arise, I understand where to go with the camera, where the centre of the action is located and where the strongest emotion is.
YOU HAVE MADE COMMERCIALS, FASHION VIDEOS AND SHORT FILMS FOR THE FASHION FILM FESTIVAL.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CONTAMINATION OF LANGUAGES?
Working for fashion is interesting because it is a field of experimenting; at the moment fashion is less aesthetic than before and is abandoning its usual clichés.
Although the pandemic has given a considerable boost, I think the change had already been underway for some time, and in addition to an analysis that can easily be made by observing the latest video products presented at the Fashion Film Festival, I personally felt it, for example, when I worked for the designer Marco Rambaldi, and he asked us to make a film that not only showed clothes, but also promoted a value, which in that case was "the freedom to feel wrong".
The fusion of languages is a value that we can no longer renounce.
Working with commercials is fascinating because of the challenge of being able to tell the whole story in a very short time, usually 30 seconds or a minute; many great directors have done it and for important brands.
It is also interesting to observe how the style of storytelling has changed in advertising videos, from the description of a traditionally perfect world to a more concrete and realistic one, where the characters depicted are more similar to us and to our daily lives, triggering a process of identification in the audience.
Self-irony and conflict, which have always been necessary in the theatrical and cinematographic context, began to be included in the script, mainly abroad.
And last but not least, it is also important from an economic point of view.
If you can gain the trust of producers, even if you are a young newcomer with talent and ideas, you can find your own place.
This happened to me in France, when I tried to explore the foreign market, and I found a lot of willingness to support my talent even though I didn't have a lot of resources to show it.
THERE IS A POETIC SIDE AND A VERY VISUAL WRITING IN YOUR FILMS, WHICH ARE YOUR POINTS OF REFERENCE?
I have two great cinematic influences that are almost poles apart, but both with an extraordinary narrative capacity: Vittorio De Sica and François Truffaut.
I have a deep respect for De Sica and I also share his origins, I grew up in the province of Salerno and my grandfather was from Naples, like it was for him, Matrimonio all’Italiana was a must in my family.
I first discovered Truffaut one evening in an open-air cinema and was immediately captivated by his way of narrating love, as if it was something always highly dangerous.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN DECODING THE PRESENT? WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF THE FUTURE IN YOUR STORIES?
Deciphering the present is the great challenge, and succeeding in doing it means that you are a true director.
Talking about the future in a story is about capturing the moment before what is about to happen, which is the awkward task of the artist, who has to play the role of Cassandra ...
In 2015, when I started collecting material for the short film Due Volte and began to talk about homophobia and violence against women, at a time when these social issues had not yet gained a strong voice in the public debate, I encountered many obstacles and hindrances. It was not easy to find the necessary funding, and I often felt wrong, discouraged. The words of Chandra Livia Candiani, one of my greatest teachers, were of great help: 'when you feel like a fool and you are doing things that others are not doing, don't worry because you are not going against the tide but with the tide...'.
IS ANYTHING GOING TO CHANGE IN YOUR WAY OF MAKING MOVIES AFTER THESE YEARS OF SOCIAL UPHEAVAL?
Definitely, not because I consciously decide to, but because it is inevitable... everything that has happened and is happening has a great influence on me, it gives me a lot of sadness and a great clarity to identify what is really important, it pushes me to look at myself with frankness... there is no more time to lose, we should be more honest with ourselves… otherwise everything is meaningless.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION OF YOUR ACTORS IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A SCRIPT?
The relationship with the performers always changes and depends on the moment they are involved in the production, if the script has already been closed the possibility for their intervention is smaller, even though I like to give them space. I'm not one of those directors who tells the actors exactly what they have to do, but I always try to keep an eye on what can be generated spontaneously on stage. For the latest film, which is currently in production, the collaboration with the main actor was fundamental; we were very inspired by his life and we practically wrote the subject together.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TODAY TO FIND FUNDING IN ITALY TO PRODUCE A FILM?
Actually, it is not so difficult, but it is hard to find a production company, even an independent one, that gives credit to a young director and decides to provide him with financing.
The situation abroad is different, I am thinking mainly of France, where cinema is held in high esteem, as an effective national heritage; there, the financing is very high, a first work can start from a minimum base of over two million euros and it is not rare for it to reach 4 or 5 million.
In Italy, this is certainly not the case, but it is not impossible to make films; it is better to say that it is not easy to find a lot of money for a director who is making his first film, but we can use ministerial tenders.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOUR ORIGINS IN THE WRITING OF YOUR WORKS AND WHO DO YOUR CHARACTERS LOOK LIKE?
So far, I have written two autobiographical subjects, I have talked about events that are close to my life and where I come from.
My characters are like all the people who lived around me, especially during my childhood, family, friends, aunts, grandparents, the old man in the village, the boy I was in love with and also my childhood self, observer of that world in the making.
ARE YOU WORKING ON A NEW SUBJECT?
My next project is a full-length film set in Milan, about theatre and families. The main character is Alberto Malanchino, who wrote the subject with me, and the production is by Rosso Film ... I can't say anything more than that at the moment ...
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