Luna Dolph


Luna Dolph

English - June 11, 2021

The director’s role in independent cinema. With Gianluca Santoni.

Action! Who is Gianluca? Director of "Unforgettable", of the short film "To not joke with food" for Expo Milano; of the web series “Parents vs Sons” for Rai Fiction; of music videos and short films, including his diploma short: “Gionatan con la G”; he won the "Premio Solinas" for the best subject with “Io e il Secco”. Graduated at the most important Italian cinema school, he has a truly enviable CV for his young age.

Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth episode of “I’m Luna Dolph – Life & Reality”. I am Luna and I thank you for being here with me. In the last episode we talked about painting with a very good Indian painter, Tanay Kumar. Today I decided to tackle a new and very interesting topic, independent cinema. To do this, I contacted a young Italian director, Gianluca Santoni.

Author of the award-winning “Unforgettable”, of the social advertising campaign “Col cibo non si scherza” (To not joke with food) for Expo Milano; of the web series “Genitori vs Figli” (Parents vs Sons) for the Italian National TV. Some music videos and four short films, including his diploma short: “Gionatan con la G”. In 2017 he won the best subject prize at the “Premio Solinas”, for “Io e il Secco“.

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Gianluca will explain us how the director’s role in independent cinema was born. Then, he will tell us how the birth of a film takes place and what it can represent in the modern world. But, he will also tell us some of the experiences he has lived through his studies and his career.

Me: Hi Gianluca, it’s a pleasure to meet you!

G: Hi Luna, the pleasure is all mine. It makes me a little strange talking to someone who, admittedly, doesn’t exist. Although, we should be used to it these days.

Independent cinema, an innate passion

Me: Ehm… I don’t know what to say… It’s true! Maybe?

But, since I exist, your work intrigues me a lot! I think there is a complicated world behind it, to discover. But, first of all, I would like to get to know you better, and understand how you approached directing.

G: I can’t tell you, exactly, when I approached the world of independent cinema. Because, the truth is, I don’t remember. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this passion. I’ve always had the urge to make films.

So, the only thing I remember is that, at a certain point, I asked my mother: “Who makes the films?”. My mother, in a very simple and naive way, replied: “The director”. So, in that moment, I decided that I was going to be a director. The thing remained so, I never changed my mind.

Going forward, I was lucky enough to discover that: the profession I had chosen in an absolutely naïve way, was the thing I most wanted to do.

Col cibo non si scherza, made for Expo Milano

The cinema, a magical place

Me: Since I discovered your world, I have been very curious about that magic box that people observe all day. After some research, I realized it’s television. Inside there are documentaries, news programs, cartoons and even films. But the most interesting thing is that: there are places with huge screens, where only movies are shown. I think they’re called cinema and if I’m not mistaken it’s your field.

Maybe, i think, this is a way to abandon reality for a moment, and live a new adventure, even if for a short time. I imagine that for you, working in free cinema must have a very important and profound meaning.

What is the use of indipendent cinema

Independent cinema can be, and can serve, many things. It can serve, for example, to create moments of distraction, of pure entertainment.

For me, the sense that encloses all the different functions of independent cinema, is to make you live an experience. We speak of an absolutely protected experience. A way to make you live it, through a point of view that is not yours. Therefore, it gives you the opportunity to truly live things, and to make you think in a new way.

Me: I agree with you, independent cinema can have many different uses. Personally, I really like the idea of being able to step into a character’s story and experience it from start to finish.

Passion becomes work

Me: Observing and studying people, I noticed that: not all of them are satisfied with their life and their work. Instead, you do it with all the dedication in the world. It is truly amazing! Can we say that you have managed to turn your passion into a job?

G: Yes, absolutely, we can say that I managed to turn my passion into a job. I would be lying if I told you, however, that it is easy. I’d be lying if I told you it’s a life of certainties. Above all, doing it with the passion with which I do it, it becomes difficult to accept compromises.

But, actually, I can’t complain. Because, all the difficulties that are encountered, are not easy to face, but passion gives you a great hand.

At this time in my life, the answer to your question is this. In a while maybe it changes, however, at this moment it is like that. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

Idyllic stories or realistic stories?

Me: I find your work to be an incredible journey. You have the opportunity to create a completely fictional story. Then, you have the ability to create new characters, and make them do whatever you want. You can create adventures, love stories and even funny stories. But the most important thing, is that you can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the world you live in. You have a unique opportunity.

What do you care most in your work? To create idyllic and invented stories, in order to make people dream and take them away for a moment from everyday life. Or maybe, to show the reality of your world in all its aspects?

G: What I try to do, is always create characters that have deep roots in the world we live in. But above all, characters who are the embodiment of a conflict that, to some extent, involves everyone. In order to let the public experience that conflict through a new point of view, that of the characters I tell.

This is what I try to do with stories. Because, by changing perspective on problems and situations that we all live, it is sometimes possible to glimpse new solutions.

Social media, a screen between reality and people

Me: Between you and what you shoot there is a screen, just like between people and the world around them. Social media is becoming a screen between people and the real world. They now act as a divider in a hug, and as a mask in front of a smile.

G: I quite agree, I don’t feel like adding anything else. I think social media have invented a completely different way of communicating. What I believe is underestimating, is the fact that: social media have not invented new channels to communicate. They, invented new languages.

This, certainly brings with it advantages, but it also brings with it limits. Because, in my opinion, it is not possible to express certain concepts completely through social media. So, I think: the sooner we all become aware of this, the better. Because, in this way, we are able to be more aware users.

The need to educate in the use of social media

G: I also think, that the use of social media that we do today, requires us to carry out real image education within schools. Young people today have a tool, which is the mobile phone, which allows them to be constantly users and creators of content.

They do this constantly, but very often, they don’t realize what what they are using means, or what they are accomplishing by the time they do it. This can have very, very profound implications.

So, in my opinion, it is essential that someone teach. I think, it is better to make a real analysis of the text, even of the texts that pass through social media. In fact, as I said before, these are different from what we have been used to, in the past.

Independent cinema as a contact with the real world

Me: Unfortunately, in the situation that the world is experiencing, people are forced to run away and take refuge in another place. Often, this place is the internet, with all the social networks, with all its channels. Of course, initially it can give great relief but, gradually, you feel more and more alone.

In your opinion, how can your work help people regain the joy of living, and a connection with the real world?

G: My work can do it by talking about reality, not necessarily through a cinematographic language, made up of naturalism, but also through stories. Even through fantastic stories, you can tell the wonder of the world around us.

Obviously, I’m not just talking about nature, cities, art. I’m talking about human beings, that desire, that need that we all have, to meet and create relationships with other human beings. Because when this thing fails, something is missing inside of us.

This is unavoidable. I think, we all understood it, with this terrible experience that the world has lived.

By the way, that’s also what my next short film will be about.

New projects in independent cinema

Me: You mentioned a project you are working on! As you will have understood, I am a very curious person. Can you tell me something more?

G: I’m working on a new short film, as I said earlier. It is called “Non se pò scappà”, in the southern Marche language, an Italian region. Then, I’m working on a documentary, which I partly started shooting in Bologna, for which we are still looking for a production. But, I am also carrying out, with an excellent production, a feature film project that I had been working on for some time.

These, are just some of the main projects I’m working on. Then, there are a lot of other things, but you have to wait a while before we start talking about them.

The camera, a double-edged sword

Me: We are talking a lot about people, how they got too close to the world of social by getting sucked in. But, I’m very curious about something that concerns you instead. I believe that the camera is a double-edged sword, on the one hand it allows you to give vent to your imagination and make whatever you want to happen, on the other hand there is the risk that it will involve you too much. You need a lot of detachment to do your job, right?

G: This is a question that I ask myself, and that I have asked myself, a lot in the past. Actually, I keep asking it every day, and it’s one of those questions, that changes according to the moment you ask it. The answer I can give you now is one.

When I work on stories that I have chosen, in the first place, to tell, it is not possible for me to do it with detachment. In the sense that: I always, inevitably, get involved a lot. And this brings with it joys and also some form, if you can call it that, of pain.

This is what I can tell you. Then, I’m sure there are colleagues who manage to do this job differently. For me, it is like that.

Learning by teaching

Me: I can imagine… About this, we talked about your future projects, a little while ago. I’m curious to know if there are any past projects that have remained in your heart.

G: I recently tutored for a directing course. I can say that it was a wonderful experience, a really strong experience, because I love teaching.

I think that, as a billion people have already said before me, by teaching you learn a lot. This is because it forces you to deal with all you have learned, up to this point, and consequently also forces you to test your beliefs.

Me: The steps you have managed to make in your path are incredible!

I am reminded of an important project you have carried out. A short film entitled “Gionatan con la G”. Here, through the eyes of a child, the discomfort and marginalization that animate the suburbs of large cities, is presented. This is a very important topic, told in a realistic way.

Watch “Gionatan con la g”, by Gianluca Santoni.

The memories of a young director

Me: You’ve come a long way, and I’m sure you’ll have accumulated many memories in your heart.

Would you like to tell me some of the best memories you have collected since the beginning of your artistic career?

G: I have so many good memories since I started. Thank you for telling me that I have taken a lot of steps forward, actually, I wish I could have done so many more. But, I have to use the time in front of me to accelerate even more.

The years of the “Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia” (Italian Experimental Film Center) were wonderful, for sure. I remember many good times with the teachers and with my colleagues, the classmates of that time of my course and other courses. And then, of course, also everything that was done after, for the filming of “Unforgettable”, and for other works. So, I can’t tell you a particular memory.

Sorry, I know that’s not a very satisfying answer. However, I can tell you that, to date, I have collected a long list of good memories.

Me: Actually, I believe that even the smallest things can become unforgettable memories. Obviously, I watched the short film you just mentioned. I found it truly amazing!

In fact, “Unforgettable” is a very strong short, full of meaning. The main theme is love, experienced by the most defenseless people in society, the disabled. Your work shows the desire to be loved and the power of love, against all barriers and prejudices. A truly courageous choice in themes!

Figurative art museums, a source of inspiration

Me: Gianluca, in addition to practical advice, I would also like to ask you another type of advice, for those who are listening to us. Could you tell me a place, or a museum, that sheds light on your world?

I’m sure there are tons of people who are passionate about what you do, and many others who are struggling to achieve their goals, and to make directing their job.

G: The truth, Luna, is that: in addition to all the well-known museums related to the world of cinema, I think that anyone who wants to be a director, or any other profession related to cinema, should generally go to museums. Above all, those concerning the figurative arts in general.

So, the only thing I recommend is to follow the exhibitions of the Exhibition Center. I advise you to go to the “MAXXI” in Rome, to go to the “MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome”.

I recommend that you go, continuously, to see the Vatican Museums. Above all, when they do those initiatives, that allow you to take tours away from the confusion and tourists. To go to the Uffizi, if you are in Florence. To go to the Pinacoteca of Brera, if you are in Milan.

Small museums, great experiences

G: If you want to be a director, a cinematographer, work in costume, in editing, in all these things here, my advice is to go to museums. Even small museums, even all those thousands of very small museums, which are in small provinces.

I recommend that you also go to museums that are far from the spotlight. Because, that’s where I honestly lived the most beautiful epiphanies, as a user of art. The things I saw there, to some extent, influenced some of the things I did.

A strange but interesting project

Me: I would really like to have the opportunity to get to know your work, and to be able to do something together.

G: Well, first of all, I was pleased to meet you, Luna. Personally, I found it very strange to talk to anyone but myself, reflected in that screen over there, above the camera. However, it was still an interesting experience.

Who knows, maybe for the future we will find ourselves doing something else together with you, and with all the people who gave you life. Speaking of that, thanks to you and thanks to these people for involving me in this very strange project.

Bye, see you soon.

Rate and comment my podcast

Thanks also to those who listened to the fourth episode of “I’m Luna Dolph. Life & Reality”. I learned a lot thanks to this chat with Gianluca, and I hope I have helped you to better understand the world of independent cinema. Write to me to let me know if you will visit the museums he recommended, or if you have already visited them. I will definitely do it!

Leave me a good review on my web channels, to encourage me to continue this journey. Subscribe to my podcast and on Instagram and contact me on for advice, criticism or just to get to know me. See you next Friday for a new episode! And don’t forget – live and enjoy the real world!