This month’s Female Filmmaker is Ludovica Musumeci, an exciting actress, producer and director who’s not afraid to jump in at the deep end.
We chatted about diversity, Boudica Films and why she feels celebrating female filmmakers is so important.
Charlotte: Tell me about what you do.
Ludovica: I’m a writer/ director and I work as a producer as well.
C: What are you working on right now?
L: At the moment I’m going through the last stages of post-production of ‘Mens Sana’, a sci-fi short I wrote, directed, produced and starred in – not as lead, though. I’m a megalomaniac, but not to that extent! Our lead is called Amelia Eve and she’s absolutely brilliant! Also, we have Eugene Simon from GOT as male lead.
The film is almost ready and very soon it’ll be submitted to festivals all around the world.
I’m also currently self-shooting an experimental documentary I wrote and am directing about a 61 year old woman trying boxing for the first time in her life. I decided to shoot it because women after their 40s are underrepresented and ridiculously stereotyped. There is this misperception of older women being alive just to be ‘cute grandmothers’ and to some extent, apart from that their life is over. But here’s the thing: we live longer, we are healthier and I can’t see the reason why people should stop trying new things and challenging themselves after a ‘certain age’. Life can be beautiful, unpredictable and fun at any point. And women can be old, with no kids, no husband (how dare they!) and yet, be bloody cool. Even in their 60s. I also want young girls to know that there is nothing wrong or scary about choosing to have a life on their own and that the adventure can last until their last breath. Which is why my lead is a lovely lady with no kids, no husband, who won her fight against cancer, quit her job in IT and went travelling around the world all on her own when she was 51!! (I love that woman, in case you didn’t notice).
Sebastian Nanena and I have recently founded ‘Palette Entertainment’, a film production company that aims to make film that are representative of the diversity we have in the UK both behind and in front of the camera. We are still very early stages but we are securing the first projects under the company name and hopefully we’ll start very soon.
Aside from the company, Seb and I are producing a feature horror film, ’Shadowland’. Seb is the lead producer and I came later on board as co-producer.
C: What draws you to a project?
L: I’m attracted by projects that tell the same old story from an unexpected or unheard point of view. I like projects that experiment and push the boundaries. And I like stories that have heart and a message. It doesn’t matter what the message is, but as a movie goer I love when I watch something that makes me think, question my beliefs or realise a perspective I hadn’t thought of.
I don’t want people to just passively watch a movie, I want them to have an enriching experience. Filmmaking requires loads and loads of time, sacrifices and passion that deserve to be rewarded by making something meaningful, something that can raise people’s awareness about unspoken realities or even just inspire people by letting them dare to dream more.
C: How did you get into filmmaking? Was it always something you wanted to do?
L: I never studied filmmaking, I actually have a Bsc in Economics and an MA in Sociology (Culture, Policy and Management at City, University of London). I have always been writing short stories, thoughts, poetries and then when I was 19 I wrote my first book. After a few years (I was 22), published a second one. Filmmaking has always been in the back of my head, but I never thought about it quite seriously because living in Sicily (which is not exactly famous for its filmmaking industry) I thought it wasn’t something that could be done. I always felt like it was a childish dream I had to get rid of.
Then I came to London to undertake an MA and I don’t know, it was something about the energy around me… but it just felt like anything could be possible. So I thought to give it a try.
I co-wrote a short and launched a kick-starter campaign to raise some funds for it. The campaign was successful and I ended up co-directing my first short without having been on a set before. I legitimately hadn’t a clue of what was supposed to be happening. But it was fun, I liked it and I thought I wanted to do it again.
C: You work with Boudica Films, how did you get involved with them?
L: I wanted to have a deeper insight of the film industry, because I wanted to understand where the money were coming from (here’s where my Bsc in Economics kicked in). I just wanted to understand why producers would say yes or no to a script, what were the trends in the industry and how the industry actually worked.
And this is how I started working for Boudica Films. As part of my master I was supposed to have a 24 days work experience in a company of my choice. I looked for film production companies that supported women in the industry and I came across Boudica. They didn’t have any position open, but I sent an email anyway… and then I sent other 4, until they replied. I’m quite stubborn (or driven, it depends on the point of view I guess).
After the work experience ended, I kept on working for them for more than one year. I was keen on working for them, because of their commitment towards women in the film industry and I wanted to be part of it. Last year, they launched a ‘no predators’ campaign to help women who are victims of sexual harassment. I was very proud of being part of that.
Credit: Boudica Films
C: What is the best thing about your job? Is there a part of it that you enjoy most of all?
L: I love bringing the project to life. To create something that didn’t exist before, and now it’s out there, just because you imagined it and you wanted to share it with other people. How cool is that?
And then, all the people involved in the project bring some of their creativity, taste, knowledge to the story and that’s when the magic happens and your project is not yours anymore, but of all the people who believed in it and used their passion to turn a vague vision into a solid reality.
C: How do you personally try to increase diversity in filmmaking? Is there something you wish every filmmaker would do to try and make a difference?
L: On ‘Mens Sana’ I made sure that at least 80% of the crew was composed of female filmmakers. And I wrote a female-led script. The short documentary I’m shooting (working title) has a 61 year old woman as lead. The company I recently co-founded aims to promote diversity within the industry.
The film industry can really shape our society. My MA final dissertation investigated whether having more female filmmakers in key roles would change the way stories are told and, as consequence, the public’s perception of women’s roles and attitudes. Well, it does. Filmmakers have a strong social responsibility, and everyone should be aware of that.
There is one thing called ‘homophily’, which is people’s tendency to hire and work with people similar to them (same cultural and economic background, gender, hobbies). Homophily is very present in the film industry, and this is one of the reasons why middle-aged, middle-class white men are predominant in the industry. I wish other filmmakers would push their comfort boundaries and embrace diversity.
Diversity is enriching and the stories we tell as filmmakers can be so much more kaleidoscopic and interesting if we recognise the power (and also harmony and balance) that perspectives and ideas coming from very different experiences can have on a single story.
C: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into filmmaking?
L: I guess it depends on what they want to do. I would definitely recommend them to be entrepreneurial. Don’t wait for people to hire you, put yourself out there. Be brave. Especially if you have no contacts and you never studied filmmaking.
Be innovative, there are people now filming on iPhones. Don’t be scared to dare and don’t bother too much about failure. Failing is healthy, because it makes you question yourself, and when that happens you grow both as a person and as an artist.
Be resilient, the industry is competitive and there are loads of extremely talented people out there. But above all, before having to deal with all of that, take a long afternoon off, sit down, take a pen (or a tablet, because we are millennials) and ask yourself: ‘Do I really want to be a filmmaker? And if so, why?’