Meet Indie Filmmaker: THE CENTER

Director Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli of recent European Dramatic Short submission The Center has a new spin on the old mannequin.

By Katie Tillyer

Q: What is your film about? Can you summarize what happens within it, briefly?

The Center is about the violence of our contemporary societies; the violence we passively absorb through images thrown at us any possible instant of our everyday life. It is a provocative tale about men unable to recognize the reality of their gestures, men gone beyond the capability to discern real from unreal, a human baby from a baby-doll. The protagonist is a plastic baby, taken away from New York City so that he can grow up far from the wave of violence which erupts from the thousands of windows opened onto the world, to then return to the global city once an adult. A mysterious mentor/kidnapper figure brings about this escape. We will meet this figure again at the end, still in New York, when the child has become an adult. A newborn mannequin will be given to him to be saved from the jungle of the global city.

Q: What was the source of inspiration?

The first source was the music for a Harvard ballet performance written by my friend composer Asaf Sagiv the piece was called The Center. The idea was to write about a subject using the listening of the musical piece as a starting point. The script was then further developed with research, in today s world, of the concept of center around which Asaf and the choreographer had based their communal project. New York City represents the contemporary necessity of a new center of reference. NYC was another important source of inspiration.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the casting process how did you choose your actors and actresses?

The casting of the main roles was done, for budget reasons, following neo-realism precepts. The man is an Italian artist-photographer I know well. The mother is a friend of mine. Both had the right qualities I needed for the characters. The man had to be detached from reality becoming almost like a silent hero, half human half god, while the mother had to resemble the human capability of adapting to the environment, in this case wearing a plastic mask, embodying the physicality of a mannequin.

Q: What were some of the major difficulties that you encountered while shooting?

Shooting mannequins. I would never have imagined it could have been so difficult. I had a very hard time in the little boat with the eight-year-old mannequin. Then having to place the tripod without a permit in NYC and shooting a man with a baby-doll wrapped in a blanket in the underground without being noticed.

Q: Can you tell us about the use of news and CCTV footage within the film?

I’ve always been shocked by the violence we find on-line and by how many worlds and private lives can be discovered or accessed with a simple click. I believe this footage, taken from the web, represents well our contemporary life where visual communication has the fastest impact on us, with all its negative effects. Technically speaking I was really fascinated by the challenge of working with material that didn’t belong to the script trying to make it blend harmonically with the footage I shot.

Q: What were the different locations in the film?

New York City Upper East Side and Downtown, Rockaway beach 40 min. from Manhattan and Favignana, Sicily for the eight-year-old mannequin on the boat and the man pulling the boat in the sea. Q: The film depicts scenes of violence, often with children present. Can you tell us some more about the role of children within the film? Kids are everything. They are treasures of our existence, meanings to our future. We can’t allow them to be in contact with the brutality of adulthood. It is our task to protect them from what we create or generate. Kids become mannequins. Could it be the only way to save them?

Q: Tell me about your next project.

I am working on the script for a feature film to be produced in US. It is a family drama freely inspired by a Flannery O’Connor short story.

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