Filmmaker Marco Santi expertly plays with pre-conceived notions in his playful and romantic music video for Nother’s song Us. The video, at its core, focuses on the relationship between two chefs amidst a busy and grimy kitchen whose relationship takes a surprisingly sensual turn when the younger chef asks for some much needed advice as he prepares to go on an important date. I won’t explain any more as it’ll spoil the cathartic joy of Santi’s video but it’s a delightful piece of subversive filmmaking that takes a simple concept and infuses it with a wonderful sense of freeing vitality. DN invited Santi for a chat about his continuous working relationship with Nother, the fast-and-hard punk rock nature of Us’ intense production process and the challenge of finding the right actors to bring the film’s core bromance alive in a fun yet authentic way.
The video for Us is beautifully simple in its conceit. How did it all come together with Nother?
The development of the project was really fast. Nother, also known as Stefano Milella, made me listen to the track a few months ago. We knew there would be an opportunity to shoot the music video, but we didn’t know when and we didn’t talk much about it. In the end, the green light for the project came about three weeks before the delivery request… which was a bit crazy, but sometimes it’s nice even so, under pressure with all the difficulties and production stakes of the project. I listened to the song four or five times again and let it settle for a few days waiting for the right idea to arrive. And it did, fortunately. I have been collaborating with Nother for years on various projects. He’s a great composer and there is always mutual trust during our work. Right now I’m asking him for changes to the soundtrack of my latest short and he’s cursing me!
My idea was to create dirty and rough imagery that would contrast with the sensuality and melancholy of the song.
It’s a video which plays with prejudices both thematically but also visually. How did you find establishing that during pre-production?
While the idea was taking shape, I heard Jacopo Pica, the producer of Illmatic Film Group, immediately embraced the project despite the many difficulties, little time, and tight budget. We began to understand how and where to shoot. My idea was to create dirty and rough imagery that would contrast with the sensuality and melancholy of the song. I said this and a little more also to the artist: we were both convinced that we needed a dance made of awkward and clumsy movements. Nother immediately shared my thoughts and left me the freedom to create. Thus was born this small and bizarre story. I haven’t stopped since.
And how did you bring that together on a visual level? Was there something about your Cinematographer Stefano Usberghi that made you think he’d be a great fit for this project?
With the production, we both immediately thought of Stefano Usberghi, a director of photography whom I have always admired a lot but with whom I had not yet been able to collaborate. We couldn’t have made a better choice! Stefano immediately became passionate about the project and did everything to make his contribution. I sent him a draft of the script and we started exchanging references and thinking about what tone we wanted to give to the project.
I deeply love any kind of spontaneous, intimate and clumsy dance.
It’s very much a video that very much relies on the ability of your actors to perform that tonal switch smoothly too. What was the casting process like on Us?
When the search for the cast began my thoughts went immediately to Dino Porzio, an incredible character and person with whom I had already been lucky enough to work with on another music video. The casting director then proposed a second Porzio to me, Antonino, who has the same surname as Dino and was perfect for the project. It was fun to have two Porzios as the protagonists of the video, but above all, they did a great job and worked hard.
Given the swiftness of how it all came together, how long were you shooting and then editing for?
The shooting lasted one day. It was extremely punk and free, with some unexpected happenings, but satisfying and fun. In the end, we managed to bring home what invests in the head. I really want to thank all the crew, who undertook a massive job with a lot of passion. The post-production was very short by my standards, two or three days, but in the end, this was the crazy nature of the project. And, it was cool.
It was extremely punk and free, with some unexpected happenings, but satisfying and fun.
How did you approach the dancing? Was it choreographed or improvised by the actors themselves?
I deeply love any kind of spontaneous, intimate and clumsy dance. I have a collection of videos stolen here and there with ordinary people because I’m a bit crazy about it. I don’t have any dance skills but in this kind of tiny project I didn’t work with a choreographer, I prefer to give space to the actors and slightly correct them. I start with their skills and then choose the moves I like and create the staging. However everything starts from the casting, I wanted three actors with specific dance skills. It was pretty easy to come up with the movements that satisfied me.
And how has your creative collaboration with Nother evolved over the years? What is it about his artistry as a musician that keeps you coming back and working with him again and again?
It seems to me that our artistic growth is proceeding at the same pace, even if we’re on two very different paths. From time to time we have had the opportunity to collaborate and discuss increasingly ambitious projects. As a result we have become much more demanding towards each other. It’s a stimulus to do better and better and a good reason to continue collaborating.
You mentioned at the start that Nother is soundtracking your latest short film, what can you tell us about that in addition to anything else you’re working on at the moment?
Jocu is the last short film I shot. It deals with a robbery that took place in Piedmont in 1945. It’s the first time that I worked with events that really happened and it was fascinating and challenging, even if in a different way than usual. I wanted to experience a different story and approach to what I’ve done so far. It was a nice experience.
Now I’m trying to choose the right projects that can make me grow artistically. I have some good proposals but I can’t say much yet. It’s not an easy choice. I can only say that I’m writing a subject for a feature film. I’m doing it with my closest circle of collaborators and friends. It’s a funny and vital process…