Livia de Paolis’ Filmmaking Journey

Giles Alderson and Lucinda Rhodes Thakrar chatted with ‘The Lost Girls’ producer, writer, director and actor Livia De Paolis.

‘As a filmmaker, if it’s your material, if you’re not hired or attached to the project, you’re the one making it happen at the end of the day.’

Making Her Film

Livia said that making her film was like ‘problem-solving. 

I have a friend in Los Angeles, who works primarily as an assistant director on big TV series, but she has been a consulting producer on my first feature, my short, and my second feature. 

She doesn’t have the capacity to drop everything and become my producer. But she’s the one that reads the script, we can bounce ideas, and she’s very helpful. A friend/mentor.’

Being a Producer

‘I could have said I’m taking an executive producer’s credit instead of a full producer’s credit. But the truth is I have worked on this film to the end. And at the end, you’re the one that’s wrapping and sorting out things from a year ago. It’s not that I walked on set and directed the actors. And talked to the editor and everything was taken care of.

I feel like I deserve it. That doesn’t mean that during the shoot, I was not really dealing with any practical things that did not pertain to creative choices and ways to make them happen.’

How it Started

Livia’s family were in the industry as she was growing up, so she was aware of the process of filmmaking and what was needed to make a film.

She then became ‘very immersed in the theatre in New York’. Her friend and she decided to write a feature together but Livia had ‘no directing ambitions.

I’d never thought about being a director. I was already convinced that the script needed to be directed by a woman. And, of course, I had no money but I knew a lot of people in the theatre, which is a tight community.

I didn’t know anybody in the film industry but was introduced to this woman who became the consulting producer on all of my projects, and she advised me and guided me.’

Dreaming About Everything including the Set Curtains

With ‘The Lost Girls, I had obsessive thoughts about the curtains or the little details.

First thing in the morning, I’d wake up and think about the curtains in that scene, I don’t like the colour of them. What can I do?’

She’d be completely immersed in the film world that it infiltrated her normal life.

From Her First to Her Second Film

After making her first film without any money – asking for favours, and not really knowing what she was doing from day to day, her second film was very different.

‘In my first feature, I had a director of photography named Alex Disenhof who shortly after doing that became a star. He’s very talented, very serious and very passionate. He was really young, but he had me and the camera department making the film, which is wonderful; because it was a very small crew. 

Not to diminish anybody that was working. Everybody was at their first job or looking for an opportunity to make a movie but Alex was probably the most experienced because he had done a couple of very low-budget features. 

And at the end of that film, I offered him a co-directors credit because I felt that his contribution was that big’ but he didn’t want to jeopardise any future DoP jobs.

The Story of The Lost Girls

‘It’s an adaptation. I read this book in 2003 when I had no ambition to direct any movies, but I did think, this would make a beautiful movie.’

She loved the book so much that she gifted it to some of her friends. And it was Sarah, her co-writer for The Lost Girls, who came up with the idea to adapt the novel into a screenplay.

‘We came up with the story together, but she was the one that said we should write something together.’ After Emoticon ;), Livia made a short as soon as she could, and then went on to writing.

Livia’s Process

She said that she wishes that she had storyboarded more. ‘We did some sequences, and very roughly storyboarded with the DP, but just with an app, not a real storyboard.

One thing that I learned is that I would like to have more prep time for my next feature. Prep time can be stretched quite a bit. The more time you have, the better prepared you are in terms of directing and actors.’

But Livia said that what helps with prep time is casting. When you’re happy with the people you’ve cast, you have to let them do their thing. As an actress myself, different actors need different things. And it’s the skill of the director to figure out what the actor needs.

Some actors need more attention. Some actors need less attention and it’s not just about the time in which they’re performing. Some actors need to be complimented’ which might be sending a text message to tell them how great they are.

Other actors want to just be left to focus and do their own thing. Some want quick notes and others want to be taken to the side for chats.

’It’s a matter of casting and then working with the individuals.’

For more from Livia, listen to her podcast here.

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