Erie International Film Festival - Selva Oscura

 

A music documentary exploring the creative process during the making of a music video for the song Stolidi Pensieri.

Interview with Writer/Director John Welsh

 

Congratulations! Why did you make your film?

We started production of Selva Oscura in January 2017 with a very rough idea and it was without a title. It involved creating a dance video with original music backing it. But there was no song chosen, no style of dance, no performers, we just had an empty canvas. And we really had no plans to make a documentary about creative collaboration either. But once the pieces came together, we (well, at least I did) found the story behind it even more interesting than the music video itself.

Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?

This film is a glimpse into the process of filmmaking and collaboration that not many see. Though we worked at a fast and intense pace, we luckily had no major hurdles or drama (except for when I overflowed the coffee maker at our rental house in the Pennsylvania Wilds). So, for the general audience, we hope they appreciate a well-told story and enjoy the process of music creation and how it merged with dance. For viewers that are in the creative professions, we hope it inspires and shows that with a group of people all working towards the same goal, a lot can be accomplished with a small budget.

How do personal and universal themes work in your film?

I think the recurring theme of a journey that’s throughout this film coincidentally reflects what most of the cast/crew were experiencing in their lives over the past year or so. So the timing was perfect and the concept of a journey fit well. For me, I guess I’m always on a journey and I look at my work as constantly evolving, but during the making of all of this it never felt that way. I was focused on wearing the many hats needed to complete the project since it’s a small indie production. So any journey I may have been on was overshadowed but the sheer amount of work it took to drag this into existence.

 Left to Right: Dancers Margot Steinberg, Candace Eaton, Caitlin Green and CelineMcBride in a dance scene from Selva Oscura.

Left to Right: Dancers Margot Steinberg, Candace Eaton, Caitlin Green and CelineMcBride in a dance scene from Selva Oscura.

How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?

Like a lot of documentary films, you don’t always know where you’re headed until a wild card appears during production. But this was different in that it was more of a living project. Every time we made progress and made a specific style choice, during the writing or recording of music for example, the project grew in a different direction. The important part was for us to honor those changes and to trust each person in the cast or crew shared the same vision.

What type of feedback have you received so far?

It’s so early in the process we don’t really have feedback other than our own inner circle of viewers and what we think we accomplished. We finished the film in September 2017 and Erie, PA was the first submission & acceptance at a festival, so we also are curious for that feedback.

Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?

No matter the feedback, I look at all of this as evolution in professional development. So I hope there are challenges and questions about our filmmaking decisions which can then turn into a powerful development tool for future projects.

What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?

Since this if our first official unveiling at a festival, and online (other than our own lead up & promotions), we are very happy to have the opportunity to see the work recognized. And hopefully through that, we’ll extend network of creative people for future work.

 Songwriter Jacopo De Nicola, working on a new bass guitar track for the song Stolidi Pensieri which is the basis for the music video in Selva Oscura.

Songwriter Jacopo De Nicola, working on a new bass guitar track for the song Stolidi Pensieri which is the basis for the music video in Selva Oscura.

Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?

Film Festival Directors and journalists are a key part of getting our film out there right now and through them we are hoping for increased exposure. For 2018 we are planning an event aimed at the local (Philadelphia) professional creative market. It will be more of a discussion about the details and efficiency of the process, but will also include a screening and maybe we’ll even surprise the audience with improvisational live music and dance. Then once it’s through the festival circuit we’ll aim towards public screenings.

What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?

I’m hoping this film will be a motivator for creative professionals that will engage them as we all try to figure out this new landscape of digital media and production. When I think of music and dance in general, they are about celebration and even though this is a business for all of us, I’m hoping this creates space for lighter moments as we explore different ways of storytelling.

What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?

If I were to ask a question it would be along the lines of how we decided on a song, how it was transformed and how that process unfolded and influenced the elements of dance.

Would you like to add anything else?

I think the importance of having a cast/crew that knew how to balance their creative egos is key. I had hoped that if we gave everyone enough space to work, they would bring their best, and really work towards the overall goal creating something genuine. And this happened with our project, so I consider myself lucky. This was the most professional yet also enjoyable group of people I have worked with to date.  

 Location scouting photo from the Pennsylvania Wilds, near Hammersley Fork, where the dance segment of Selva Oscura was filmed.

Location scouting photo from the Pennsylvania Wilds, near Hammersley Fork, where the dance segment of Selva Oscura was filmed.

What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?

In 2018 I’m finishing up a documentary based on industrial heritage and coal mining culture which has a huge but unseen impact on the state of Pennsylvania. As far a new projects, I’m already in the beginning stages of planning a new music based documentary where the concept will be to bring together diverse musicians and place them in a very foreign, yet inspirational environment and see how create together. It sounds like a reality TV format, but it’s going to be anything but that…just pure documentary, no sensationalism involved!

 

Interview: December 2017

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We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us?  More info: Carmela

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Selva Oscura

A music documentary exploring the creative process during the making of a music video for the song Stolidi Pensieri.

Length: 16:48

Director: John Welsh

Producer: Jacopo De Nicola, Loren McFalls, John Welsh

Writer: John Welsh

Art Direction: Spenser Michaels

Additional Crew: Bridgett Scott, Felicia Perretti, Jorja Brooks

John Welsh is a photographer & filmmaker from Philadelphia. His roots are in photojournalism and he has found new avenues in filmmaking since the decline of newspapers.

Key cast: Jacopo De Nicola (musician & songwriter), Brian Fitzy (violin), Sheila Hershey (Cello), Spenser Michaels (art director), Loren McFalls (choreographer), Caitlin Green, Candace Eaton, Celine McBride, Margot Steinberg (performers).

Looking for: film festival directors, journalists

Social media handles:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selvaoscura2017/

Funders: self-funded

Made in association with: femme.collective, art270 & Tanso Media

Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?

Next private screening is in Philadelphia, December 20 at 8pm at Bourbon & Branch.