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Strada Maestra is coming!

Tomorrow will be the day of “Strada Maestra”, the docudrama I recorded last excavation season in Vignale. This is the movie poster!

Stay tuned!

strada maestra


E’ uscito “Raccontando la cisterna romana”

Dopo una lunga fase di post-produzione è finalmente uscito “Raccontando la cisterna romana: giornalisti, schiavi ed altro”, il docudrama realizzato dai bambini di quinta elementare della scuola “D. Alighieri” di Falconara Marittima (AN), in collaborazione con il Comune e la Soprintendenza Archeologica delle Marche.

Il telegiornale, curato dai bambini, svela la storia della cisterna romana di Falconara Marittima, fornendo precise indicazioni individuate sulle fonti. Segue una ricostruzione verosimile di una scena di vita romana alla cisterna e alcune interviste agli abitanti odierni di Falconara. Buona visione!

Some thoughts after the end of the shootings

“Very proud of you guys!!!”

This is what I said to Marco and Samuele, the two main characters of the just-finished filmed docudrama. They were so much in the part that they didn’t want to undress their clothes, they wanted to be still Hilarus and Polibius, the two slaves who look for the cistern. A bit of tiredness on their faces, but also a veil of sadness: the shootings have concluded.

Hilarus e Polibio

Hilarus e Polibio

Not all the children has been involved in their own parts as Marco and Samuele, but I think the major part of them really like this new activity I proposed them almost three months ago. Everyone took part in it as it preferred (journalist, interviewer, actor etc.) and contributed as it could (some suggestion, some help for the set etc.).

Unlike the docudramas I recorded in Vignale, I had more time for organizing it and this has been immediately evident for me after a first glance at the shots. This time I managed to choose the clothes (thanks to a local parish that organize every Christmas a representation of the crèche) and the set for some scenes (two noisy sheeps give a sensation of realism to one of these) more accurately.

As an amateur director, I think I did a good job this time, maybe better than the other docudramas. I used my Canon EOS 500-D for the first time as a video camera and a new tripod, more stable than the others. I can choose where to film, so I found some places without any traces of the XXIth century but only fields of grain and unmade road (that could be dated Ist century AD). Only after finishing the editing I’ll have a confirm about this. There is always the danger of some hidden live wire somewhere!

Campi di grano

Campi di grano

Going on with the editing part, I will find something other to write here. So far, I cut some shots and found some funny clips for the backstage. Children are very funny! Stay tuned!

Recording video with children in a classroom and on the road

Finally I started filming the video.

This morning a crowded and enthusiastic class assisted me in shooting the first part of the footage on the Falconara Roman cistern. Even if only 11 year-old children and her teacher were in the classroom, they were very helpful. Some of them were perfect set assistants and others took care of the make-up of the actresses. During the recording no one made noise and I did a good work.

I decided to film inside a classroom because it was perfect for the newcast part. With the Chroma-Key sheet in the background on the blackboard and the teacher’s desk in front of it, the set was quickly ready. The two journalists, Martina & Martina, acted their parts one after the other with quite different styles:  the first one was more expressive but imprecise, the second one more professional but also quite flat in the tone.

In the classroom

In the classroom

After that I brought with me the three interviewers I had chosen during the casting and we went to the Falconara street market. These brave children asked the people for the cistern. “Do you know something about the Roman cistern?” “Where is it located” “How do you know of its existence?” The results of these interviews are top secret at the moment. Alessandro, Daniel and Camilla were very motivated and indomitable interviewers while the people they asked for seemed not very interested in our work.

On Saturday, with other children,  I’m going to the site of the cistern. It’s not docudrama-time yet, I have to film the rest of the newcast part, with a journalist and her special guests. Of course, I can’t say who these special guests are. Wait for the launch of the docudrama! In the meanwhile stay tuned!

Children, cisterns and docudrama

The work on the new docudrama about the Roman cistern of Falconara goes on. Today it’s an important day for the children who are going to act. My mother (that teaches history to these children) and I assigned the parts.

In the last days I began to write the script, so it’s time to decide the roles. It’s the first time I work with a class of children, I used to choose archaeologists who I know quite well. I can propose some roles because I know them. On the contrary, I didn’t know and I don’t know at present these children. I saw them only three-four times just for some lessons about archaeology and cisterns in general. For this reason my mother’s help was fundamental in order to assigned each role appropriately.

Working with children it can be a double-face experience. You can be overcome with their enthusiasm or screams but, on the other side, you can be carried away by them. All in all, casting  wasn’t the simplest moment for this docudrama so far. The major part of the children rose their hands, they proposed a number of roles for themselves or they wanted to change some parts of the fiction. Some of them were satisfied by our proposals and gave me some useful suggestions. Others were hesitant, they didn’t know if they want to act or to help off-stage.

In the next days they will confirm or not their parts and maybe in a week I’ll manage to begin the shootings.

Marco is a perfect lazy slave while Martina is a professional journalist… Just two names (the only ones I remember at moment) of the 42 children who are going to take part in this docudrama.

Working with children is better.

Ideas in progress for a new docudrama

After two months of silence, some news about my video-archaeological activity. Far from being frustrated by this quite passive stay in Marche, since January I’ve been managing to organize a new docudrama. Slowly.

This time I want to draw  the attention on a Roman cistern located near a little town, Falconara, that is mostly known for an oil refinery than for anything else. Neither ongoing excavation nor other archaeological research, so no time restrictions and no archaeologists as actors… With no budget, the only ones who can help me in this case were some children and, with my mum’s help, I found two enthusiast eleven-years-old classes.

Il poco che è possibile vedere della cisterna di Falconara

This morning I went to the school in order to tell the young students something about this cistern and cisterns in general. As usual, children have the power of being enthusiast of (almost) everything. No one complained about the hard work of extrapolating the information we needed from the main sources but all of them raised their hands at least once to ask something. I think they have understood how the cistern was built and how it worked and I hope, from now until the end of the experiment, they will manage to understand the importance of preserving and communicating their cultural heritage.

The next step with them will be the choice of the roles  for the two parts in which this footage will be structured: a sort of newscast and a re-enactment set near the ancient cistern. I’m going to write the script in the next days: the children gave me some advice but write it all together would be impossible.

Before that I must write a sort of project that the Superintendency asks for using the area of the cistern; this will take a lot because it’s the first time I’m doing it. Knowing the Italian bureaucracy, it’s sure that there will be some complications… But I’m very motivated in succeeding in this work, so stay tuned!

Some comments about “Morte a Vignale”

About a month is passed since the public launch of “Morte a Vignale” at TAG 2011. During this period, I’ve manage to collect a number of opinions about this docudrama, many of them very interesting.

First, it is weird to say that at TAG an archaeologist asked me not for the footage but for the effects of being a digger with a camera in his hands.

“Did your archaeological mind change because of recording on fieldwork?”

“Yes and no. Yes because I need to be ready for recording any interesting episode can happen during the excavation. No because I have to dig the same, there’s no sense in walking with a camera without any scope, I’m an archaeologist, not a director.”

I would answer the same today. I could add that walking around the site recording the hypothesis of the others have helped me to collect the basis for the story I was going to write.

Some younger students of archaeology were really hot for the docudrama:

It’s one of the best way in order to arouse the interest of people for archaeology!

I notice that the archaeologists who act in the docudrama seem to be very involved in the fiction. This is a good point because it balances the non-professional quality of the production.

It gives a boost to people for visiting the site.

I like a lot the double register, the archaeological fieldwork and its re-enactment. It facilitates me to understand how you work in Vignale.”

Others of them were more critical:

Maybe you could take more care of stage costumes; in my opinion they could make the re-enactment more realistic.

The plot is sometime difficult to understand, even if at the end you manage to reassemble all the pieces.

The most difficult audience are the relatives: some of them had difficulty in understanding the passage from fieldwork to its interpretation and re-enactment but all in all they liked “Morte a Vignale”.

I know that this footage could be better, even directing skills, costumes, script, audio etc could be better. But thinking about we didn’t pay any Euro and that we recorded it in two afternoon, all the people that saw it (300 until now) and all these comments show that the work has been worthwhile indeed.

Thank you for this imaginative and just how I see the process of archaeological thought.” (BAJR)