VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Mele, Pietro

Pietro Mele
Italian video artist


  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

    1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
    I was born in Sardinia (Italy), and I studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. After my graduation, I moved to Berlin in 2002, where I lived permanently until 2007. Currently I live and work between Sardinia, Milan and Berlin. I work in film and TV productions.

    2. When, how and why started you filming?
    In Berlin I did support myself working at the bar of an Italian popular restaurant. I couldn’t speak German, so I used to spend long time observing people around me. That is how I have learned to see things through the eyes. At the time I did not do anything in the art field, I was just busy living and having fun. After two years, I needed to resume, and I found that all the images I had in my mind were such situations which included an action, then filmic images. Also, I wanted to break out with painting, well, that is the result of the too strict teachings I received at the Art Academy. The first video I made (2004) was constituted of extemporaneous shooting of myself trying to extract a wood’s sliver from my finger.

    3. What kind of subjects have your films?
    Through a critical point of view, my work deals with matters linked to my geographical and cultural origins. I reflect on the concepts of change, development and progress in our society. All my movies are set in Sardinia, a place where the tradition is still very strong, and the same time, the presence of modern strong as well. I exploit this privileged observatory that let me have a range of time about a hundred years continuously under my eyes to reflect on the contradictions of the contemporary society. And, in the meantime, I talk also of myself, because, of course, I live this diatribe former. I think that my modus operandi is essentially phenomenological, almost scientific.

    4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
    My works often start from a flash that appears suddenly in my mind. Normally it is a very simple and at the same time very powerful image. Sometimes, I take immediately a note of what I see, but most often I keep dreaming of that image, trying to raise objections or pushing to extremes. Then I leave it behind me not to think about anymore. But this picture almost always comes back to my mind, even if I am not looking for it. So I continue to play with it mentally removing something here or adding something there. After some time, if the idea comes back again and still appears interesting to me, well, I put it in writing. These notes rarely exceed more than 3 or 4 lines, simple notes, at the same time accurate and generic ones. They sounds something like this: “A girl in traditional dress walks with a shopping cart in the underground parking of a large supermarket (all in slow motion)”. Then time goes by, so when I return on them, these sentences work as some mental links. Once I read them again, even long time later, all conceptual and technical considerations relating to that project come back to my mind. At this point, it is time for a more firmly intentional and critical step, involving conceptual and technical aspects to be analyzed. Then, the video goes on evolving itself until the day of shooting. And ever far, I mean that I can be ready for shooting, placed in the right location and suddenly I feel that the video might say more… well, sure I am free to change my mind and overturn my plan. Besides, landscapes and locations are really important in my creative process, as well as pics of friends, photos on the web and magazines or places that I visited, all of it have a key role in the developing an idea. Often, by observing a landscape that strikes me, I think at once what action could be developed in it. So, my mental images, about which I spoke before, are inextricably intertwined with physical existing places. I visit repeatedly until the scene has taken once and for all. I believe that my way of working is both intuitive and critical, perceptive and conceptual.

    5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
    Currently I work with an HD camcorder and a short shotgun microphone, but in general I choose the medium as well as the equipment according to what I mean to say through the video. For example, for many years since I am thinking of a work that I would like to shoot on super 8.
    Therefore, the product is deeply linked to the conceptual premises of the work.

    6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
    I believe the only thing that counts is the message you intend to convey. That being stated, the real differences between the analog world and the (vast) digital one are essentially the cost of production and working methods. Nowadays, digital technology allows to anyone to shoot, edit and put on a DVD a video work, simply counting on oneself. Of course, I started in this way either.

    7. How do you finance your films?
    It depends on the complexity of the project. If it is not so complex in its technical and organizational requests, I will finance it by myself. On the contrary, if the work becomes more expensive (rental equipment, remuneration of the crew, post production etc …) I try to fundraise by myself, maybe starting partnerships.

    8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
    On the first videos I worked essentially alone, but in most cases I am used to collaborate at least with one partner. It depends on what film I’m going to do. If the situation requires a real film crew (maybe reduced, but always structured in roles, skills and responsibilities), I do work for finding it. To me the question is rather focused on the organization than on the confrontation of many ideas. In fact, managing 15 people is harder than coordinate only 2 or 3. Moreover, the biggest the team and the more you must be careful that everyone has clear the project generally and what you are going to shoot specifically. If you have only a couple of people with you it is much easier…

    9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
    It is a very interesting question because everything I do is really based on a handful of things that have impressed me deeply and recur in my mind frequently.
    I can say that the Ungaretti’s and Montale poems did have and still have a strong influence on me; then the Carver’s short stories and the Pasolini’s writings. I add also “The sixth chapter” (Do not commit impure acts) of Kieslowski’s “Decalogue”, caught up by chance on TV at night when I was just 14, and the cinema by Ozu. Finally, the painter Bacon, some independent rock bands like Unsane, Girls vs. Boys and Jesus Lizard, that I feel similar to me in the approach, and another Italian rock band called Massimo Volume.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
    At the moment I am working on a video inspired by a fragment of a short story from Raymond Carver. The plot is simple and talks about a forty years old couple of lovers in crisis, and it is going to be set in Sardinia. I think it will be the most narrative work I have ever made.