Combining Filmmaking and Literature: Alumna Mariolina Castellaneta
Originally from the region of Puglia in the South of Italy, alumna Mariolina Castellaneta graduated in 2020 with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. Mariolina has recently been accepted for an M.A. in Directing at MetFilm School in Berlin, Germany.
Tell us about your background.
I’ve always wanted to travel and explore the world. Before considering JCU, I wanted to study either in the U.S. or the U.K. However, my parents did not want me to go too far away from home, so I tried to find a compromise. I found out about JCU almost by chance. By then, I knew that it could be the perfect place for an international experience, while also allowing me to stay in my country and close to my family.
Tell us more about being accepted to the M.A. in Directing at MetFilm School in Berlin.
The course is intensive and practical and that’s exactly what I was looking for, especially after I was forced to take one year off because of the pandemic. It’s good to be back on track, doing something that I love.
How did you get interested in filmmaking?
Cinema has always played an important role in my life. I started going to the movies when I was 4. I was such a shy and introverted child and somehow movies kept me company, making me feel less lonely. I would watch as many movies as I could, whenever I got the chance. Sometimes I ended up watching movies I wasn’t supposed to watch, like when my mother caught me watching Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003) when I was only 6. I was having such a blast before she interrupted me! Somehow, I already knew that filmmaking was the right path for me.
How did your English Literature studies help you in your filmmaking efforts?
It’s only when I started attending my first directing workshop that I discovered the importance of my degree in English Literature. Even if I lack some technical knowledge behind filmmaking, such as lighting or photography, I understand the value of form and structure, which are required to tell a story. Good films can do exactly what literature does: they bring people together, helping them to connect.
What professors and/or classes had the most impact on you?
All my English professors had a profound impact on me, but if I had to pick just one class, I think I would go with “Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theories” with Professor Alessandra Grego. I am particularly interested in films that explore the concept of identity, and that class, along with current events, has inspired me to think more about race, gender, and sexuality. In my opinion, cinema is not just art or entertainment, but it can also be the highest form of social critique and activism. That is why I’d like to create films that provoke stimulating conversations and explore unique stories that are inclusive and socially conscious.
What challenges do you foresee as a future filmmaker?
As an aspiring artist, I already know that one of the biggest challenges will be breaking into the industry as a woman. Filmmaking is difficult enough, but if you are not a white heterosexual man, it is ten times harder. The #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up organization have paved the way for many female filmmakers out there, but there’s still a long way ahead of us. I think we will overcome it eventually, but we still have to fight for equality.
What tips and advice would you give to someone interested in filmmaking?
I would give the same advice that was given to me: if you want to pursue a career in filmmaking, do it because you love it and because you don’t want to do anything else. Cinema can be a challenging, competitive business, especially when you have to rely on your creativity in order to “sell” a product. Be ready to struggle, but also to fight back with passion. The second tip, the most important one, is to always treat people with respect, dignity, and kindness. Put aside your ego in the name of collaboration and be ready to talk less and listen more. Stand up for injustice when you see it happening, and as a storyteller, always use your voice to echo other people’s experiences as well as your own.
What are three movies that everyone should watch and why?
This question is so difficult to answer! I will go with my top 3 of the last 5 years: Parasite (2019) by Bong Joon-ho because it is a masterclass in storytelling and directing. The way it reverts clichés and blends different genres together is astonishing; The Rider (2017) by Chloé Zhao, because is a beautiful and delicate portrayal of an American hyper-masculine culture that comes from a young Chinese female filmmaker; Sorry to Bother You (2018) by Boots Riley, because it is an anarchic tale of modern slavery in the form of an absurd and witty comedy.
What are your plans for the future?
I just want to be a better storyteller, that’s my main goal. I want to tell stories for a living, and I am willing to do everything I can in order to achieve that, so I really can’t wait to start my M.A. In the meantime, I want to watch as many movies (possibly in person at my local movie theater) and tv shows as I can.