Why Filmmaking: Alumna Paola Di Leo

Born and raised in Rome, alumna Paola Di Leo graduated from JCU in 2018 with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Business Administration. She recently earned her Master’s degree in Media Management from The New School in New York City. Paola won The New School’s ‘Fine Cuts 42nd Annual Invitational Film Show’ with her short film ‘Corona Love Story.’

Tell us about your background.
My biggest dream has always been music, but I also wanted to get a degree and continue my education after high school. I entered JCU without a specific major in mind, and then I chose to get a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a Minor in Business Administration. After, I applied for a Master of Science in Media Management at The New School, in New York. I was very happy when I was accepted and granted a President’s Scholarship. Also, during my studies, I have kept pursuing my music career as a singer and songwriter, releasing my debut EP in February 2020 with Honiro Label.

Paola Di Leo

Paola Di Leo

Congratulations on winning The New School’s ‘Fine Cuts 42nd Annual Invitational Film Show’ with your short film Corona Love Story. What inspired you to make this film?
Thank you! For me, it was an honor winning “Fine Cuts” for the second year in a row. I also participated last year with a music video that I directed for the first single of my EP, Song of Freedom. The project that I presented this year was very different; it is the first short film that I have written, directed, and produced. I developed this project for a filmmaking class that I took during the Fall 2020 Semester at The New School. In order to make this film, I was inspired by the pandemic situation in Italy, and I wanted to express how difficult the first part of the pandemic was in my country. I also wanted to show how COVID-19 impacted Italians’ lives, comparing the perspectives of adults and a younger generation.

Tell us about a challenge that you encountered while making Corona Love Story. How did you overcome it?
I had to overcome numerous obstacles, from difficulties in finding equipment, actors, and film crew during the pandemic, to the challenge of working with dogs on the set. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the film was the lack of time. We had to film everything in one day, starting at the park at 8:00 am and rushing to finish before sunset at 6:30 pm. But thanks to my amazing team and actors, who worked so professionally, we managed to film everything before the sunlight disappeared.

How did you get interested in filmmaking? Was this something that you developed while studying at JCU?
I have always been interested in filmmaking, and I remember when I was a child I used to say that I wanted to become a director. So, my aunt bought me my first camera when I was 11 years old, a Sony Handycam DCR. Since then, I have become fascinated by everything concerning cameras, filming, or video projects. Fortunately, I was able to develop this passion while studying at JCU. I have taken almost all the production classes that JCU offers, particularly the ones with Professor Brian Thomson. I spent most of my time at JCU in the Digital Media Lab, creating and producing content for the JCUTV channel on YouTube and working on several other projects.

What JCU professors and/or classes had the most impact on you?
It is hard to choose which classes had the biggest impact on me while studying at JCU. Each professor and class gave me something special, teaching me about various subjects such as Marketing, Management, Communication Theory, etc. Being a Communications alumna, I can say that some of the most remarkable classes were the production ones with Professor Brian Thomson and theory ones with Professor Peter Sarram. Professor Sarram’s lectures were very inspiring and compelling and I loved all his classes, such as Popular Music, Advanced Communication Theory, and Introduction to Cinema.

Corona Love Story

‘Corona Love Story’

What tips and/or advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
My advice is to have a clear reason in mind for creating a project, and to think about which shooting style and techniques would better fit your idea and purpose with your film. During a class that I took at The New School on Writing and Directing, Professor Steele Filipek explained the importance of thinking about the three whys: why this, why you, and why now. Also, filmmaking is about teamwork, so it is essential to find a great crew to work with.

What are three films/directors that everyone should know and why?
Citizen Kane (1941), produced and directed by Orson Welles, is a film that everybody should see and know. It is considered one of the greatest movies ever, and it was revolutionary for its time in terms of shooting techniques. It has a brilliant script too. I think it is a masterpiece that marks the beginning of Modern American Cinema. Then, as far as I am concerned, the best director ever is Akira Kurosawa. He was a Japanese screenwriter, director, and producer emblematic not only in the Japanese film industry but in the history of the film industry in general. He is known for his style and cinematic techniques, such as the use of the “axial cut” or the “cut on motion.” This is a technique that I love and use very frequently in my projects. Finally, another great director that everybody should know is the French-Swiss director and screenwriter Jean-Luc Godard. He started the French New Wave film movement and revolutionized the film industry as Orson Welles did but in different ways. He experimented new types of narrations and cinematography. I really like his feature film Masculin Féminin (1966). I would like to add a final film that everybody should see, which is The Seventh Seal (1957) by Ingmar Bergman. I think the idea of inserting the personification of Death as a character is brilliant. Also the metaphor of life is characterized as playing a chess game with Death.

You just graduated with a Master’s degree in Media Management from The New School. What are your plans for the future?
I graduated this Spring semester and can say that it was very challenging due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, I am proud of this accomplishment and grateful for the opportunity at The New School. My plan for the future is to find a job related to my field of study in New York and stay here for another year. In the meanwhile, I would like to keep working on my music career, releasing new songs, and, also, working on my filmmaking career. In fact, I am working on another video project right now, which highlights my skills as a singer and songwriter. It will hopefully be ready in the next few weeks.