David Altobelli's ROMA

Creatives and businesses alike would be extremely well served to push beyond the familiarity of their comfort zones. 55DSL, the experimental, street savvy off-shoot of Diesel, has done just that with filmmaker David Altobelli. Andrea Rosso, the creative director of 55DSL, provided Altobelli with the summer collection, complete creative freedom, and Rome as a backdrop to his storyboard. The result is a carefree traipse through the city’s crevices, day and night, that relays the carefree, adventurous spirit of the line. I spoke with Altobelli and Rosso when the short film premiered at Nitehawk in Brooklyn, harvesting their thoughts on the aim and direction of the film program and their reflections of Italy’s wonders.

Lynn Maliszewski: What was your approach going into this short film?

David Altobelli: The brief was very open-ended. They wanted to shoot something in Italy and wanted me to explore what Italy meant to me. I have Italian heritage, my name is very Italian, but I had never been to Rome. I wanted to acknowledge this fact by showing the story of outsider. Once I arrived in Rome, I was able to spend a bit of time with the actors in an attempt to cultivate a real interaction between them and then the goal was to capture it against an untypical backdrop of Rome. It could have gone so many different directions.

LM: How long were you in Rome?

DA: About a week. We went there and the first three days we were just scouting locations, meeting the actors. Then two days of actual shooting, running around, definitely guerilla style and just trying to get as much as possible. Kind of like documenting their genuine interactions in the space and occasionally injecting story elements.

LM: It seems like you guys were all over the place, even from the trailer. What was your favorite part about shooting in Rome? About shooting this short in particular?

DA: You get used to shooting in the same cities over and over, whether it’s LA or New York. A place that’s foreign immediately challenges you to see the new setting through a camera’s lens, trying to find visuals that stand out to you. It’s always really exciting because you’re learning as you go and you’re figuring out what’s possible, what’s not, and what story you can tell. As far as my favorite part of this shoot, I think it had to be seeing really unique parts of Rome that I would never have seen otherwise.

LM: Did you have a tour guide?

DA: One thing about going to a new place is you need someone local to show you around, letting you know how things work in that city, because filming in a new place might require you follow different rules. You don’t know if someone’s going to come up and snatch your camera if you do something wrong. We had a producer that was local, and my production company is based in France so they came down. That was really useful to have him [the producer]. He acted as a guide but was also helping the project happen on a larger level.

LM: How did this compare to prior shoots that you’ve done?

DA: Well there was definitely a basic story we wanted to tell, but all the little details that you really can’t plan for are what made the piece special in my opinion. When you are shooting in a familiar place there is a level of preparation and almost meticulous detail that differed from this unique shoot. To let that go and just, you know, follow an instinct or just watch something play out and capture it, is definitely a unique experience. It comes together at the end and feels larger than life even though it was just… life.

LM: Did you learn anything about your craft, yourself, your shooting style, in this shoot?

DA: Definitely. I have worked with a few different cameras and a few different cinematographers and crews. In this case we definitely were stripped down. We had a camera that I hadn’t really used as my primary camera before (7D). It’s compact and easy to move around with, and thus low-profile. It’s also a really powerful tool. My cinematographer that I’ve worked with multiple times in LA came with me to Rome so there was a sense of familiarity.

LM: What was the most inspiring thing you saw through or outside the lens on this shoot?

DA: The final scene takes place at this Olympic-sized pool and we were all gathered around getting ready to shoot. The sun was setting and each passing second the sunset became more and more intense and beautiful. There was this sort of euphoria amongst everybody. We were filming it so they knew we were capturing the moment but usually you see beautiful things everyday and they just sort of pass by. Collectively we were all experiencing this really surreal sunset, so it definitely transplanted itself onto the story and the characters and just elevated the mood further.

LM: Any personal projects on your radar?

DA: I started in music videos because I have such a love for music and visuals coming together but it’s not the only medium I want to explore. I want to move into doing more long-form work. I’ve also started directing commercials, and fashion plays a part in that. I am also working on a feature that I want to shoot later this year.

LM: Any details on the feature?

DA: I’ve just always really wanted to make a movie, and it’s like you get little tastes of it with each project. Until I actually make one, though, it’s all I’ll be thinking about.

LM Andrea, why did you choose David Altobelli for this first incarnation of films for 55DSL?

Andrea Rosso: First of all, we never met before. We knew him from the work he had done in the past and we loved it. We were very pleased to work with him and happy to have this experience together. In shooting ROMA, David was shooting at a lot of different places, and I didn’t have an idea of how he would manage to edit everything together. We gave him complete creative freedom and when I saw the final result at the end I was very pleased.

LM: It is amazing for a young filmmaker to have both the outlet and the freedom to create something forward-thinking. Any hints for the next victim for this series?

AR: It’s too early, stay tuned.

LM: What did you hope to accomplish in having this project be your new campaign idea?

AR: It’s strange because we are from Italy but we never evaluate Italy. We always evaluate more Japan, the U.S., the U.K., but we never really focus on where we come from. This was a really good time to assess our roots. Our heritage is Italian and its very important. Through the eyes of people that maybe aren’t from Italy, we can find a new interpretation of it, something can come out of it. I love this, because I’m the Italian guy who always goes to the U.S. and now this is the opposite and that’s always good.

LM: It’s good to have a new pair of eyes in formulating a vision.

AR: This is also the first time that we led with a video. Usually fashion franchises do print campaigns. So we took a chance where the video is the core of our communications and campaign and then from there afterwards came everything else. I think that’s new and different. Brands always think of the video afterwards, after a look-book, or a making of, but this is definitely the key piece to our communications and moving forward we’re going to be doing this for the next couple of seasons.

LM: Do you plan to integrate the film into any other type of film festivals or will it go any further than just the advertising campaign??

AR: There have been plans to. We’ve entered into things like the Cannes Golden Lions and other things, which we wouldn’t have had a chance to do before because there’s only so far a traditional fashion campaign will reach, both physically in terms of being seen as well as actually connecting on an emotional level with someone. Most recently Norwegianair, the Norwegian airline, came to us after seeing ROMA on Vimeo. So in June and July it’s going to be played out to over 1.3 million passengers across thirty-six different countries in the thirty-minute in-flight short film piece. So from our point of view, 55DSL makes clothes but also has an airline company saying "this is amazing, we want to show our audience." Watching this film is about seeing the clothes, seeing the brand and seeing the lifestyle. That’s the point of this approach, you can see the clothes for what they are. It’s very engaged, very energetic, there’s an emotional resonance there. Jeans are jeans, yes, and the times might change, but ultimately it’s the lifestyle. In the film, it’s about freedom, it’s about youth, it’s about love and traveling, and having the film really ties it together.

LM: Any other comments on the clothing, where you think its going?

AR: ROMA is the summer collection, and the main inspiration was very summery, carefree. Lots of graphics and a lot of mixing lightweight fabric. It is over-saturated in color and Caribbean styles but always with a look of Italian heritage and where we come from.

LM: Is there anything that makes the collection particularly Italian?

AR: The shirts and the summer trousers, chinos, yes. The Italian vibe is approaching with more strength in Fall/Winter.

LM: Any favorite pieces?

AR: There is one jacket that I really like. It’s a varsity jacket done in denim, with sweatshirt fabric on the sleeves. It’s very nice. Also the Pantachino, a chino-style pant that introduces a new element: an elastic hem that allows you to securely roll up your pant legs.

LM: Where do you see Italian fashion in comparison to American fashion?

AR: We always have two eyes open wide, and we love Japan and we love the U.S. We always take a look at what’s going on in the streets around the world. I can say that some cuts, especially that chinos and some jackets, are very Italian. The silhouette is slimmer and fitted, less bulky. We even try to give our t-shirt an Italian flavor. We have the chino with the roll-up cuff and elastic, so it’s a normal pant and a chino pant that maintains an international vibe or aesthetic. That’s our favorite stuff, we like to mix it up.

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