A Conversation With Filmmaker Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli Of The 2016 Slamdance Film “Last Summer”


Director Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli

By: Saga Elmotaseb

Edited by: Colleen Page

Images By: Danielle McCormick

The Art Of Monteque had a chance to speak with director Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli about The Film Last Summer during the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival. The Story of “Last Sumer” is set on board a luxury yacht in sparkling international waters, this tense and stylish drama captures the four final days a mother is granted with her 6-year-old son to say goodbye after losing a custody battle.

TAOM: Tell us about your indie film experience? What was enjoyable and what was not?

Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli (Director): The film was a beautiful experience. It allowed me to travel and work with great professionals. We decided to work together before so this was an organic process for me. It was beautiful that people got involved in the project with the restraints of budgets because they loved the project. For example, costume designer Milena Canonero (A Clockwork Orange, The Grand Budapest Hotel) who is a 4 time Oscar winner, accepted to work with me for Associate Producer credit. I was living in London at the time and this project started as a small Italian project on a boat and grew from there. I traveled to Japan and met Rinko Kikuchi of (Babel and Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter) and thought she was the perfect fit for the story. I wanted to tell a story of two distant culture and the more distant one I knew closely enough was Japan so I wrote for Rinko in mind without expecting anything. It was a beautiful experience.

TAOM: What was the cinematic inspiration? Where you involved with lens, lighting, camera movement, and the visuals of the film?

Leonadro: I don’t operate the camera mysel,f but I storyboard the whole film. We didn’t have a lot of pre-production time. Time was of the essence. We rushed, I did the storyboards every evening. The weather was a challenge; we were shooting on the boat. In Italy, the seas in October was tough. We thought it would be sunny for the month, but it rained with heavy storms the majority of the time while shooting. The difficult part was to re-think the schedule on a daily basis. All the actors stayed on set for the entire month, even if they had a few scenes. We couldn’t afford to have any one leave. I diverged a lot.

TAOM: Did you go over budget with 11 days of raining?

Leonadro: It didn’t affect the budget too much. We had a cover set and other scenes inside. We shot those first. We kept shooting inside until at some point, the weather breaks and it was sunny for the rest of the month. But that didn’t stop the water from being cold. The actors had to go in the water and it was a challenge. Acting and staying in the water must have been hard for them.

TAOM: What were the extreme challenges of being and shooting in the water?

Leonadro: First of all, Rinko didn’t really know how to swim and the big challenge was the dive scene from the side of the boat which she really did. Took some days of preparation. I was in the water with the captian, both of us saying to her “Come, Come”. I imagine that for someone who doesn’t know how to swim well and to be in at least 2 meters high off the ocean must be difficult.

TAOM: What was the most challenging scene?

Leonadro: The scene when the mother and son arrive on the shore. When they were swimming together, it was freezing. Perhaps they thought it was going to be warmer by the shore instead of being by the boat, but that was not the case. It was still pretty cold for them.

TAOM: What stage of production did you enjoy least?

Leonadro: I think in this film/experience, the pre-production and handling things was tough. I was also producing and not knowing if I was going to be able to shoot or not, was a little stressful. Also the boat was going to be going thru major renovation so if we didn’t get the shots we needed then, we couldn’t go back and shoot on the same boat.

TAOM: How was it like shooting on a lavish boat?

Leonadro: It was a great atmosphere and one I enjoyed a lot besides the weather of course.

TAOM: How do you feel about the end results?

Leonadro: Of course I’m critical, but I’m happy with the results. The execution was good. Because I didn’t have a lot of extra days to shoot, I didn’t have too many choices in the editing room.

TAOM: Is this your first feature film? What was the emotion journey? Any dark moments of frustration?

Leonadro: It’s my first feature. The sailing scenes were tough to edit because we had one helicopter for half a day and I didn’t know how to get in and out, how to tell the story, what was happening while sailing. It was a bit frustrating. I don’t know if I could have shot it differently. I gave the directions as best as I could. Next time, I would spend more time with that.

TAOM: What about the story of the mother and son and saying goodbye to each other. Why this story?

Leonadro: First of all, a mother and son relationship is universal for each one of us. I’m attracted to this. In literature and in art, it’s a reoccurring thing. Then at some point, I was wondering, even if a relationship is good, there may be negative implication on your life. You carry them with you throughout your life. The mother relationship always fascinated me, it’s very primal. The question for me was “What happens when this sort of relationship gets cut because of some power? What happens when the mother only has a few days left? Even an hour?” Knowing that he won’t see his mother ever again. What does he do? This question bugged me for a while then I thought I should try to tell it. It contained stability for the future, which is very important. It’s the transference of love in the future. IF you can connect with someone even for a single moment, that moment can stay forever. If something special happens, then it can last. So it a tragedy, but for me  I think the challenge was to leave something open and somehow hopeful. [TAOM]