The Italy-based producer worked on Sofia Coppola’s Venice premiere Somewhere; he talks about the challenges of the Milan shoot and about bridging the cultural gap.
Born in the US and raised in the UK, Jordan Stone has been based in Milan for the last 15 years, where he has worked as a first AD on commercials and features with Mike Figgis, Spike Lee, Jake Scott, and Michael Radford.
He makes his producing debut with the Italian portion of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, which stars Stephen Dorff as a Hollywood actor who has to step up and take responsibility for his daughter. The film has its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival.
What are the challenges of shooting in Italy for foreign producers and how can you help?
I consider myself an ambassador – and it is vital to understand the cultural differences. [The work] isn’t just the set, it’s also the restaurants, the hotels and bridging the cultural gap. I found this not just shooting in Italy but all over world because the Americans and the Brits for all intents and purposes … just think it’s another movie set but there are massive cultural differences even in crewing – in Rome there is one hour more for and Milan one less when you shot commercials, for example.
What did Somewhere need from its Italian shoot?
When Mac Brown [Somewhere’s lead producer] and I started communicating he was very specific that Sofia Coppola wanted to maintain as small and intimate environment as they did in LA and Las Vegas. She explained the Italian portion …was based on memories of a previous trip to Italy with her father, which she integrated into script. So in this case, making the atmosphere more personal was a challenge.
Their last piece of shooting was in Milan. The Americans were smart and most arranged their summer vacations in Italy so I was helping them with that. That was a joy, to create the “film family” atmosphere – it ups the level of the production.
How was the shoot? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The shoot was scheduled at the end of July and the beginning of August when Italy basically shuts town. Hotels, equipment houses and extras are not easy to put together at that time of year. We needed a suite at the Hotel Principe di Savoia that a princess of the Saudi Royal family block books every July. They wouldn’t give it to us until the last minute.
Restaging the Telegatti awards (defunct Italian TV awards), the Golden Cats themselves were found in a warehouse in Pistoia after some serious research and clearances.
Then, getting the Teatro Smeraldo in Milan to re-open, the owner was more than happy to, getting the [proper] cast [composed of famous Italian TV presenters]. We got Valeria Marini and Simona Ventura. Everybody had to come in from holidays. Everyone was so professional – a large part of that goes with being on a project with Sofia. She brings so much integrity to her story making that people came running.
What is your production background outside Italy and how did you apply that to the Italian industry?
My past plays an important part because I come from a film family, David and Barbara Stone (Cinegate/Gate Cinemas, London) and my sister, producer Alexandra Stone. I am US-born, UK-raised and worked in LA for eight years. For the last 15 years I have worked in Milan [both with] Italian production service companies or directly with foreign directors.
Over the years I’ve worked with as first AD on commercials and features with Mike Figgis, Spike Lee, Jake Scott, and Michael Radford. I live here because I fell in love with fashion designer Marina Spadafora and I found myself unexpectedly staging and producing fashion shows as well.
Do you see Italy increasing the volume of overseas production now that the tax break is in place?
Italy has not made it that obviously simple; it will take time. It has been very difficult since we took the Euro. With the Lira we shot almost every single week for years, it was that attractive. We have to be geared up to attract production to country actually, Somewhere thought of going to Rome to rebuild sets. One of the great pleasures was when she (Sofia) explained how she wanted the Milan scenes, I was happy to accomplish exactly what she wanted.