Producer of Cannes award-winner The Wonders takes on first UK production.

Italian London-based producer Carlo Cresto-Dina has boarded British writer and director Cathy Brady’s debut feature Wildfire.

The feature is the first UK-based production for Cresto-Dina, whose recent credits include Alice Rohrwacher’s Cannes Grand Prix-winner The Wonders (Le Meraviglie).

Up until now, he has focused on Italian filmmakers, which he produces through his Bologna-based company Tempesta Italy.

His recently launched twin company Tempesta UK will produce Wildfire with London-based production company Cowboy Films with development support from the Irish Film Board and the Wellcome Trust, which funded research for the film.

Northern Ireland-born Brady, a BFTS graduate whose award-winning shorts include Small Change, Morning and Wasted, was a Screen International UK Stars of Tomorrow in 2013.

Nika Mcguigan and Nora-Jane Noone are set to star in the film revolving around the relationship between two sisters. 

“The script will come out of a long process of work-shopping in London with two actresses, Nika Mcguigan and Nora-Jane Noon,” said Cresto-Dina.

“There is a very strong plot at the centre which we’re still working on. I don’t want to reveal too much about it as yet, other than that it’s about two sisters living in contemporary Ireland.”   

Cresto-Dina was talking on the fringes of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (Jan 21-Feb 1), which he attended this year to participate in an expert panel with Rohrwacher on the creative collaboration between a producer and a director as well as give a seminar on co-producing at the Rotterdam Lab.

He presented The Wonders at IFFR’s CineMart in 2012.

Italian projects

New Italian productions on Tempesta’s slate include Marcello Fonte and Giuliano Miniati’s Calabria-set Asino Vola (Donkey Flies) about a boy from a destitute family who dreams of joining a brass-band.

“It’s a kids film about a boy who overcomes the odds to play the drums… it’s in post-production,” says Cresto-Dina of the film, which is being sold internationally by Match Factory.

The company has just started shooting Caterina Carone’s Fräulein starring Italian comedy star Christian De Sica, opposite Lucia Mascino, in a rare art-house production.

Cresto-Dina reveals he contacted De Sica after the actor gave an interview saying he was ready for a change of scene after a lifetime of making low brow comedies.

“Christian De Sica is the king of what we call cine-panettone,” said Cresto-Dina, referring to the lowbrow Christmas comedies that come out in Italy every year.

“He’s done a lot of trashy films but he’s also a wonderful actor. He’s describing this role as a pivotal moment in his career. People are asking what is Tempesta doing with Christian De Sica but we just love it. He accepted to work for a tenth of his normal fee.”

De Sica plays a man who checks into a semi-abandoned hotel on the outskirts Bolzano in northern Italy as it first guest in five years and kindles a relationship with the solitary owner in which they both blossom.

The late Karl Baumgartner suggested the project to Cresto-Dina after coming across it when he was on selection committee of the South Tyrol Film Commission.

Project building

The company is also in pre-production on a film set in a pawn shop by director Irene Dionisio entitled Le Ultime Cose, which means “the last things”.

“This film is a good example of the way we work,” explained Cresto-Dina. “We never work on scripts. Young directors all have a script in the drawer but we don’t work with scripts.

“We think what makes our film a little bit different is the process of building them with the director.”

Le Ultime Cose, he said, was born out of a chance visit by Dinisio to a pawn shop, who then spent three mornings a week there over eight months taking notes on what went on there as the basis for a script.  She had originally come to Cresto-Dina with a script which he rejected.

“On the basis of her research we started developing the script and because a couple of the characters are not professional actors. We’ll also do a workshop. It’s this sort of thing that keeps my job interesting.”

Tempesta’s second film The Interval (L’Intervallo), about two teenagers confined on a large building in Naples, was developed out a series of theatre workshops in the city, he reveals.

Stormy beginning

Cresto-Dina created Tempesta in 2008 after producing features and feature-length documentaries under the umbrella of big production companies in Rome and London.

“It was 2008, capitalism was melting, Italy was in despair and cinema was dying. I thought it was the right time to open a company in Italy to produce cinema,” said Cresto-Dina with a laugh.

 “The company name Tempesta takes inspiration from Shakespeare as well as a painting by Giorgione that you can see in Venice. The idea from the beginning was to scout for new talents and to grow with them,” he continued.

The company’s first film was Rohrwacher’s Corpo Celeste, about a teenager adjusting which was followed by Leonardo di Costanzo’s The Interval (L’Intervallo) which was developed out a series of theatre workshops in Naples.

On the subject of Rohrwacher’s next film, Cresto-Dina said: “She’s writing. We’ve a few ideas but we always start with a few topics which then condense.

Le Meravigle, for example, started with a discussion on the museumification and plastification of Italian landscapes on the back of a book by Saskia Sassen called Variation on a Theme Park.

“It’s always an interesting process but there’s nothing concrete as yet.”

In the meantime, the filmmaker has just shot a short film for the Miu Miu Women’s Tales initiative sponsored by Prada, which is due to premiere during New York Fashion Week in February.