DCFF ’12: Serafini Braves New Roads with ‘Johnny’s Gone’

“Making ‘Johnny’s Gone’ reconnected me with what I loved about film in the first place.” –Giorgio Serafini

Best Actress finalist LaDon Drummond alongside the very young Johnny Sinclair.

With previous cinematic credits including a Wesley Snipes action romp and plenty of european television, veteran writer/director Giorgio Serafini might seem an unlikely face behind an indie-film festival breakout. But his latest effort is exactly that. Inspired and informed by his family’s own tragic loss, Serafini says that ‘Johnny’s Gone’ has fundamentally changed him as a filmmaker, and in the process took cast & crew on an unforgettably intimate journey, both on-screen and off.

‘Johnny’s Gone’ follows Sarah (LaDon Drummond) and a two-year-old companion named Johnny (Johnny Sinclair) as they road-trip from Las Angeles to Louisiana. There is an obvious and loving connection between the two and yet an underlying strangeness that begs the question of some unspoken mystery at hand. Crossing through five states, Sarah and Johnny pass in and out of the lives of others and all the while explore the beauty, melancholy, and humor of changing landscapes and perfect moments in time.

Mirroring his characters’ own adventure, Serafini packed-up his eight to ten man production into two SUV’s and a pick-up truck and set forth on two weeks worth of on-the-road filming in a real-life trek to the bayou and back. Shooting for two additional weeks in LA proper, the director jokes that he and his ever-roaming crew, “redefined the meaning of drive-by-shooting.” This freeform production experience was invigorating, but also accompanied by its share of unforeseen challenges. Serafini explained that he and his longtime director of photography were, “initially trying to shoot in a more classic way,” but that with so many locations and impromptu experiences, that this insistence on form ground the production to a snail’s pace. The decision to give way to the chaos and film predominantly with handheld cameras and only with naturally available light proved to be vital, both in allowing the cinematography to match the overall wayfaring style of the narrative as well as saving the filmmakers from yanking out too much more of their remaining hair.

Cast & crew embarked on a real-life road trip from California to Louisiana.

Intent on allowing room for ample improvisation and other organically created or “found” interactions between his actors, Serafini left plenty of white-space in his script, which was only eighty-five pages long. This was a bit scary for a filmmaker accustomed to having much more written material to rely on, but was ultimately what allowed for and indeed insisted upon the incredibly believable sequences between Drummond and Sinclair, as well as among their various cohorts, with the performers often just spending time together in front of the camera at various pit-stops along the way. Sinclair likewise contributed to the stop-and-go nature of filming, as (being a toddler) he would naturally grow tired or otherwise uncooperative on any given day. Serafini laughed as he said he had finally found a personality more difficult to work with than Wesley Snipes.

'Johnny's Gone' writer/director Giorgio Serafini

A finalist for two awards, including Best Feature Film and LaDon Drummond for Best Actress, ‘Johnny’s Gone’ screens as part of the 4th annual Derby City Film Festival on Friday (Feb 17) at 10:00pm in the Eifler Theater. Giorgio Serafini is currently in post-production for ‘The Healer’, which is a larger-budget supernatural adventure featuring ‘Super 8’s Joel Courtney among others, and will begin filming ‘The Enemy’ this spring, a film-noir thriller to be shot in both Milan and the United Kingdom.

Full schedule and ticketing information available via DCFF’website.

Stay tuned as our series of filmmaker interviews continues throughout the week and know that LouisvilleKY.com will also be covering DCFF over the weekend with live-blogging via twitter @CT_Smash.

More articles by me here

Chris Ritter <<<< twitter.com/CT_Smash <<<< ctsmash@gmail.com