Filmmaker Alice Esposito pays tribute to old school cinema with new film

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Poster for The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch

Alice Esposito sees life through the lens of a camera. Everywhere she looks, she knows exactly how an image could be framed perfectly, whether in a photograph or video. Her artistic instincts have been her fortitude throughout her career, and her determined work ethic sets her apart from the rest. There is little doubt as to why she is one of Italy’s best recent photographers and filmmakers.

While working on successful projects, such as Thend, Esposito has exemplified versatility and artistry. As both a filmmaker and a photographer, she is internationally sought after. Her work consistently tells a story in a beautiful way, which is exemplified by her film The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch.

The black and white silent comedy tells the story of a cynical, socially inept mime that lives a life of tiny distractions. Yet, even indulging in his smallest fantasies drives him to fits of rage and despair. A chance encounter with the woman of his reverie compels him into a series of humorously tragic attempts at wooing her. A romantic picnic, a windy walk on the beach, and multiple passes at capturing her beauty through art all backfire, with harrowing consequences.

“I feel like nowadays the stories are told so fast and full of action or sex that people do not have time for simplicity and realness anymore. With this movie, I wanted to stop time and let you live the moments with the main character, which is why some sequences of the movie are slightly slower than the normal parameters of cinema. I wanted to challenge the viewer to stay with me, to feel all these feelings that we usually escape from. There’s also a lack of technology and space/time that I wanted to use to give the audience this sense of peace, but with a little anxiety behind that. Technology made us impatient, and I wanted to analyze this concept. And love, this incredible feeling that keeps everything together; the expectation of love, its course, the ups and down, and the real and the fantasy,” Esposito described.

After premiering at The Prince of Prestige Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Short, Best Actor and Best Actress, The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch went on to tremendous success. It won the Festival Prince of Prestige Academy Award as Best Comedy (Comedy Gold).

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Phil Ristaino as the mime in The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch

“When the film first started having success, I was like ‘cool’, but after I began telling the cast and crew, it really hit me. This wasn’t the first time I won something, but it was the first time I won something where I worked with so many people and coordinated with them all together to create a project. It felt like all the family won and that everybody’s work was recognized. I was and still am so proud and grateful of them,” said Esposito.

Esposito’s idea for the film came from working with her friend and main actor in the film Phil Ristaino. Ristaino created character routines for fun, and his “Bad Luck Mime” stood out to Esposito. The two decided to make a movie that would be a tribute to the origin of cinema. Having already worked together on the film Dinamicity, which saw similar success, they were eager to work together again.

Working with Alice is very collaborative. Alice is an extremely enthusiastic director. She gets caught up in whatever idea has currently caught her fancy and will talk at great length about all the ideas she has for a particular story. Often, she will call me about a project she wants to make and tell me about some visual or story ideas, and these conversations will usually result in us meeting up to discuss the next project and see if it appeals to us both. We are both very visual people, and her ideas will spark images in my own mind, and vice versa,” said Ristaino.

Esposito was the producer, writer, and director of the film, and therefore greatly responsible for its success. She wanted to make the perfect film, and thought of every last detail. Half of the post-production took place in Italy, and the other half in California. Normally, coordinating this would be immensely difficult, but Esposito’s management capabilities are exceptional.

Location scouting was also vital for the production, and this turned out to be one of Esposito’s favorite parts of filming. She was able to discover different parts of Los Angeles, like Eagle Rock and Griffith Park, Malibu, and Echo Park. Her love for the setting overcame any challenges that come from working outside, like wind and natural light. In order to film like this, a filmmaker must be fast and precise, characteristics that Esposito embodies.

She also wanted to find the perfect team to take charge. She knew how important the music would be in a silent film, and therefore found not just composer, but two, Simone Anichini and Davide Alberto Centolani.

“A big part of making this movie this successful I think was to have the right people around me. It all always comes down to the talents you work with. I learned a lot about delegating and asking for want I needed. I was able to put all the pieces of production together and have exactly what I wanted. Many of the things were planned ahead, but you need to be ready for something not working out and be able to go around it. The secret is to be always ready to change and compromise but never give up,” she advised.

The last piece of the puzzle for the filmmaker was the title. She wanted something that would encapsulate her film. It was when she remembered that in Italian, a mockingbird is also called “the mime” that she realized she had a title.

“I remember I was in the car with Phil and we started to throw titles around, it was hilarious,” she described. “The mockingbird is known to mimic the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects, and this is how it started to come together. Being in love is like being above every physical experience I know, but at the same time when you heart gets broken the impact to the ground is hard. You could say the title represents this feeling but with a tragic romanticism with a pinch of irony in it. I think we got it right!”

That they did. Keep an eye out for Esposito’s work. With talent like hers, we can expect to keep seeing her name for quite some time.

Watch The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch here.

Top photo by Unknown

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