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Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel: La Pivellina - Interview

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 La Pivellina 

The documentary approach is what interests us the most in terms of filmmaking. What reality gives you just can’t be reenacted. An interview with Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel.

 

 

You just finished your third full-length film, La Pivellina, which is also your first fictional work. A few of the elements and characters in Babooska appear again. To be precise, you crossed a thin line in the direction of fiction. What moved you to move toward fiction and still stay close to reality?
Tizza Covi: The documentary approach is what interests us the most in terms of filmmaking. What reality gives you just can’t be reenacted. Still, with documentary film we came to a place where not being able to directly affect what’s happening bothered us.
The second factor was the fact that in both films, Babooska and La Pivellina, we worked with people who were wonderfully natural and had no problem at all with a camera being nearby.

Is the fictitious story in La Pivellina based on fact?
Tizza Covi: I wrote the screenplay. We started with telling a story that shows how our protagonists live, though not in purely documentary form.
I should also say that in Italy, a great many children of this age are abandoned, not just newborns. Unfortunately, that’s a current problem.

How did Patty become the protagonist of La Pivellina?
Tizza Covi: We’ve known Patty for a long time, and we think her voice and behavior resemble those of Anna Magnani, who we adore. She has an explosive personality, though she did a lot to hold herself back during shooting.

Rainer Frimmel: I’d like to add that the two main protagonists are extremely strong together: I don’t think that any couple could be more different than Walter and Patrizia. Of course, that aspect fascinated us too.

Tizza Covi: Patty was happy to appear in the film. On top of that we shot in winter, a time when nothing’s happening in the circus business. This was a welcome change of pace during a time which is normally dead for them. We lived with them in their trailer, played cards or dice at night or went to the pizzeria. Carnies who work outdoors don’t have much to do in winter: getting their trailers ready for the summer, rehearsing and improving their acts, otherwise the shoot filled up a period of nothing but waiting.

It doesn’t seem that there was a screenplay with set dialogues. What was the basis for shooting, what did you do to prepare?
Tizza Covi: We wrote the story with an extremely concrete beginning and an extremely concrete ending. The dialogues weren’t written down. An hour before shooting started I talked to Patty, Tairo or Walter, told them which scenes we had planned and what would have to be in the conversation. How they formulated their lines and the order was left up to them. One difficulty that we didn’t expect was in the middle of the film, when we would have liked to include some real, documentary-style elements from their everyday routine.  We shot some beautiful moments that strayed too far from the story of the little girl. You have to imagine the screenplay as a 30-page outline of the plot, which then underwent radical change in the course of shooting. We were extremely grateful to the Ministry of Education, Art and Culture for giving us this freedom and trust and accepting the screenplay without concrete dialogue. Having this kind of freedom to change things during shooting because you have a spontaneous impression that it works better that way, in my opinion that’s the most fun you can have when making a film.

It’s common knowledge that shooting with children isn’t so easy. How difficult was working with such a young girl?
Tizza Covi: Asia was almost two years old during shooting. I have to start by saying that our style of shooting has nothing to do with a classic film crew. Rainer operates the camera, I take care of the sound and the clapboard. We aren’t in any way scary for children. And kids need time, of course. In the first weeks of shooting she would never have gone to sleep with me or Patty in the trailer. I took a great deal of time with her, until she fell asleep in my arms, and then with Patty in the trailer, and then she went to sleep there every time. When we picked up the camera or the sound equipment we didn’t change so much that she would have noticed. Our working style is probably the best for shooting with children.

Rainer Frimmel: What was decisive for working with Asia so well was the fact that her parents trusted us completely. They left their child in our hands and were glad to see that we took good care of her. It makes shooting much easier when the parents aren’t there. Of course, a great deal happened spontaneously. Telling her exactly what to do doesn’t work at that age. Instead, you have to adapt the situation in light of how she feels at the moment. The main problem with the little girl was that she never went to sleep before two in the morning, and then she slept until early afternoon, of course. Since we were shooting in winter and it got dark early, that became a bit of a problem, and we tried to change her rhythm a little. A number of times we would have liked to shoot earlier, but waking a child up doesn’t work, because then they’re in a bad mood.

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