By Olga Matsyna

Director Flaminia Graziadei comes towards me smiling. She has blonde spiky hair, she is petite athletic build. There’s something sporty and dynamic about her movement, that jumps out immediately. It’s probably her background as a professional dancer, which I discover later.

I needed more than just being a white canvas for someone else’s work, I was looking to take the next step forward and find my own language as an artist.

Flaminia Graziadei

Once a dancer, always a dancer” she says slightly proud.

Dance was her first love and her first step into the entertainment industry, more than 25 years ago. She started in musicals because, she soon understood, the future belonged to those who could dance, sing and act at a professional level. At that time in Italy, where she comes from, there were no comprehensive Musical Academies, so she studied each discipline singularly.

In 1994 she began her life in London, looking to expand her horizons. That’s how she got involved in the British New Dance, “the most daring and inspiring”,  and created her first Dance Theatre company.

When I ask how much of this influenced her most recent work, she lights up: “Of course it did. That work is totally free from any pressure and is just focused on the creation, on the various levels of expression and metaphors. It’s pushing boundaries and looking for the least predictable way to reach authenticity in your vision”. That was only the beginning, as Flaminia is a bit of a Gypsy and after what she calls “her first life in London”, she went back to Italy where, in 2001, she met her new artistic love: Cinema. She alternated from dance and theatre to making movies, between Italy and Spain, only to end up back in London in 2012. This time  for good.

In Cinema, she started as an assistant director and gained her skills on the field. “I’m so grateful because, in Italy, I’ve learnt from the best. I’ve worked with Oscar winning or nominated DoP (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso), 1st Ad (The Great Beauty), Sound recorder (La Vita è Bella) and Costume designer (I’m love). 

Italy has a very classy but tough, old fashioned school.

There’s an unspoken code on set where everybody knows their role and sticks to it whilst respecting the role of  others. If you cross the line, you are not going to be easily forgiven!

If you cross the line, you are not going to be easily forgiven! I started on rather big productions, months of work, big crews, “A” list actors. Then, I moved into medium/low budgets, where, despite being the 1st Assistant Director, I had the chance to work from the beginning of the project alongside the producers. In this way I learned how to raise a film from literally an idea to the final product, which lead to creating my own production company, LonRom Film. As a director, I needed to make sure that the production quality of my films was at a good professional level, no matter what the budget was.”

She smiles when she asks me if I have understood where the name comes from and what the logo represents. I didn’t think about it before, but after a moment I got it: London Rome, the two cities she calls home. The logo is a stylized combination of the Colosseum and Big Ben.

Since returning to London, Flaminia has been pretty busy with various projects. The first one she defines as her “calling card” and it is Inside Out. The short film focuses on panic attacks, something that Flaminia herself experienced. When I ask how she decided to tackle a subject that was so close to her personal experiences she explains that it was based on a dance theatre piece that she made in Rome a few months before leaving. “The feedback was amazing and the people who suffered with panic attacks were thanking me for having focused on a subject they felt too embarrassed to talk about, whilst, their family members finally got an insight in to what their loved ones were going through.”

I decided that I needed to spread the message further and,  turning it into a movie was the best way. It worked. It gained me my first two awards and a lot of festival exposure. It also clarified what my mission as a director was: using art and vision to focus on raising awareness on social issues, discrimination, mental health, minorities & civil rights.

Flaminia Graziadei

I ask her if this wouldn’t make her work a bit intense or too much for a niche audience. She smiles as if she were expecting that question, and specifies that it’s the content that needs to be meaningful in order to interest her, but the format could be even a comedy. For instance, Arrivederci Rosa, one of her latest shorts, is a LGBT comedy with a very funny lesbian speed dating scene and a light and very accessible approach.

Still from the film Arrivederci Rosa

So far it [Arrivederci Rosa] has been the most successful, with two and half years of festival touring, six awards and various nominations, including a BAFTA qualifying one. I’m very proud of the way people received it, despite being a genre film, it had an incredibly broad audience. That is what I wanted to achieve: to create bridges, being able to show the ‘normality’ of being  gay.

Flaminia Graziadei

In 2014 she made her feature debut, a very low budget psychological ghost story, The Final Haunting. I’m curious to know how she approached that kind of genre. “Originally, I was proposed only the direction and the film was a proper horror movie. Once in pre-production, we had to jump on board as co-producers, as we were more experienced in the field. I asked the screenwriter/producer to make a lot of changes, to push the story towards a psychological ghost, focusing on the effects of child abuse. That was much more the type of movie I was interested in. It was brilliant, I had a great time, a great crew, wonderful actors, the protagonist won Best Actress at the London Independent Film Festival. We shot half of it in North Wales in this 1700 mansion, owned by Darren Wharton, remember Thin Lizzy? I was sleeping there in the “captain room” and literally walking on set every time I was stepping out of my room. Sometimes I was walking around at night testing new ideas I had for the following day. I’d love to be able to have that for every film!”

What does Flaminia have in the pipeline for us? “I’m editing a new short, The Power of One Coin, which I directed and co-produced. Again, it tackles mental health and will be ready for distribution in September. Meanwhile, I created a team to develop a Web Series with a TV series flavor called InterPlay, which we will aim at platforms like Amazon Prime or even Netflix. It talks about online dating in young adults. We have shot the pilot and the whole series consists of 10 episodes of 13/15 mins each. I’m also developing two feature films. One, Luton to Leicester is a brit comedy road movie with two septuagenarian sisters as protagonists. We have been working on this since 2014, but now I have a very good producer, James With of Tri-Us Media, and things are moving much faster. The second is One Year in London, an LGBT coming of age story set between London and Italy, a kind of development of Arrivederci Rosa. I’ve also recently created, Food For Movies, with an Italian partner. It’s a video service company that offers commercials with a cinematic story telling quality at a contained budget: quite a challenge, but at the end of the day, I’m still looking for “pushing boundaries” in whatever I do. D!