The lockdown is no reason to stifle creativity, even under the stricter measures in countries such as Italy, as musician and director Federico Zampaglione explains. He's created a horror franchise during the pandemic, with two short films of a planned trilogy online. The series has had the bonus of staving off boredom for his 10-year-old daughter.


"I'm going to learn a new skill, or do something creative during the lockdown." That was the refrain from many as the world retreated behind closed doors (in varying degrees) to stave off the worst effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As it turns out people have ended up sitting on the sofa and burning through streaming services' content during the crisis. But Italian director and musician Federico Zampaglione has created something during the lockdown, writing, shooting, directing and editing not one but two short films, with potentially plans for more. And what's more BIANCA, and its sequel both star his extended family, including 10-year-old daughter Linda.


The idea behind BIANCA came when Linda moved from her mum's to stay with Zampaglione and his wife, Giglia Marra. As  many parents were struggling with home schooling and their kids' with boredom they passed the time by plonking them down in front of a screen of some sort or another. Zampaglione aimed to stave off lockdown ennui and the over-reliance on technology while keeping Linda happy.


"My daughter was at my former wife's place for six weeks, and I hadn't seen her in a long time, so we decided to get together for a few days. My former wide is an actress and can be entertaining. I was worried that my daughter getting bored and was wondering what we could do. I had to invent a way to entertain her; otherwise, she'd end up in front of the TV all day or on the tablet."


So he called a writer pal, Gianluigi Perrone, suggesting they pen a "little story". "I told him it needed to be based on my place," explains Zampaglione, "we talked on video call, so he could see how my place worked and could see how it's laid out.  And we wrote a little story with a little surprise, and we had fun. "The tale played out between Linda and her step mum Marra and saw her planning to defy her mum's insistence that she's not allowed out to  party. To begin with, it wasn't taken too seriously by either of its stars until they began to immerse themselves in the filming.  "Initially they didn't take it too seriously, they thought it was a joke, but once they could see what I was doing, they focused more. I wanted to make sure something was going on and not just sitting on the couch."


Shot and edited over four days or so in his home – Zampaglione didn't push for more than that, "my wife had things to do, while Linda was eager to get back to Tik Tok." – it was aided to by the general stillness and calm that had descended on Italy during the worst of the pandemic. "We have no neighbours downstairs, and there weren't that many difficulties. There were no phone calls, no confusion."


The editing was a touch trickier, but thankfully, Linda was on hand to help out with tech support. "I said that I wasn't able to edit the film, she said 'dad, there's an app', and she showed me how to use it. The first part of the editing is by my daughters. When like many dads I don't know how to do things on my smart phone, I ask my daughter, and she shows me how to do it – she's ten years old!"



The finished film was given its own opening night, albeit online. "We all watched it together. It was cool. We did a sort of a premiere on my social media. We showed it live like a real premiere with the fans waiting to watch it."


The response has further bitten the ten year old with the acting bug. "We had a lot of positive comments, and we were applauded on YouTube. The day after the reviews started to roll in and they were good. My daughter was impressed. She sings very well, and she loves music and dancing. My former wife is a very popular actress, and I'm a musician and director and she's a mix of everything. Linda is very committed to the project, it's just like working with a little pro. She was a beginner, she's been involved in a few roles in some movies, but this is the first time she's been the main character."


Now the sequel is being unveiled, BIANCA PHASE 2, which takes the story and the character Bianca outside, thanks to the easing of lockdown regulations in Italy. "We shot the second in s park as the lockdown eased" Zampaglione explains. "It's creepier and disturbing. Its more horror and plays a bit more like a Lucio Fulci.  The first film was more Bava. It's also a little bit more professional!" If anything, for Zampaglione, the whole experience has just reaffirmed how the key is always the story, not the size of the budget, or special effects, or grand locations.


"The only thing you can count on is having a good idea," he says. "If you have simple ideas it can be effective with just a little tech, an iPad camera, you can order some small lights on Amazon (I did for the second episode, for the first it was just an iPad). I ordered a couple to do it a bit more. Professional. Good story at the end of the day. "Creativity is not about budgets. It's about the concept."


A third film in the planned to finish the trilogy, although with the country now reopening, Zampaglione says it's down to the Italian authorities. "I have to see my daughter's programmes, she has to restart school. I don't want her to be too busy!"




Tim Murray.


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