- 3 years ago
Napoli. I have experienced the city on different occasions throughout my life, but none was more memorable than sharing the beauty and the mayhem with one of its native sons. There is a buzz in the city centre that is like no other city I have visited. The energy is nearly palpable. Here we interviewed masters of the textile industry. Artists. Fashion and textiles run through their veins, having been implanted in their DNA for generations. It is here that I have come to realize the power a piece of fabric has on the world.
While preparing for this shoot, many things weighed on my mind. Our two main protagonists whose story will move the narrative forward were Carmine Lauro and Salvatore Parasuco. Both are natives of Italy, Carmine being from Napoli and Sal being from Sicily. Both are on very opposite ends of the retail business. But both are relentless in their pursuit of fulfilling a lifelong passion.
Three significant concerns swirled around during pre-production. The first was filming a documentary about their business without promoting the business. Funding for the documentary will not permit the direct promotion of any business. This is an issue, especially if the subject’s name is the company’s.
The second was the fear of divulging key names of suppliers or designers from Italy that may cause the sharks to circle. Thankfully this problem evaporated as quickly as it was construed. Both men have solidified their supplier’s loyalty in stone. There is a specific code of loyalty, especially among the Neapolitans. To them, this wasn’t just business; it was a matter of family.
Lastly was security. Although beautiful, some parts of Naples that we were visiting had a reputation for being a little unsavoury. The Mariolas, a professional thief, is famous in Italy for their imagination in making your stuff theirs. Some areas were far from the tourist zones, and they had been scared of the gang violence in those streets years ago.
Some ways from Napoli Centro, Carmine and his lovely wife Lisa escorted us to one of their suppliers. After quite some time on the highway, we began our trek up the winding roads of a mountain. I asked Carmine what exactly he had come and purchased this far. He responded, “handkerchiefs and ties.” Handkerchiefs and ties? Do you come all this way for handkerchiefs and ties? The entire concept seemed absurd then, but then he made me understand what made Italy represented in the grand scheme. It is something made by a master craftsman. It is an ideology, a lifestyle you supply to a client. Something that cannot be mass-produced. The women sewing in that tiny factory on top of that mountain is from a long line of sewists. Many are 3rd or 4th generation women who have mastered the craft and passed across their lineage. This is extremely rare to find in an age where everything is automated. In an age where the necessity no longer exists for that type of work, the craft is thought obsolete. Filming the workers from that small town was inspiring. It forces you to understand that God is in the details.
A similar revelation transfixed our minds when we travelled through Tuscany with Sal. We went from the hustle and bustle of Florence to the existential piece of existence, the Italian countryside. Here we met with a designer named Mauro. While filming the interviews, I noticed a man on the floor below us preparing for a feast. To my surprise, Mauro had the man from the local market bring fresh fruits, vegetables and mozzarella, farmed fresh in the area.
This was to serve as an antipasto for the incredible meal Mauro was conspiring to cook for us after the interviews were completed. Here, Sal explains that for much of his career, he spent a great deal of time away from his family to grow the business. However, dealing with Italians like Mauro made him feel like he was always surrounded by family, something that can rarely be attained on his travels to Asia. Here, business is mixed with culture, i.e. great food and memorable conversation.
I love making documentaries because they are a complete learning experience. It is like squeezing an entire University semester into a couple of days or weeks. You do as much research as possible before filming starts, but if you allow, your mind is blown wide open by facts you could only receive by having boots on the ground. The learning experience is visceral, and it is up to you to communicate that sensation into a comprehensible story.
We have all heard stories of child labour and how big brands use the services of manufacturers who may not have their moral codes in check but can get the job done at a reasonable price. This is something that troubled me in the editing process. I’ll tell you why. We learned much on the subject of “fast fashion” while filming. The complexity and chain of textile manufacturing are so large and complicated that a brand me be supporting child labour without even knowing it. When you learn of something as diabolical as this, as a filmmaker, you wish you could kick down the door to such a place and expose the operation on camera for the world to see. But this wasn’t the case.
I struggled with the subject and was breaking my head to reconfigure our story in post. I soon realized that this was not the mission of our film, and at this stage of the game, I needed help to reinvent the rules. I can tell it in the context it affected the people who refuse to participate in that particular realm of the industry. So that is what I did.