Italian-born producer Filippo Nesci is one of those people that inspires greatness in others. With a family tree full of successful people like his great grandfather, the Baron Arturo Nesci, an avid photographer in the early in the 1900s, his grandfather, Michele Nesci, who was a filmmaker and professor at the prestigious “Roberto Rossellini” Film School of Rome, and his father Domenico Arturo Nesci, an innovative creative psychoanalyst, Filippo Nesci has made incredible strides in the world of cinema thanks to his ability to approach productions using creative strategies and diplomacy.
Filippo’s natural ability to build relationships with people and get leaders in the industry on board with the projects he’s producing has been integral in bringing ideas into a reality on screen. Over the course of his career Filippo has produced campaigns for global companies like Ray-Ban, scotch-whiskey maker Lagavulin, and others. In fact, the Lagavulin commercial series he produced received the Bronze Award at the 2014 Clio Awards, as well as nominations at the National ADDY Awards and the AAF American Advertising Awards.
Filippo has also produced a slew of captivating projects in the film world, including Snippets of Wally Watkins, which was recently accepted to several international film festivals, Wrecks & Violins, which garnered the Audience Award at NFFTY, and the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival, as well as the award-winning films The Lineman and The Carnival Is on Fire.
To find out more about this extraordinarily talented producer, make sure to check out our interview below!
PLM: Where are you from originally?
FN: I was born and raised in Rome, Italy.
PLM: When and how did you begin working as a producer?
FN: It’s hard to say… Perhaps I began as a teenager, with the only goal to help my father Domenico Arturo Nesci MD. He is a creative psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who invented “The Workshop Movies And Dreams.” In 2009 my father asked me to produce a documentary to give an idea of what this workshop was about and how it worked for IIPRTHP (International Institute for Psychoanalytic Research and Training of Health Professionals) and the Roberto Rossellini Cinema School. It was published on an Italian online scientific journal of psychotherapy known as Rivista Internazionale di Psicoterapia e Istituzioni.
The workshop is a new tool in Continuing Medical Education (CME) as well as the core of a television format “Doppio Sogno” (literally “Double Dream”)… The workshop consists in showing a movie at the end of a CME course or event. The movie has to do with the topic of the course. After the screening of the film (at night) all students go to sleep. The day after they meet again in the morning in the auditorium and share their dreams in a “social dreaming” large group.The method is useful to help health professionals like medical doctors, psychologists, nurses, etc. to work through their unconscious blocks and inhibitions in their relationships with patients and their relatives. Since 2011 it has been part of the “Risonanze” (the social program) of the Rome International Film Festival.
However, I don’t consider that as my first production at all. My first production was the official music video for Meg Myers’ “Monster” directed by Abram Pineda-Fischer.
PLM: Can you describe all of the responsibilities you take on as the producer from the time you take on a project to the time it is completed?
FN: If I tell you about all the responsibilities I take on as producer you might think I am just crazy to have chosen this profession! I would rather tell you a story about one of my productions so you will get an idea about my responsibilities as well as what is fun and challenging about being a producer.
When I was working on the Lagavulin, a well-known Scotch whiskey, commercial “Valiant,” I was asked by the director, Armen Perian, to find an alpaca that was willing to be on camera. I had a very limited budget. The director insisted I had to find not just the animal but also a field were we could film the alpaca. I was able to find an entire alpaca farm.
I went there, became friends with the owners of the farm and then managed to get a whole day to film not one, but all the different alpacas they had. The director specifically wanted an all white alpaca. I found him the exact alpaca he wanted and I also found other different ones that we later filmed just so we’d have more options in post-production. On top of that, I came up with the idea of creating a small green screen station on the farm so that we could film the alpacas there, and then, later, find the perfect field to put them in post-production.
At this point something fun and challenging happened: on the day of shooting, the farmers weren’t able to make the alpacas stay still, so, due to my love and passion for animals, I asked if I could try myself to calm the alpacas. Reluctantly, they allowed me to try. So I fed them and made them feel at ease… 10 minutes later, and perfectly on time, we were able to film them without any problem.
That’s the fun and challenging aspect of my profession: solving problems that are always new and always unpredictable, while taking the filmmakers idea and turning it into a real film!
PLM: Can you tell us about some of the films you’ve produced?
FN: Yes, with pleasure. Let’s begin with the film The Carnival Is on Fire, which tells the story of a girl who reflects on her loss of innocence while she is stalked by a lusting boy. In this film, directed by Ryan McDonald (Little Rock Film Festival, 2012), I was aware that most of Ryan’s art has to do with his unique use of light. So, I thought that a professional I knew, who usually invents and personally builds equipment for cameras (such as tripods, dollies, steady cams etc.), might invent a new equipment with lights that could be used specifically in Ryan’s film. Thanks to my very good and friendly relationship with this builder/inventor, I convinced him to do it having in mind two tasks at the same time: a) make a tool that was able to generate a vortex of lights, b) make it nice, so that it could be filmed rather than go unnoticed, as usually happens to all camera equipment.
The Lineman is another awards-winning film (Louisiana Film Festival, 2013, second prize, Louisiana Film Prize, 2013, Founder’s Circle Grant Recipient, Nominee: Solothurn Film Festival, Switzerland, 2014) that I produced with director Benjamin Weiss. The film tells the story of the men and women who keep the power on. We follow young Gage through the eyes of his girlfriend, Kira, as he discovers if he has what it takes to become a lineman, and ultimately, a man.
In The Lineman I faced new challenges: conceiving the production in California while it had to be done in Louisiana, since the goal of the project was to win an award at the Louisiana Film Festival. This implied a lot of problems obviously since all cast and crew had to be moved, for the exact time of the actual production (in order to limit expenses and remain within our budget) from one state to the other.
Once again, to cut expenses I relied on my diplomatic skills. I made an appointment with the Mayor of Arcadia (LA) to explain to him the meaningfulness of our movie and ask him for help. Meeting personally with Mayor Eugene Smith was a great pleasure.
The meeting was very successful and Mayor Smith allowed me to film freely within Arcadia’s city limits.
I was able to make friends also with Linemen and some of Louisiana’s people, up to the point that one of them invited all of us to live at his place, on the swamp, during our stay for production. This was extremely helpful to put all cast and crew within the ambience of the film, plus it allowed our DP to shoot footage of the swamp, which was useful for post-production, since he let us explore it with his boat. AND… it was all for free!
One more problem I had to solve in Louisiana was to provide all safety measures and equipment to make the cast and crew work without danger under extreme weather conditions, since we had to document the work of Linemen who repair electric lines interrupted by rain and wind during storms. We made it, we all survived, and we won two prizes!
Wrecks & Violins is one more awards-winning film I produced with director Kevin Lin. It tells the story of Silver, a disoriented teenager, who must overcome a stranger’s bizarre torment that has been issued upon him, with nothing more than a violin and his monkey-suited comrade. I was able to produce Wrecks & Violins with an extremely low budget and in a very short span of time, thus contributing to the overall success of the production.
These achievements were made possible by my natural capacity to promote a light and relaxed atmosphere throughout the whole process of making the film from pre-production, production, and post-production.
In Wrecks and Violins I was able to get most of the crew members for incredible deals, thanks to my connections. I was also able to obtain the permit to film in the Rose Bowl parking lot for free, an important scene of the film thanks to talking with the managers at the Rose Bowl, which is not easy to get, it required all my unique communication skills.
Wrecks & Violins was the Winner at NFFTY 2012 (Audience Award Winner), and at Las Vegas Film Festival, 2012 (Golden Ace Award Winner). It was also nominated at the Catalina Film Festival 2012, No Fear Film Festival 2012, and Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 2012.
In Snippets of Wally Watkins by director Kevin Lin, we find ourselves in a surreal scenario: children dressed with ghost costumes, lots of milk, and a cow. They all seem to hint at the instinctual power of Nature and Sex, all the more so since Wally and Emma (his girlfriend) talk about masturbation and have intercourse. A mysterious man then appears and forces (with his uncanny power) a woman to strip and pour over herself bottles and bottles of milk… Immediately after this, the mysterious man forces another sexy woman, dressed in a cat costume, to lick all the milk on the body of the first girl. In this way the mysterious man seems to represent the prototype of the perversion of Sex and Nature, and the waste of all vital resources (milk as its symbol). The movie ends with a super-hero killing the mysterious man in a bar, where Wally and Emma are seated close to him. The hero thanks Wally saying he helped him to “save the world.” Outwardly, it might look like nonsense; however, the hidden meaning of the movie is that sex and love are meant to conceive children (and milk to feed them,) while the search for perverted power may precipitate Humankind into uncanny behaviors and ultimately, self-destruction.
As producer of Snippets of Wally Watkins, I was able to find more than 15 locations in 3 weeks, which should have cost approximately 2,000 dollars a day per location (30,000 dollars total) while I paid only 2,500 dollars for all of them and permits.
For example, I was able to communicate so effectively with the manager of the famous Pink Motel, an iconic 50’s diner that is used for many movies, such as the TV series The O.C., Law and Order, and the movie Drive, that he convinced the owner to give me a huge discount. The overall impact of my natural attitude towards people and their needs proved to be an especially unique resource. At the same time I was able to integrate psychological skills to motivate the staff and crew, and financial reasoning in order to prevent financial losses. For example, finding a cow at a very low rate was not an easy task to accomplish, but it was crucial to avoid a waste of time and money. My love and good attitude towards animals was for sure one more skill that allowed me to include them successfully in movie productions. Finally, my capacity to find connections with sponsors in Italy and in the USA was crucial to making Snippets of Wally Watkins into a real film rather then remain a dream in the creative mind of its director/writer. Snippets of Wally Watkins is not yet released in the USA. At the moment it has been accepted to the Fano International Film Festival 2015 (Italy), and the Settimo Senso Aurum Cinema Festival, Pescara 2015 (Italy).
PLM: You also produced the music video for Koan Sound’s “80s Fitness,” can you tell us about the work you did on this project?
FN: “80s Fitness” tells the story of two groups of fitness fans who fight to be the best group at all costs. This was an extremely ambitious production, considering this music video had a limited budget. I went out on several occasions and covered vital expenses to keep the production going, such as food, production design, additional staff, I opened up my wallet and contact list and called up every favor I could to make sure production didn’t stop.
I also had to somehow find two production designers to build a small gym for the music video on set. Even though the production designers took care of deciding which equipment and props they wanted for the video, I was the one that had to schedule all the transportation, construction and overall management of the extremely heavy and potentially dangerous equipment. The result was an amazing music video, an extremely happy artist, crew and record label, and the director kept getting more work thanks to the success of the video.
PLM: Can you tell us a little bit about the music video that you produced for Meg Myers “Monsters”?
FN: Meg Myers as a person was extremely kind to all of us and very passionate about the project. There was this whole scene at night in the forest were we had to throw a bucket of water on her and she was completely wet and it was really cold. We had towels and everything to make it as fast as possible so she wouldn’t get too cold. But still, I remember I was very impressed with the commitment she had for her first big music video. This was my first production also. I met Abram Pineda-Fisher through school and we became really good friends. He was telling me about this video coming up and how he needed a bunch of equipment, props, and locations and as he kept talking I was like, “I know where you could get all these things”.
I’ve always been the type of guy that likes to drive around and explore new places, meet new people, and have as many different life experiences as possible, which is also why I decided to come here to study in California. Because of this, Abram asked me if I wanted to produce this music video, and at the time I didn’t even know what that meant, but essentially it was organizing, planning and getting everything for the director in order to make his vision come true. Which I found out was something I’ve been doing a lot in my life without ever knowing it was called producing. So I said, why not and that’s how everything started!
PLM: Can you tell me about some of the commercials you’ve produced?
FN: I have already told you about the commercial “Lagavulin Valiant,” but what I didn’t tell you is that I produced another commercial of the same kind called “Lagavulin Confidante.” Both ended up being part of a series of spec commercials called “The Notable Few” that later won the Gold 2014 National ADDY Awards.
This led to the hiring of director Armen Perian by the production company Tool of North America. These commercials were so successful that they also got Armen an interview about them on the young director award (YDA) official website.
The last commercial I produced is “Martha” directed by Sam Benenati. The project tells the story of a grandmother and her grandson who meet the day after the old lady’s birthday. It is a moving story of a “true” encounter between a woman who is now old and a tall boy who is now a young adult. They share their fears, their weaknesses, and discover the good feelings that make them finally become close and peaceful being together without “hiding themselves”.
I was a producer on the project along with Nima Shoghi. Due to some of the unrealistic demands by Ray-Ban, I had to bring my producing partner and friend Nima Shoghi on. In a week and a half we had to get the full cast, crew, location, equipment, insurance, food, snacks, transportation vehicles, and all the union contracts for this commercial. We were able to cast Jenny O’Hara (Mystic River) and Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World) within a week. Due to the work we put in, the project was not only completed but also Ray-Ban’s most successful project in the Never Hide campaign.
There are many stories I could tell about this production. One of them was trying to find the perfect house for this project’s location. Sam specifically wanted a 70’s Los Angeles house that seemed like it was inhabited by a grandmother that never changed anything since the day she began living there. For this reason he wanted to find the ideal house rather than getting a production designer to make it look that way. We searched through dozens of houses (all in the span of 5 days). We called agencies and so on. We were able to go visit various houses, we even were able to get the iconic house from the movie Boogie Nights, and it was amazing to actually walk through that house.
However, as amazing as it was it wasn’t the look Sam was going for. We actually ended up finding a real 70’s house that was actually inhabited by a lonely grandma that lived alone there for 35 years. She was still incredibly smart and had such a funny personality. She could have literally been “Martha” herself! That is why we knew we had the perfect house. It wasn’t easy to get that house. And I had to go around a 300-foot radius from the house convincing the neighborhood to be ok with us filming in there.
PLM: Collectively all of your projects are very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
FN: All the projects I have produced are very different indeed; however, they always have two factors in common: a) something intriguing from a psychodynamic point of view, b) something affective that really touches me on an emotional level.
Be it a movie, a documentary, a music video, or even a commercial, I take the job only if there is a “narrative” quality in the project since I love stories: to tell stories, as well as to “view” and “listen” to stories. After all, my roots are from Magna Graecia (the South of Italy), which is a land of storytellers. Furthermore, I contributed to my father’s invention of Multimedia Psychotherapy, which is in his own way, the telling of a story of a whole person’s life. The story of this new therapy is told in a scientific book published by Jason Aronson in the USA, in 2013: “Multimedia Psychotherapy: A Psychodynamic Approach for Mourning in the Technological Age”
PLM: When it comes to producing, is there a specific type of project that you feel most passionately about working on, and why?
FN: I love music videos and commercials since they are fast and you immediately see the outcome of your project– ones that have a strong emotional impact on the audience, and emphasize music. The language of sound and images is the most ancient and universal language spoken by humankind from time immemorial. I believe this is also, paradoxically, the language of the future, in our technological age.
I also love producing films, but to make me feel most passionately about working on a project, it should be finalized to help people to change themselves, change our world, and make it a better place to live, for us all: humans, animals, plants. In my view, there is much more than just “entertainment” in cinema. That is why I am not afraid of producing independent films (such as the film Pepe the Movie) since they are at times meaningful and rich from a humanistic and humanitarian point of view.
PLM: What production companies have you worked with in the past?
FN: Ray Ban, OWSLA, The Masses, Janus Communications and Movies LLC
PLM: What production companies or agencies are you currently working with?
FN: At the moment I am working with Janus Communications & Movies LLC, one of the production companies behind Snippets of Wally Watkins directed by Kevin Lin. I am promoting this film in Italy, and applying to Italian Film Festivals, and in the USA.
PLM: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one project over another?
FN: Honestly, I follow my gut and go with what inspires me and feels exciting. If the director seems like someone I get along and respect and his vision seems strong and fresh and gets me excited the same way I get excited when I travel to a place I’ve never been, then I know it’s the right project to produce. In short, I have to be excited about it in order to give 200 percent on the production from pre-production to post-production. That is what makes me a very unique producer, if I care about something I’ll put all my energy and effort to make sure it comes alive. And I’m willing to always go the extra mile to make sure it happens. It also helps that I’m a pretty obsessive perfectionist and also very energetic and positive. I bring the perfect attitude that is needed on set and especially by the directors that, more than anything, need a friend that says “I’ll take care of this, just tell me what you want to do and we’ll make it happen, don’t worry how crazy expensive it sounds or about all the logistics, you tell me what your dreams look like and I’ll turn them into a reality”.
PLM: What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?
FN: So far, my favorite projects are the commercial “Martha” and the independent film Pepe the Movie.
“Martha” is an interesting commercial since it says nothing about Ray-Ban glasses but tells a lot in terms of the experience of wearing them. In fact, Ray-Ban has launched on their “Never Hide Films” channel, a series of short films which pair rising directors with musicians. The series began with “Saturday Night Cosmic Breakdown,” and follows up with “Martha” by Los Angeles-based director Sam Benenati and Irish musician James Vincent McMorrow.
The aim is to help people to overcome their fears of being themselves, of letting others see themselves as they are truly, of looking at the real aspects of themselves and the world. I love the idea of Ray-Ban’s production, and I love the directors and the musicians they have been choosing so far. Working to make “Martha” become a real production in an extremely short time, was a great experience in my career as a producer.
Pepe the Movie is another project that intrigued me from the very beginning. It is the story of Pepe, a man who is sent out of a closed enclave (a little village forlorn into a rainforest) on a supposedly very risky mission. All people are dying due to a mysterious sickness. He must go out and reach the external world in order to get some medications and save them all before it is too late. At the end it comes out that there is no danger in the outside world and that the illness, most probably, has to do with the isolation of the little village. At the same time, and here is the challenging side of the project, Pepe is not a story but a tool to induce in the audience a psychological experience, an emotional state that helps them to empty their own minds and open up to new thoughts and feelings… a sort of meditation or mindfulness experiment.
This “twofold” nature of the project is what is making it difficult to be quickly produced. I enjoyed very much pre-production and production, especially when we had to fly to Puerto Rico and really work – cast and crew – in the rain forest. There I had to face great challenges like protecting tools and equipment… and the lives of the people who were in the forest. I was smart, getting a very expert local “guide” to find the right locations and to decide when and where it was safe to shoot the film.
And yet, believe me, the harder part of the work comes now, in post-production… to integrate the two “souls” of the project and make it become true in one or more than one format — a short, a music video, and a feature movie.
PLM: What would you say your strongest qualities as a producer are?
FN: I would say I am a mix between an artist, a practical person, a manager, a charismatic leader, and an inventor. This means that I am able to do a lot of things, including: A) discover new talents, recognize artists’ capacities, deal with them in the right way in order to get the most from them, suggest ideas (when appropriate) to make their projects feasible. B) evaluate carefully costs and benefits of every choice in pre-production, production, and post-production. C) deal with people according to their individual and group psychology, using the right manners to prevent or solve conflicts and/or finding new ways to solve problems. D) behave with diplomacy, creativeness, and style in order to get people work with enthusiasm, to get authorities say “yes,” to find solutions to unexpected problems.
These skills come from my innate character traits, from my spontaneous nature of being a human person that enjoys both the universe of dreams and imagination. as well as the universe of reality.
PLM: What projects do you have coming up?
FN: I have a lot of projects coming up for the next year with Janus Communications & Movies LLC, a start up interested in finding new and talented artists, and creating new innovative multimedia formats for educational activities (for example, in Continuing Medical Education). At the moment I am working on producing a series of video-interviews on Multimedia Psychotherapy. From this initial project that will end up producing a digital course on this new therapy, more challenging and exciting ideas are coming out.
The first idea is to produce a scientific documentary on the evolution of Mourning in our Digital Age: from filming dances, artifacts, costumes, and recording music and sounds of the American Indian rituals, to filming the tomb of Pope Julius the 2nd by Michelangelo in the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula in Rome, the church where the famous Moses by Michelangelo exists; and recording the voices of the choir hidden in the secret chamber besides the wall of the monumental tomb in the same church, to filming further explorations, entering the field of Virtual Reality, and its possible socially useful applications to help heal grief and bereavement.
This documentary fits with my unique identity as producer very well. I spent many years in America, and visited several American-Indian locations (New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, California), but I also know Rome and its Renaissance art and monuments very well, since I was born and raised there. Furthermore, I have all the connections to find the best cast and crew people in both countries.
The second idea is to produce another scientific documentary telling the story of a Training Group in Multimedia Psychotherapy that will be led by Dr. Wendy G. Lichtenthal, Ph.D., Director, Bereavement Clinic, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center, in New York.
This documentary will film a group of psychologists who work with cancer patients and their families in the MSK Bereavement Clinic. In this group, one psychologist will act as the patient, presenting pictures and music of her relationship with a relative he or she had lost, while Dr. Lichtenthal will play the role of therapist and all other participants will help “patient” and “therapist”. Multimedia Psychotherapy aims at collecting and analyzing pictures and sounds (music) to help mourn the loss of beloved relatives, partners, or friends. The documentary will tell the story of the whole process of the therapy throughout the monthly group sessions (minimum 7 sessions, one every month, maximum 9 sessions) in such a way as to be entertaining but scientifically accurate at the same time.
PLM: What are your plans for the future?
FN: An ancient Roman proverb says: “When humans plan their future, the Gods just laugh.” This said, I hope to be able to go on producing things that I like: commercials, music videos, documentaries, films that are not meant just to entertain, but to help people to change themselves and our world for the better. That is why, while I am ready to work for any production company that might be interested to me as producer, I will not stop my participation in non profit projects on behalf of The International Institute for Psychoanalytic Research and Training of Health Professionals (IIPRTHP), which implies supervising their actual multimedia artist, who edits today the “memory objects” of Multimedia Psychotherapy for mourning patients, in Italy.
Last, but not least, I am interested to approach the new field of virtual reality and try to find new possibilities of applying the new technologies to film, to Multimedia Psychotherapy, and to other new therapies that might be invented in the near future.
PLM: What do you hope to achieve in your career?
FN: From a general perspective, I am determined to produce high quality art movies in the industry as well as in the educational field. Finally, I would like to create new approaches to the fields of virtual reality, multimedia psychotherapy, and cinema.
PLM: Why is working as a producer your passion and chosen profession?
FN: I must thank my students/colleagues at The Art Center who spontaneously began to ask for my help in their own projects. They had no money to find a producer, and felt that I had the skills to produce their projects. As I had done with my father, in the past, I found myself helping someone (my colleagues/friends as a student of Film) and producing film. My colleagues thought I had the charm, the diplomacy, the style, the manners, that a producer should have to get people work with enthusiasm, to get authorities to say “yes,” to find solutions to unexpected problems, to suggest ideas to make their scripts more feasible, to choose the right festivals, and so on. And I discovered, with surprise, that it was true…
So I didn’t choose my profession. It went the other way around: the profession of producer has chosen me! Now that I know it, I might say that my professional passion is rooted in my closeness to the universe of dreams as well as to the universe of reality, and/or to my need to make practical, possible, concrete the immaterial world of creative imagination.