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From “Penny Dreadful” to “Lion”: A Catch-up with Director Davide Melini

Members of the crew of "Penny Dreadful"
Members of the crew of “Penny Dreadful”

While fans of Penny Dreadful are still mourning the recently announced ending of Showtime’s horror drama TV series after the Season 3 finale, I thought it was a good idea to catch-up with someone who worked on the show. You may remember Davide Melini from my previous interview on his homage to the “Giallo” film cycle: the Italian-born and Spain-based director has now plenty of projects in the pipeline.

Hi Davide, it’s nice to hear from you again. Let’s start with your most recent work for the small screen, as you recently worked as an assistant director on a few episodes of Penny Dreadful. How was the experience on set?

It was definitely a very nice experience. Penny Dreadful was a very complex production whose crew was made of more than three hundred professionals and almost all of them were from Dublin. There were twelve assistant directors and only a guy from Barcelona and I were “foreigners”… All the others were coming from Ireland! We shot for three weeks in the desert of Almeria and inside Fort Bravo, which is the biggest Western-style film studio in Europe. It was a real pleasure working with Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Wes Studi and Sarah Greene.

Director Davide Melini with the "Penny Dreadful" star Josh Hartnett
Director Davide Melini with the “Penny Dreadful” star Josh Hartnett

When we spoke last time you were developing the short film Deep Shock, which is currently in post-production with a release date set for 2017. You’ve also just released the teaser trailer for a brand new short, which is your latest work within the horror genre. What is the status of these projects?

After working on Penny Dreadful, I moved to Malaga, the city where I live, with some members of the same crew to shoot Lion and Deep Shock. Those ten days were very intense! I have to say that the crew was fantastic and I really thank all of them for the hard work and patience. Both of my shorts are in post-production: Lion will be the first to be released, because it’s a smaller project, while Deep Shock is announced for 2017 because it’s a more complex production. We have just launched the promotional campaign for Lion, with the teaser, posters, lobby cards and web page. The word of mouth is growing and very soon we will start promoting Deep Shock as well.

Official poster for Davide Melini's short film "Lion"

Tell me something more about Lion, whose tagline states “Man’s biggest fear has risen again.” The setting of the story is very promising: an isolated chalet in a snowy forest…

When I write a screenplay, my mind has to be always clear: there must not be any kind of restriction. This way the story almost writes by itself. In the case of Lion, I felt the need to write something new and stronger. My idea was to enter into the darkness and explore the real terror. I set only one key limit: the characters should be totally isolate and so I cut off any way of escape. I immediately imagined an isolated chalet, lost in the middle of a snowy forest, so that the focus shifts inexorably on the only available light: the house. Knowing from the beginning that it will be impossible to escape, the chalet is charged with an even more metaphorical power. And once the audience will be in the corner and can’t run away, I will show him all sorts of horror… I can just say that once inside the house, you will pray to get out.

For this project you had the chance to work with a creative team that includes producers Luca Vannella, Alexis Continente, Vincenzo Mastrantonio, Bobby Holland, Ferdinando Merolla and Roberto Paglialunga, whose combined credits range from Thor to Game of Thrones. What do you think did these collaborators bring to Lion?

The most important thing when creating a film is the screenplay, and the second step is finding someone who believes in the script and wants to invest money in it. You can have the best script ever, but if nobody is going to produce it, the film won’t happen. I’ve been very lucky because the principal producer of Lion and Deep Shock is my cousin Luca Vannella, and it’s only because of him that I’ve been able to produce them! In the space of a few months, five of Luca’s colleagues joined him to finance the shorts. Besides, I also had the opportunity to work closely on Penny Dreadful with three of them – Luca, Alexis and Vincenzo. I remember that it was a magical and surreal period for me: I was working in one of the most famous TV series around the world and, at the same time, I had the opportunity to talk every day to them about my short films. Aside for the economic aspect, they were also very important on set, because they put their wide film experience at the service of the crew.

Melini with the cast of "Lion"
Melini with the cast of “Lion”

 At this stage of your career, what do your most recent works represent?

Lion and Deep Shock are very important for me, because they are my latest short films, and I am now looking forward to developing a feature. While Lion represents my return behind the camera, Deep Shock will close a cycle that began in 2006 with my first short Amore Estremo. Back then I honestly didn’t know what we could achieve, but I’m very happy with how things went so far. It was wonderful to see a team of professionals moving all together in the same direction. The fact that many people came from the Penny Dreadful series resulted in a truly multinational crew and this was good for the films. If you work in harmony, the results are definitely more positive!