After winning the Jury Award for “Tea Time” at Campus Moviefest (a moment that junior film and media arts major Travis Misarti called “incredible”) he received an email one day saying that the short film had been entered into a selection process to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The process was a bit nerve-racking for Misarti and senior communications major Alli DiGiacomo.
“We had to fill out an application, and they said that they would be selecting 26 students out of everyone they had invited,” Misarti said.
After meeting last semester, the duo DiGiacomo and Misarti started Forza Coppia Productions, which is the production company that the two use for their movies. “Tea Time” was conceived by Misarti over winter break, while DiGiacomo wrote her film “Seeing Straight,” which is another short film under the Forza Coppia banner.
“We decided that we were going to co-direct both of them (“Tea Time” and “Seeing Straight”) together,” Misart saidi. “I sent ‘Tea Time’ to her, and she looked over it, and she said ‘this is great, I love it, I really wanted to work on it with you,’ and she didn’t have any other corrections for it.”
The collaboration between the two filmmakers has sparked quite a bit of notoriety in just a short time frame. In addition to winning a Jury Award at Campus MovieFest (CMF) and being invited to Cannes, DiGiacomo’s leading lady in her film “Seeing Straight,” Jade Rivera, won Best Actress at the Campus Movie Fest finals here at UT. Working with the same actors has really helped them when it comes to shooting their films.
“We feel like we’re really comfortable with using those actors. We feel like it’s a strong collaboration,” Misarti said. “It’s a big deal to find as directors people that you’re comfortable with. A lot of actors such as Charles (Doubleday-Potts, who often serves as the leading man), Jade we’ve used a lot.”
DiGiacomo also stressed the importance of collaborating with actors who are willing to take criticism from directors as young as they are.
“It’s important to find actors that you can trust,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s better when the directors and the actors have trust. When Jade won Best Actress (at CMF), I was excited because we didn’t nominate her, so they chose her. She definitely deserved it because she’s convulsing and she actually cries so it was amazing.”
That trust, in part, led Misarti to pen “Tea Time” over break. DiGiacomo said that they didn’t need to alter the script during shooting, which is rare when shooting a narrative film, even when it’s just a short one. Working with actors that they already had a relationship with allowed them to film “Tea Time” in just six hours.
“It was really the actors that inspired the writing,” Misarti said. “I wrote each character for each person playing the part. Only one of the actors actually dropped out before we started filming, so we had to replace him, but David (Rinere) did a great job with that role.”
Because both of them had directed the film, they would each have to fill out their own application. DiGiacomo and Misarti commented that it was a huge honor being selected to go to the festival, because a selection committee picked them over thousands that had applied from across the United States and the United Kingdom.
“We had to wait for a week and a half, but we couldn’t tell anybody because we didn’t know if we got accepted,” DiGiacomo said. “Usually they just choose one person for each film, but they chose both of us.”
Both filmmakers are working tirelessly to raise the necessary funds in order to make the trip to Cannes. Even though they were accepted to Cannes and into the CMF Finals that will take place in Los Angeles this July, only the CMF trip is covered by the school. But thanks to a fundraising effort put together on gofundme.com that has already raised them over $1,000, as well as an additional $1,000 pledged to them by the UT admissions department if they make a highlight video of their trip to Cannes, provided the couple raises the rest of the funds to make the trip.
The future is bright for these budding filmmakers, and the trip to Cannes is only the start for them. Misarti still has one more year left at UT. He plans on making a pirate film for his senior thesis film that’s required for all FMA majors. Meanwhile, DiGiacomo has an even higher bar set for their future.
“We are going to write while we are in Cannes,” DiGiacomo said. “We are going to win Oscars. I’m just kidding, but seriously, Oscars. That’s what I’m looking forward to at one point.”
Jordan Llanes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org