Making The Magic Happen #2 – Raffaella Giovannetti (Set Decorator)

Welcome to the second instalment in our new interview series, MAKING THE MAGIC HAPPEN.

We are thrilled to be continuing the series with the multi-award-winning set decorator, RAFFAELLA GIOVANNETTI.

Based in both Italy and the UK, Raffaella is a leading film set decorator whose myriad credits include The Witches, Last Christmas, Mowgli, Tomb Raider, Allied and Gangs of New York.

The Best Offer

1. What are your favourite career moments to date, or favourite films you have worked on?

My favourite career moment was in the 2013. I won the “David di Donatello “ award for the “Best Offer,” a film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. 

It  was very difficult to work on that project.  Visually, It was  complicated. The film was surrounded by art. I had to reproduce hundreds of paintings with women’s faces and found original paintings that would be able to use on set. It was a small budget film with big  visual expectations. I, along with my team, put a lot of dedication on that project, with many days and nights of work, but the director, G.Tornatore, showed all of it on camera  and the award was the recognition of the hard work done.  

My  favourite film that I worked on was ” The Witches” by R. Zemeckis. I love working on period films and this was set in America in the 1960s. My second favourite project that I have worked on has been “Allied”, a WW2 film also directed by R. Zemeckis. 

2. How did you get started in the industry?

I had a chance to meet an Italian director, Ermanno Olmi, who came to do a film in the little town where I grew up. It was summer. I was there. I worked with the crew and Ive never stopped since then. I met my master, Bruno Cesari, a few years later, and I worked with him as an assistant set decorator for many years. I worked on various American projects with him and I learned a lot from him. He was an amazing Set Decorator with a lot of talent and sensibility. I was very humble and Ive tried to observe as much as possible to improve my skills and learn how to move in the industry.

3. What was the movie that made you fall in love with cinema?

There is not one specific movie, but one movie that gave me a lot of emotions was “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso,” again a Giuseppe Tornatore movie .

4. What are some essential films for anyone wanting to start a career in your field?

Once Upon at Time in America, The Godfather, Blade Runner, Barry Lindon.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? How do you get started on a project?

My creative process starts by reading the script, where my imagination gets involved, and I do a breakdown of the various ambients. From there, my first thought is about the characters presented in the script. 

If I have to dress a house or a flat belonging to somebody, I need to create and understand the personality. I’m thinking what he/she can do, what kind of hobby does he/she have, where does he/she live, what kind of environment have they been surrounded by, or where did they grow up. This is the starting process that develops researching in books, internet paintings, etc. Then I will prepare mood-boards, where I usually put existing mood references and then fabric samples, colour tones and dressing that I would like to use in the specific set. 

When I start dressing a set, the creative process is always very fluid. I have the basic idea planned already, then Im adding details, adjusting ideas or developing new ideas that come up just at the last moment seeing the set in progress. I usually spend time on set when nobody is there and I think what else could be done, what else could be part of the environment. Adding more details and graphics is the part that I adore because it is what makes the set alive. 

6. What’s a guilty pleasure movie you won’t switch off if it’s on TV?

Dreamgirls or Mamma Mia! number one. I love musicals and when I watch them at home I start dancing and singing. I can’t contain myself.

7. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?

I have been working on Mission Impossible 7/8, two back to back projects. Unfortunately I cant talk about the projects and what kind of sets have been created or will come up. What I can say is that even if MI is an action movie, the director McQuarrie takes big consideration for the look of the sets. We have created amazing sets. I experienced and created sets of new situations that Ive never crossed or done  previously. It has been a great challenge.

8. How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies?

In the last few years I didnt have a lot time off and I couldnt switch off from work for more than a few days. However, I like spending time at home because most of the time I work abroad. I love gardening, reading, cooking, and playing tennis as much as I can.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in ALLIED. Photo by Daniel Smith © 2016 Paramount Pictures

9. What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out in the industry?

Whatever you do, do it with passion and devotion. Be humble and do not do this job just for the money. Without these, it would be very difficult do this job. 

10. If you had to submit a ballot for the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll, what are some films that would be on your Top 10 list?

1. Once Upon at Time in America

2. The Godfather

3. Mission

4. The Shawshank Redemption

5. Out of Africa

6. The Last of the Mohicans

7. Moulin Rouge

8. Chariots of Fire 

9. Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

10. The Last Samurai

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