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Interview with director Christian Bachini


Christian Bachini is an Italian filmmaker born in Parma, in the wonderful region of Emilia Romagna. His passion for filmmaking began at a very early age and action, adventure and horror soon became his favorite genres. At age 23, Christian left everything behind, took his savings from his work as a martial arts instructor and moved to Asia in order to pursue his dream of becoming a Martial Arts actor. He established himself in Shanghai under the art name Kang, a word that in Chinese means “to counter and resist.” Beginning to work first as an extra and a stuntman, he went on to obtain a series of supporting actor roles, and finally he became lead actor and fight choreographer in a series of local indie productions like Mao Pai Sha Shou/Fake Killer and Xia Dao Zhi Zhun/Break a Dead Lock, becoming one of the few accomplished Mandarin-speaking foreign actors working in Shanghai. During his Years in China, he also became an advocate of Chinese-Western co-productions by working side by side with Italian Film Festivals to promote meetings between Chinese and European Producers. After many Years spent in Shanghai, Christian’s passion for the horror genre came knocking. In 2020 he decides to leave Asia behind and step behind the camera to debut as director with his short film Escalation, a proof-of-concept film from which he aims to kickstart a full feature film version based on the same concept.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I think it all happened when I was shooting action movies in Shanghai. In the beginning my passion for action and asian cinema led me to dream about becoming an action star in Asia. But once I got there and after a few years of spending time on set throwing kicks left and right, suddenly I found myself wanting, needing even to start telling my stories. I was witnessing a lot of superficiality in relation to the stories that were told, action was the main focus while characters and feelings were left behind. Soon I found myself more and more frustrated because I believe cinema is a great way to express emotions and send important messages to the audience. So I decided that I would start writing my own scripts and shoot my own movies.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely it is not necessary, talent cannot be bought nor can it be teached. Sure, going to an acting academy or film school is of great help to understand more the craft and the technical aspects of filmmaking, but it is absolutely not a requirement in order to find success as a filmmaker. If talent is there, success will follow.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Both aspects are hard. I began my career in China, a country really far away from Italy and a different culture and mentality so starting there was incredibly hard, but passion and commitment always pay off. The most important thing one has to keep in mind when starting to work in the film biz is to always have faith in one’s skills. Always be confident because there will be many people that will try to shut you down and destroy your dreams. You must ignore all this and keep pushing. Keep going after you have a breakthrough is tough because now people have expectations. So every new film has to be an improvement over the last one. Like now, my directorial debut in the horror genre “Escalation” has found great success in many different countries, so definitely I know that my follow up must be even more unique and crazy and fresh. It’s a bit stressful but this pressure is also what makes the whole process fun.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson is “always keep going”. Once you get on set, it doesn’t matter what happens, the movie MUST be completed. For me this lesson happened when a friend of mine in Shanghai reached out to me to help him finish a film. He had shot the movie with a different action director that ended up messing up all the action scenes, very bad quality. So my friend asked me for help and told me he was out of budget and at most he could shoot three more days. But he needed to reshoot the whole ending of the film and the action scenes, fights, gunfights and a few big stunts. Almost half an hour of movie in 3 days. I said ok, we went on set and started shooting using some trusted stunt performers. We managed to complete the full film and the final result was great. I knew I needed to give my friend the best of me to help him out, and delay was not in the cards. So I made it happen.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Shooting Escalation was quite an adventure, I did most of the work from writing to producing myself, with the help of a very good friend of mine in Shanghai. Then we got only around 8 to 10 people on set and, having a very small budget, I was lucky to have a friend in Italy, Antonio Vannucci, helping me out with an additional budget to complete the film. So the whole process was very complicated and many times it looked like we would need to shut down the whole thing. Once shooting was done the other challenge was finding help for post-production. I edited all the film myself but I still needed help with color, some sfx and sound design and scoring. So I approached the situation from the point of view of being conscious that what I had shot was really amazing. So I began sending emails to a few companies and artists, explaining that I didn’t have much money but my work was absolutely deserving of receiving help. Some ignored me but many replied and so I ended up receiving help from a few top notch professionals in Shanghai from the Fin Design Australia post-production team, Alexander Taylor, a top music composer in LA and the amazing poster artist Christoher Shy of Nicholas Cage’s “Mandy” fame. As I always like to tell people, know your worth and believe you can do it.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Never had any hard choices to make I must say. I knew how I wanted Escalation to look like and feel like so I went all in and made it happen exactly as I wanted it to be. I got injured while shooting, and couldn’t use my right hand for almost a week, I also got an injured eye, but I just kept shooting. I was not willing to make any compromises. I suffered, I endured and in the end I made Escalation exactly as I had it envisioned in my mind.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Yes, the art of movie making is all about collaborations. It’s a team effort. Trust in the cast and crew is vital. For me, finding the right people happened while shooting. I am a perfectionist so many people walked out of set because they didn’t understand why a short film needed to look so good or be so complicated. They took it as a game. When they figured out I was not playing around they decided to leave. In the end those who stuck with me showed me their true passion and commitment. Now I have a trusted team that I know will follow me everywhere I decide to go.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Speaking about the horror crowd, the audience for genre movies just wants to be entertained. They want to be scared, thrilled, laugh and be grossed out. They want to just sit down and enjoy a good scare. But as a filmmaker you shouldn’t focus too much on what the audience wants. The most important thing is to create something that you, as a filmmaker, truly love. The audience will feel the passion you put into your film and will respond positively to that.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film festivals are absolutely the life force of any emerging filmmaker. Imagine you go through all the effort and sacrifices to shoot your first film, may it be a short or a feature length movie, then the next step is bringing your work to the audience. How do you do that? As an indie filmmaker entering the distribution circuit may turn up to me a nightmare, filled with people trying to get your work for extra cheap trying to make a buck. That’s when Film festivals come in. Having your film screened in festivals all over the world brings attention to one’s work and project, you get a chance to attend a few of those festivals and be sure you will start meeting a lot of passionate filmmakers that share your dreams and goals and even producers. And when your film or short has gained recognition, now you have something to leverage while dealing with distribution. I always loved film festivals and there was never a doubt in my mind that my first work would have been dedicated to a festival kind of release. So the most important step is to shoot something, submit to the festival you would like to attend in person and then invest some time and money to BE there! All the rest will come naturally and sooner than later you will find yourself already in the process of creating your next film.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Original and fresh is my motto. When I was thinking about Escalation I was never scared by the fact that it was something absolutely never seen before, I was never scared that I didn’t have money to show a villain, a demon or entity, nor I was worried that people would be bored watching just one actor in one single location. I knew the power of my story because it was daring and new and absolutely out of this world in terms of where the story would go. And I was correct. Audiences all around the world are loving it and I am receiving amazing feedback from everyone. It doesn’t matter if it is Europe, Asia or the United States, people enjoy it, they get it, they get suycked in the whirwind of blood and frenzy and they have a good time. That’s because what they are seeing is new. It’s not a monster movie, or the classic ahunted house or torture porn, Escalation it’s its own beast and that’s why it is receiving the attention. So my suggestion to filmmakers is always try to be original, homaging older movies or older times is fine and it’s fun and all, but we cannot just get stuck in the past. The horror genre needs new blood, new ideas, it’s a genre that lives on creativity and crazy imagination, so we, as genre filmmakers, must be always looking for new and fresh ideas.