Stefano Nurra is the writer of Hum, one of our special mentions of Sitges Pitchbox 2017.
We have talked to him for this interview. He says he is in love with Fantasy and Science Fiction, and we know it, you only have to take a look at his project to realize. This is what he told us!
We want to know you better. Why did you choose this job? Where did you study? Where did you start your career?
I’m not one of those guys that can say: “I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was 3 years old”. My first love was fantasy and science fiction books, I was deeply into authors such as Ursula LeGuin and Philip Pullman. Once the genre books were over (because I’ve read them all!) I moved onto films in my early teenage years and that prompted me into choosing a university course in Design, only because it had a module on animation.
I spent three years studying the basics of moving image in Design, Faculty of Architecture of Alghero and I was exposed to great professionals and eminent figures in the world of graphic design and animation. I think at some point I decided that I wanted films to become my main goal and moved on to enrol for a Master of Fine Arts in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art.
I was also already actively working as a freelancer in the film/moving image industry, mostly in post-production but I started writing/directing/editing short films, web series and developing ideas for my feature film scripts. I moved to London in 2014 to develop my career further as a self-employed professionals and to find the right partners to do my first feature film.
Tell us about your work. What have you done? Could we watch some of your more important works?
I have worked on several projects in the last ten years, including shorts/web series that were extremely successful in the festival circuit but as a writer/director my most important work is definitely Border Queen, a TV pilot available online and Hum, a short film.
Let’s talk about Hum. How it all began? What is it about?
Hum is born primarily as a feature film concept. I had been toying with the idea of doing something based on sound/mystery rather than relying purely on visuals for quite some time. When I moved to London I was very much inspired (if not overwhelmed) by the city’s energy and its contradictions and these played a huge role in defining what Hum is about.
The film is inspired by a real-life mystery known as The Hum, a low frequency noise that’s been tormenting people all over the world for decades. Scientists have yet to explain what it is or where it comes from.
In Hum, from the run down, industrial outskirts of London to the deadly tides of the Thames Estuary, a grieving plumber, an obsessive scientist and his estranged daughter, race against a disgraced religious cult, to trace the origin of a mysterious sound, The Hum, believed to hide a passage to another dimension. And not just any dimension. The Afterlife.
How long have you been working in this project?
I’d say it’s now been 4 years since I put the idea for Hum on a page. After that there’s been good two years of development in which I met my partner in crime, producer Scott Imren, with whom we have not only developed the feature film but our strategy to gain momentum and gather attraction towards Hum, which involved creating a short film version.
What do you need to develop Hum right now?
Hum is currently a fully developed script with a solid package/visual treatment attached. The film has been developed through the European Genre Forum, a MEDIA programme for first time feature films. The film’s idea has been presented at Amsterdam Imagine, Fantastic Zagreb and Tallinn POFF. It has been mentored by top professionals such as Ant Timpson (producer of Turbo Kid, The Greasy Strangler) and Timo Vuorensuola (director of Iron Sky).
Right now Hum needs to access financiers and potential production partners to finally come to life!
Hum is already a shortfilm. Why did you decide to make it?
The feature film was always Hum’s first goal but in order to prove its concept and our ability to the market we decided to create a short based on the feature’s premise.
Do you have a casting for the film yet? Is it the same from the shortfilm?
We’re open to any possibility regarding casting, we loved working with Adam Shaw and James Bryce, two extremely talented actors based in UK. For the feature film, we’ll have to take into accounts what the priorities of potential production partners could be.
What is the best value of Hum?
Hum is primarily a concept-driven film. We believe we have a fresh, original concept that has already been proved by the related short film. The concept idea, a mysterious sound leading to a passage for the Afterlife, has allowed the short to become an Official Selection at world leading film festivals such as Fantasia, Sitges and FrightFest.
How was your experience trying to move the project in different markets and calls?
As mentioned above, the project has been extensively developed via the European Genre Forum and the reactions so far have been great. Many were impressed by the concept’s original premise, its visual package and references (all created ad hoc for investors and potential partners) as well as the connected success of the short.
We know you were going to pitch this project at Black Nights Tallinn this November. How was the experience?
Black Nights Tallinn has been a fantastic platform for Hum, as well as the European Genre Forum (of which Black Nights is part of). Our pitch for HUM was incredibly well received and we have made a number of great contacts from Co-producers and Sales Agents to Financiers who loved our project who we’ll now follow up with. It was also a great opportunity to perfect our pitching skills with the help of pitching coach Sybille Kurz, who mentored us and brought us to the next level pitching wise!
Is it easier to sell the project with the shortfilm?
It is definitely a much better position to be in for us. Potential investors and partners need to have confidence in our concept and ability to deliver and thanks to the short’s success on the festival circuit we’ve been able to prove this emphatically and build up momentum around the project. It’s also great to be able to use original images as references in order to stand out in any pitching event/business meeting. I believe that it doesn’t necessarily make the selling and financing easy but it does work beautifully in establishing a strong vision and approach in any market context.
Why did you applied to Sitges Pitchbox?
The Pitchbox looked like a great event to be part of and it was also a fantastic match considering that Hum short was part of Sitges Film Festival selection.
What could you tell about your experience in Filmarket Hub and Sitges Pitchbox?
We were looking at improving our pitching skills and it’s been fantastic to see all other projects’ pitches at Pitchbox and learn from all of them as well as meeting other filmmakers who are currently promoting their projects.
Do you think these kind of events are useful to you?
These events represent, together with markets, the best opportunity for our film and us as filmmakers to keep up the momentum that is building behind our project and eventually put everything in place to start production.
Any advice to future participating projects?
Yes. Get your presentations looking as slick and curated as possible. At the end of the day, you’re trying to use a visual medium and if the presentations fall short on that side, why would someone believe that you’re able to do a movie? Also, have a solid sizzle reel to show in order to establish what you want to do with the film. Someone along the way will ask for it anyway so it’s better to have that ready. Same goes for budget and financing plan, make sure those are ready to go anytime, if your pitch is successful you’ll be asked for them by someone for sure!
These are some quick questions to know you a little more:
3 favorite screenwriters: Lawrence Kasdan, David Peoples, Woody Allen.
3 favorite directors: Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher.
3 favorite films: Brazil (Terry Gilliam), Blade Runner (Ridley Scott), The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky).