Pretty Things (short film), and an interview with director Carlo Ortu

Pretty Things was among the wonderful collection of films during Interfilm Berlin 2012's Eject Competition, where the audience got to vote for their favorite films using noisemakers, colored balloons, and a whole lot of shouting. One of the crowd favorites, Pretty Things is an unconventional left turn into an old man's loneliness as he pines for a lengthy, enjoyable visit with his granddaughter.

Really, if anything, all Harry wants is a hug, although Chantel is obviously disinterested in spending time with her granddad. She brings her boyfriend along for the visit, brings an obligatory gift Harry can't even use, and as soon as she shows up she's ready to leave again. In a hilariously desperate bout to encourage some feeling from Chantel, Harry takes his friend Jack's advice: the road to Chantel's heart is paved with a whole lot of guilt-tripping. Harry, however, goes overboard.

While Harry is definitely a unique character, there were several times where he reminded me of Victor Meldrew from "One Foot in the Grave". Upon watching more of Carlo's work on his Vimeo channel, I was lucky enough to get a mini-mailterview in with the man himself. Check out another peek into Carlo's talent in the hilarious short The Last Man on Earth.

Celeste Ramos: You have a great talent for combining dark situations with humor and a message. Grief, loneliness, loss, mysterious people all play a part in your films. What set you out on the dark-yet-funny path as a writer and filmmaker?

Carlo Ortu: I think comedy is a short cut to the truth. I have a sort of odd angle on most things and I love black comedy for cutting through all the crap. I’ve always been a big Billy Wilder fan but I have never set out to follow a certain path. I just write what interests me and often reflects what is going on or has happened in my own life. Sort of like therapy I suppose but with more hassle.

CR: Your earlier films like Safe Zone and Smile are more serious/straightforward. Do you think you’ll keep making films in that vein as well, or did you start out with that style and later began to incorporate humor into your work?

CO: Well I kind of see Smile as one of my darkest yet funniest films but I get what you mean.  I think humour always seems to creep into my writing but it depends on the subject. I wrote Safe Zone back in 2006 because I was angry about the war. It’s a personal film and even more so now as I had a friend who was in the Marines killed in Afghanistan. I think all my films are personal but I’m certainly more comfortable with humour. I like to think that I’ll make a range of films covering all genres but we’ll see.

CR: Every Time I Think of You is an intriguing film. What drew you to the project and the case of Toni Sling?

CO: Well I came to that as a "Director for Hire" so to speak. The film was written and cast with all the locations in place. They just needed a film crew, which is where I stepped in so compared to my other work I had very little input. I liked the script and the people behind it and what they were trying to achieve though and it was different and it made a change.

CR: Are there new visual or storytelling areas you would like to experiment with in the future?

CO: Well I guess I’d like to work with bigger budgets and work on a bigger canvas. I work with hardly any money really, and it’s even more difficult now as I have a family to support and I’ve always been turned down when I’ve applied for funding, which prevents me from doing certain things. So I’d like to be able to make films with more scope and ambition.

CR: What was your “yes! I am going to be a director!” moment in your life?

CO: I was and still am a complete film anorak and from as far back as I remember I always wanted to make films.  But the "yes" moment really came when my grandparents bought me a book called Movie Director’s Story by Joel W. Finler, when I was about ten. I still have the book.  It covered film directors from the early 1900s to the 1970s and for the first time I realized what a director did and I knew it was something I wanted and needed to do.

CR: Are there any significant creative goals you want to pursue via your work as director or writer?

CO: I just want to work with nice people and do different things I think. I want to move into features for certain.

Check out more of Carlo's work on his Vimeo channel and his website, Sugarspun Pictures. Don't miss the In Development section for the scoop on upcoming projects!

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