“I always dreamed of working, one day, in the entertainment industry and, being an extremely ambitious person, I had high standards: I wanted to go...
If you haven’t met Italian actor and director Fernando J. Scarpa yet, don’t miss his performance as a Master of Ceremonies on the occasion of L’Italo-Americano 106th anniversary celebrations, to be held on March 1 at Casa Italiana.
After a long and successful stage experience, started in Salerno when he was a teenager, Fernando moved to Los Angeles four years ago to finally live his dream of making movies.
He attended the Accademia d’Arte Drammatica in Rome, and had the opportunity to work at the Stabile Theater in Turin, the Stabile in L’Aquila, and the Eliseo Theater in Rome with renowned directors the likes of Maurizio Scaparro, Glauco Mauri, and Giorgio Albertazzi.
At the age of 30, Fernando decided to leave Italy to pursue a career in the movie industry. Nevertheless, in Vienna he was appointed personal assistant of Oscar-nominated actor Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto, James Bond: Never Say Never Again); while in Wittenberg, Germany, he supervised a theater for five years and won the National German Award for Best Stage Director in 2004.
“Things were going great, but I was still stuck in theater instead of making movies. It was now or never. So I packed my bags, abandoning all professional and social certainties, and came to the U.S. to start afresh.”
Fernando studied Cinema in New York for two years, surprised by the difficulty of reaching the clarity of expression typical of American movies.
“Theater is made of words. For twenty-five years I had been focusing on words and dialogs, using them to create the reality and trying to understand how they affect the audience. Cinema is completely different: it is made of images, to the extent that words can be superfluous.”
It took some time and the ability to say no when necessary, to avoid rushing into things. “Shaking off a bad debut film is never easy, so I wanted to start off on the right foot. Now I am about to present my work Doradus.”
Doradus is a modern ghost tale, produced and interpreted by Italian American actress Mara New. The story came to Fernando while having dinner at her house, a beautiful mansion on the hills…and the ideal location for such a movie.
The 23-minute short film will be premiered in Los Angeles on March 10 for a selected audience from the movie industry, before participating in a number of festivals. Furthermore, it could easily become a pilot episode for a TV series, and Fernando hopes to sign a contract soon.
Moving to Los Angeles to follow his ambition, Fernando really put himself to the test at a personal and professional level. In Europe he enjoyed a good reputation, and theaters are usually State-funded. On the contrary, in the U.S. a director can rely only on the quality of his product to win over the public, critics, and investors.
Yet, he is not concerned about his own. His greatest fear is being incapable of telling a good story. “Nowadays everybody can be a filmmaker thanks to Youtube and modern video cameras, even without knowing anything about lenses or other technical aspects, even without a story to tell. But I have learned that if you want to do something good, you need to be patient.”
And this is the same advice that he gives to his students from the UCLA Extension, where he has been teaching three classes of Directing Movies and TV since the year 2011. “I really enjoy teaching, even if it wasn’t planned. The experience as a director is certainly useful, and I consider my students as my assistants. In the beginning I wasn’t sure that they would listen to what I had to say, but I had nothing to lose. Actually, I felt the same the first time I went on stage, and even now with Doradus. Too bad that we lose this kind of freshness as we become professionals.”
Fernando would like Doradus to return to Europe in his place, as he likes living in Los Angeles, a city that he finds very similar to Salerno where he grew up. And he also likes the tradition of American storytelling, which is centered on a hero and his power to solve problems, more than the European one, more focused on social or political issues.
Besides Doradus and the exclusive collaboration with L’Italo-Americano, Fernando has also other projects coming up, including the direction of Romeo and Juliet on March 27 at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, an acting role in the American comedy Luigi, and his play Galileo 1610 to be staged in May.
But what is the secret to access the enchanted world of Hollywood? According to Fernando, “Hollywood is like a wealthy castle with fake doors. They are just painted on the walls, and to knock persistently is useless as nobody will hear you.
On the contrary, if you do something very good outside, in the village, someone from the Castle will notice you and invite you in. You wouldn’t even know how it happened. I have heard this story many times.
Success can’t be explained. You need to do something interesting, that people really like and that creates work for the Hollywood industry. This is the U.S. mentality, I have learned it the hardest way but now it is my career path.”