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Meet Pietro Barba

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pietro Barba.

Hi Pietro, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My story begins in middle school, at 11 years old, when my grandfather gifted me my first camcorder, from that moment my little camera and I became inseparable, I filmed anything that happened to be in front of me. In my first works we can find a 30 minutes video of my beloved grandfather telling all the jokes in his repertoire, or a complete reportage of all the class trips, or of all my summer stays abroad to learn the English language, filled with drama, stories, interviews, basically small documentaries. My journey to the world of cinema then continued in high school where as a gift for my 14 years I was given my first DSLR camera, the moment of choosing the camera was magical as if she had chosen me.

From that moment I started making videos for all my school projects, whenever it was a group presentation for any subject, anyone who happened to be in a group with me already knew they would end up shooting a video. My first amateur short film was “The luggage” shot with an iPad in one afternoon with my group of friends and edited with Imovie that same night, the first sleepless night of editing of my life. The premier of this short film was in class, it was projected on the electronic board and the audience were my classmates, including the actors themselves. Given the feedback we had for that small short film and infatuated with the sensation of making the viewer feel emotions thanks to my work, from that moment a plethora of small short films began. Almost always connected with school projects but this time much more structured. I still remember drawing storyboards in class for the project we were supposed to shoot that same afternoon. In the meantime, I had discovered Premier Pro and after endless tutorials on YouTube, editing has become a fun and fundamental part of the realization of our works, and the sleepless nights in front of the computer to finish a project increased exponentially. The first turning points in my journey were two episodes, the most internal one was the vision of the film Forrest Gump, I remember leaving the house to have a walk and thinking in tears that there was nothing else I wanted to do in life except tell stories through my films. But the crowning of my passion took place in 2006 when in a 3-month summer course at UCLA I shot my first non-amateur short film “hopeless”.

Thanks to hopeless, now in high school, a psychologist, Giuliana, decided to use it to open an event in a very prestigious building in my city. Given the success of the short film, she asked me to make another video on the Cyberbullying theme. Meanwhile, thanks to a reunion with my elementary school friends, I met Giovanni, an old classmate of mine, also with a passion for cinema, so we decided to team up and start creating projects together. We created the short “Behind the keyboard” which allowed us to go and work on a TV series, under the supervision of Giuliana, on a local television network. It was a very educational experience because we worked for the first time with real actors, with audio and three professional cameras. In the meantime, we have dedicated ourselves to the creation of music videos for emerging singers in our city, thanks to which we have refined our directing skills. In the meantime, coming from a family of doctors, and for fear that directing was nothing more than a hobby, I decided to give up my dream and to enroll in the university of medicine to become a plastic surgeon, but not having given it too much importance I did not manage to pass the admission test, at the time I was very distressed, but looking back I am really grateful. So in the meantime, while I was still making the TV serie and music videos, thanks to the help of my parents, I was able to find a job at “BENTOBOX”, a production company in my city, specialized in commercial videos.

Mainly I worked as an editor and cameramen. This is how two incredible years of my life began, I shot and edited five days a week any type of video, from small food producers on the mountains, to large food production companies, restaurants, hotels, I think I have filmed any type of cows, goats (in Italy we have a saying that says “dalle stelle alle stalle” which means “from the stars to the stables” well I did the opposite I went from the stables in the mountains to the stars of Hollywood), or profession present in Italy. We also worked for prestigious Italian associations and made a second TV program for the same local station where I was still making my first one. These two years of assiduous filming and editing have formed me in a precious way, my eye has trained and my ability to put together the essential pieces to make a story in the editing room had been considerably strengthened. In the meantime I had to abandon the first TV series, for logistical reasons, I worked 5 days a week and over the weekend I was following a scriptwriting course, thanks to which I wrote my first feature film, not yet made, while I dedicated the nights to editing the first TV series, making me a zombie at work the following day. A subsequent turning point came thanks to one of my colleagues and friends, his name was Sebastiano, aka Fox. Thanks to him I was able to make music videos for an Italian singer “Osvaldo supino” which then ended up on VEVO, with Giovanni’s help.

With this singer we have made a total of four videos, one more complex than the other and for the last video we can say that we have organized a real shooting, we rented a huge villa, lights, make-up artist, it was our first experience to direct a real set. That video turned out to be the best shooting we’ve ever done. The biggest boost in my journey came during an Easter lunch where family friends told me about a friend of theirs who worked in the Italian branch of the New York Film Academy and who according to them to follow my passion and not stagnate in a company that by now I was beginning to feel tight, I should have gone to a cinema course. It was a very painful choice, because on the one hand I had the convenience of a secure job with a good salary and on the other the passion that I was once again leaving out, cinema, telling my stories. So after endless hesitation I found the courage to resign and leave for Florence to do a 3-month course at the New York Film academy. This was an incredible experience, we lived from cinema every day, I was joined by wonderful people with whom we made all kinds of projects, increasing my hunger for filmmaking even more. So at the end of that little taste of my dream I decided to continue my course of study with NYFA by enrolling in their BFA filmmaking course, and after the admission process I finally landed in Los Angeles.

Right now I have already worked on many sets and productions, ineffable experiences, I have a short film in post-production and one ready for the festival run that I am very proud of, it is called “Kandy” and in order to shoot it I had to build a public bathroom in my small apartment in Burbank. I discovered how much I love working with Actors, but above all I rediscovered my passion for writing that has always accompanied me since I was a child. Now I’m writing a book for which I will later want to make a feature film to shoot in Italy as I prepare to finish my last two semesters with NYFA. This whole journey would not have been possible without all those people who saw a passion and potential in me that in their opinion should not have been wasted. My family, my friends, my colleagues, my classmates and classmates, all the people who pushed me and are still pushing me to realize my dream. But I know I am still at the beginning of my journey and I am ready to continue walking.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
First of all I should have gone to study cinema in America cinema at the age of 18 but due to a love story that was very important at the time I had decided to stay in Italy, and for fear of not being able to make cinema my job I had decided to enroll in medicine, luckily I did not enter, but I am extremely grateful that all of this happen because if I had not stayed in Italy I would never have worked for “bentobox” and consequently I would never have improved my skills. Here a very big internal conflict. In my hometown in Italy very few people really want to make movies, and my ego had increased disproportionately making me think I was much more talented than others.

While in Los Angeles I found myself in a situation where everyone wants to make films, surrounded by extremely talented people, even much younger than me. So at the beginning I felt disheartened thinking of not being up to my companions and friends, I considered everything a great competition where I had to prove that I was better than my neighbor, but this only led me to close in myself, so taken by nostalgia more or less a year after my arrival in the states I found myself thinking that maybe I would not be able to continue. But after a long call with my parents I realized that I had to keep walking, I had to believe in myself and above all I had to dismantle my now fallen ego and understand that I am in an environment full of incredible people, each with a story to tell. and that all this is not a competition but an exuberant and continuous, help each other to ensure that everyone can tell their own story, and this is what brings us together, we all have something to say here, and after having finally understood mine experience has completely changed, proving to be up to it has turned into helping the people around me to realize their dream, so that I could then realize mine. The biggest obstacle of all has been Covid, it has been more than a year now that I have not been able to return to Italy, some of my extremely loved family members have died, my great-uncle, my great-aunt, and my grandfather (who is called exactly as me, Pietro Barba) the same one who bought me my first camcorder when I was little. My sister gave birth and I became an uncle and I still haven’t been able to return.

All of this happened during covid while I was here in Los Angeles, it was a really tough time, but I did what I could to grow and after a year I can say that I am an extremely better person than I was a year ago. This is thanks to the lessons of the online academy, to reading, to several master classes, but above all to my roommates, friends, including one of the most incredible people I have ever met, another aspiring filmmaker named Dayana, who for the first time it made me see Los Angeles as a second home, and it helped me change extremely for the better. Another difficult moment was the decision to leave the agency job to go and study cinema, to leave the security of a job to follow the frailty of a dream. Another very intense period was when I was working for the agency during the week, I was making a TV series at night with my friend Giovanni, and I was making music videos on the weekend and in addition I was following a scriptwriting course, this period was really destructive but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Another obstacle that I encountered was the realization of my second short film Kandy, my intermediate project, I had to find a public bathroom but up to 4 days before the shooting I could not find one that did not cost too much, so, after a day spent at home depot and after studying my school’s public bathroom, in one night I built one in my apartment, which turned out to be much cheaper and visually striking than any other bathroom I wanted to rent. Building it was quite a tough but really motivating.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am mainly a writer, I love to write, tell stories, when I write it is as if I momentarily play to be God, creating characters, objects, landscapes and situations, it is an incredible feeling that nothing has yet managed to equal. When I arrived in Los Angeles I specialized in the study of dialogues, something that I had never experienced in Italy but once I arrived here I discovered. I developed an incredible passion for finding the perfect dialogue, being able to write a conversation between two characters each with their own voice and with different intentions behind each chosen word. This is what has interested me most in the last two years of writing scripts, I shot two short films both focused on this concept, one set entirely on the edge of a swimming pool and one entirely in a public bathroom, both of which have had a great response from anyone who has managed to see them, now Kandy the one set in the bathroom is ready to be sent to the competitions while the one in the swimming pool is still in post production. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I began to expand my knowledge in the world of cinema by getting to know new directors and new films that I had never considered before, so I implemented my tastes and found my own style that I hope to be able to soon demonstrate in my first feature film.

Lately, I have decided that for my first film I will first write a book, which I have now almost completed, in order to have a more exhaustive and detailed vision and to crown that passion for writing that has spurred me on since I was a child. Then once completed, I will turn it into a screenplay and then into a movie. Then another passion I have is that of editing, ever since I learned to use premier for my projects in high school, I have always juggled and improved in the art of assembling stories, and still I am helping many people to edit their short films, documentaries, music videos, vlogs, etc… surely in the future I would like to be able to edit a feature film, certainly mine. One of the biggest challenges was reducing my short film Kandy from 42 minutes to 17 minutes, making it incredibly more comprehensive. What I am most proud of are my stories, I have this little book that I always carry with me that whenever I can think of some inspiration I write it down, and I have been doing it for almost five years now and now I have recently switched to the second one. As a director, I have the ability to tell and bring to life stories that maybe without me would never have the power to see the light, I find it extremely exciting to combine different elements maybe taken from my notebook or from everyday life or from my personal experience, and like a lego construction, putting them together in a unique and not yet seen artistic composition. People say that everything has already been done but I disagree, there are many unexplored areas and this is what I want to do, and what I am trying to do, I want to tell the unexplored, a kind of adventure, I want to go in the most hidden areas of everyday life to tell those stories that are perhaps a little strange, or psychologically disbanded but which have not yet been told, I want to point the torch in those small holes that people may have forgotten to observe out of fear, and who no longer believes they exist.

I believe that an artist is capable of detaching from social conventions, from what is right or wrong, “ying and yang” and being able to put them together and bring about art. I believe that art is free will, I believe that art is one of the few way where we can actually forget we are a “person” and be “art”. As a person, one of the many person that we can become in our life, we have rules, we have moral conventions, we have everything but when it comes to art all this walls that we created or society created onto us are destroyed and we have a glimpse of what is actual reality. I think that art is belief, and belief is art, whenever we truly believe in something and this something is not influenced by “good” or “bad” than this thing, whatever it is, becomes art because it’s pure, it’s pure reality, it’s pure belief. I believe that we come to a point every now and then where we need art. And here I am doing film because we create another reality, we are able as director to think of a reality that can or not have conventions in it and make it happen on the screen. For a kid that looks at a movie that movie is reality, is real, we are able to give life to a belief, what is more powerful than that? Then I believe, and I’m still questioning myself on this aspect is that as artist we have the power to shape people’s mind, I think people need art and I believe that art is what set people wish and belief, I believe art can shape the future and in this way, I’m interrogating myself whether letting the EGO enter art, in order to not just achieve what I want in my art but to also negotiate a belief that would make things better.

I believe that a religion can be an art, I believe that whatever is capable to become art, then that thing is capable go being idolize because it’s nothing else than a pure belief. Should we use art as a way to shape a belief that would help or should we use art as a way to only achieve what we believe, I’m still not sure about this, maybe both. I believe art is the most powerful tool we have in life, it can do extremely important thing and extremely amazing thing, the thing is good or bad doesn’t matter when it comes to art. It does when it comes to society and the world we live in and we do art in the world we live, but I think that art is our way to escape it. I don’t believe an artist is a man at all, I believe that when a person is doing art, he can be everything, a movie, a paint, a photograph, I believe that we are capable of putting ourself into thing, rules do not matter. Art is probably neither ID, EGO nor SUPEREGO and maybe this is why is so appealing to us because art is not in a scheme, art can be everything and with art, we can be everything. Art can be the way we make people understand our beliefs in a way that is the closest they can get in our heads. Film is the ultimate way to portrait the art of living, coocking, cutting woods, driving it doesn’t matter a person who is able to do movies is a person that is capable of understanding the art that is hidden in the little pure thing, and transform them all together in a work of art. In the end, art is a lot of things, but I would say art is the way out of reality and the way out of ourself. So yeah in a certain sense an artist is not a person, an artist can be a person but can also be whatever he wants to be, there is no limit to his ID, especially in movies, as a director in a movie we can make happen whatever we want, no limit, what we can think off can potentially become reality and belief.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
Growing up, I was a person with a thousand interests. I tried any type of sport and changed one a year, I learned the art of illusionism since from an early age my dad always took me to the annual gatherings of the Italian magic club, illusionism has been particularly useful in the other of misdirection applied to the art of film editing, it has greatly helped me. I’ve always loved movies, starting with Disney movies. My parents bought all the VHS’s for my sisters, then I developed a passion for horror movies in my elementary school time again because of my sisters trying to scare me and during middle school and high school, my love for cinema has increased considerably, whenever I could I was in one of the few cinemas in my city, let’s say my favorite pastime. I must say that from the very beginning, the passion that prompted me to decide this path was that of writing, since I was a child in first grade, I have always distinguished myself for my ability in writing and in the search for the perfect word, a passion that I have a little lost after of high school but which I finally rediscovered recently in Los Angeles, thanks to the screenplays that subsequently allowed me to return to writing in prose.

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