Apparently there’s not one but four Lorenzo Fonda's in Italy, and they're all making stuff. The Lorenzo Fonda we interviewed is a young director who is passionate about skateboarding and who says he owes everything to it. Much like Mike Mills and Spike Jonze a generation before him, skating has a profound influence on his life and work. His films are simply a joy to watch all his stuff is always bursting with creative energy. So far, he has done music videos, short clips, commercials (for Nike and Converse) and idents (for Nickelodeon and MTV). He's now working on a documentary film 'Megunica' with street artist Blu, which will be released in 2008 and looks very promising. So keep an eye out for this guy, he might very well be the next… Lorenzo Fonda, really. And yes, we asked: not related to Jane.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your background?
Video still. Music video for Bernhard Fleischmann "02/00"
How did you get from illustration to animation and video?
Well, as any other Italian kid I grew up watching Japanese cartoons. Everyone was dazed by looking at them. I wanted to marry Mila Superstar and wanted Future Boy Conan as my best friend. That's where I think I learned what suspension of disbelief was: I was amazed that a few drawings, very well drawn but very poorly animated, could create such fantastic new worlds and give life to amazing characters like those. I think I owe Japanese animation a lot. When I was 8 or 9 I discovered skating, and with it skateboard graphics. From that point on I could never go back. I knew I had found the kind of visual world that I loved. I started drawing, obviously copying what I saw in magazines and under the boards. Then the Simpsons came, and I realized that was the kind of humour and storytelling I liked, apart from the visual style, which was great too. So, now I was set. I started making a mix of Japanese and Simpsons illustrative style and experimenting more and more, untill I came to the point that I realized I wanted to give life to my characters and animate them. I was doing animation with software from Autodesk, but I didn't know how to do it. I didn’t know how to separate the characters from the background, so I had to redraw the background in each frame. But then I discovered I could hand draw my animations, Adobe Premiere came, and the rest was all downhill.
Video still. Nike Shox launch movie
Did you know that Future Boy Conan was directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who later co-founded studio Ghibli and went on to create the most amazing anime features such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away?
Of course I know him, he's one of my all-time favourites! I know Conan was a creature of him, and I always watch his movies. I fell in love with Nausicaa. It's an awesome story. Miyazaki creates worlds like no one else. If you can, try to find the comic books of Nausicaa, you'll be blown away by it.
Are you still watching anime?
I am not watching much anime anymore, but when something good comes out I watch it. I enjoyed Tokyo Godfathers a lot [ed: by Satoshi Kon], it was great! Metropolis [ed: by Rintaro] was kind of a let down, but maybe because I saw it in Japanese with English subtitles, and that fucks things a little bit eheh...
It seems there's quite a lot of creative talent
coming out of the skateboarding scene. Why is that you think?
I think the right question to ask is quite the opposite: why do so many creative people start to skate? Skateboarding is a creative person's paradise. I've never seen so many people so full of life and courage and creativity, and with the will to test themselves as in skateboarding. Personally, what attracted me was the idea of freedom that poured from every aspect of it. Skating fast down the same sidewalk where in the morning I would go to school all sad and annoyed, flying past the old grandmas that would shout curses at us, waking up at 8 on Sunday morning to go skate around the city, finding with your friends some industrial complex in the middle of the night to skate that awesome rail. That is freedom for me, and that is the best. I think creative people are longing for freedom, both physical and mental, and skating offers that, with a community to share their experiences and life more in general. So, in the end it looks like skating is just a phase of our development as "creative" beings, because when your body will not be able to bear getting hurt anymore, we will keep on creating things and situations, no matter what.
Interview: Lorenzo Fonda: 3
To what extend does your skateboarding background influence your work?
To me, skateboarding was everything. It made me the person I am today. It teached me almost every aspect of how to deal with more general life situations. It gave me perseverance to reach my goals. It showed me that failing at something is ok. It gave me the eye to look at things from another perspective. I discovered music through it. It showed me that to do something you first have to envision it in your mind. And so much other stuff I can't believe it. And, I was always keen to give back to skateboarding what it gave me, so me and my friends where building our skatepark for us and friends from other cities, organizing contests, supporting the scene. It was great.
Video still. For MTV Load - The Handstanding Being
What's happening in Italy right now in terms of the moving image scene?
Honestly, not much. There are a lot of people who follow what's goin on in the world, but I haven't seen a lot of interesting things produced lately goin’ around Italy. Maybe I'm just not searching in the right places. Maybe the VJ scene is much more developed, from what I know they're doing great things in that field.
Your work has a nice rough edge to it, kind of lo-fi. More than anything
it seems to be centered around a good (visual) concept. How do you
decide what it should look like.
When an idea strikes my mind, it's just an idea, just an abstract thought that floats around. I have to transform it into a visual and maybe narrative representation. I tend to have a general vision of how it should turn out, but untill it's done I don't know what to expect... and that is the most exciting thing for me. I'm not the type of person who plans things, and I love the feeling of improvisation and of going with the flow. That's why my work has this rough edge to it, because in this way, without planning it too well and leaving it simple, I have more freedom to experiment and leave the final result in the hands of happy accidents and sudden crossroads, where I decide blindfolded and with dices which way I should follow (this is the way is skateboard, by the way eheh).
Video still. Nike Shox launch movie
The Nike Shox movies, is that ink on paper or
did you draw them on the
computer. What software do you use?
For the Nike Shox spots I used my Wacom tablet and pc, the only thing I did on paper was sketches and storyboards. The scenes where done in Flash and then edited in a normal video editing software. When I have to add some more complex effects, I use After Effects.
What's your favourite movie?
You know it is not possible to say... like anyone else, I have many. The latest ones I've seen that touched me are Eternal Sunshine (someone stop Gondry), Me and You and Everyone We Know and The 25th hour. The series Lost kicks asses too. Happiness from Todd Solonz is great. I like the work of Werner Herzog, he's a genius. Tim Burton should be president. And speaking of japanese anime, the movie Mindgame is out of this world, both visually and conceptually! you'll be blown away... Plus many more I can't recall now!
Video still. Short films about life: Three Wishes
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What would you like to be doing?
Ahah! Oh well... I'd like to be directing movies, but on the other hand I'd also like to be shooting animal documentaries for National Geographic, or possibly just be the director of a zoo with only ferrets and tamanduas.
>> Play Lorenzo Fonda's short clip '2 in 2' which is in our Chunks section
Screenshot from Lorenzo's homepage
>>The production blog of Lorenzo Fonda's film 'Megunica'