From dream to film

Phase two: The journey continues

David Battistella
July 12, 2012

Filmmaker David Battistella moved to Florence from Canada in 2011 to pursue his dream: writing and producing a feature film based on Ross King's 2000 book Brunelleschi's Dome, about the life of Filippo Brunelleschi and the building of Florence's Cupola. This column, which began with TF 149, chronicles Battistella's pursuit of his dream, including anecdotes of his new life in Florence and his efforts to finance and launch his ambitious project.


Photo by Michael Verhoef Photo by Michael Verhoef on Flickr


When I moved to Florence with the impossible dream of creating a definitive film about the life of Filippo Brunelleschi, it didn't seem like a monumental task until others described what I was doing as climbing a huge mountain. Fortunately, I've had the good luck of spending time in the Canadian Rockies while making a film about a climb. That experience speaks to me now, years later as I move, gingerly with each step, closer to creating the film.


Writing an original screenplay is not an easy task. You have to convey all that a full novel does, using only character dialog and action. Then, you compress all the imagination of a novel into a tight, strictly formatted 120 pages. It takes tremendous skill and patience. I've written three of them, and my process is evolving. I am now drawing on those experiences as well.


Arriving in Florence meant learning many new things, about myself, about a new country and a new city. More than anything, I've had to get into the mind of Filippo Brunelleschi by immersing myself in fifteenth-century Florence, walking the streets and pulling threads of ideas out of thin air. 


My process is detailed: I've tried to be a vessel that travels through space collecting apparently random ideas, stories, and bits of information, and threading that into a plausible story about an important historical figure. It's like being on a space ship, a time machine and the concord, all at once. It's a unique bubble that artists go into as they work through finding what they want to convey while gestating ideas. This process I have engaged in has taught me that the first phase of any project (for me) needs this kind of open, clear space. I call it ‘beginning space' and for me (and possibly for most artists), it is a place where I can fully engage in the sheer grace of what is happening around me and the material I am diving into. 


I let the world unfold as I act as a receiver of knowledge and a storage device for all that is being revealed to me and collected. It's a privilege to go on such a daring mission, and I don't know how great it is until I have experienced it.


Although working alone is fun, in my process as a film director and writer, I also love the interaction with other creatives, and although a screenplay can be massaged and coddled more than Kobe beef, at some point, too much time alone in a room writing can hurt a project. Sometimes I have to look to the characters I have created on the page for inspiration, and luckily enough for me I have Filippo Brunelleschi as a great mentor. I consider him my master teacher about many things.


While Brunelleschi was known as a loner and great thinker, I'm certain he completely understood the importance of a talented team of people. He relied on the best masons, foremen, and philanthropists, and was engaged in every aspect of production. A film director needs to do the same things. This is the moment to open up the project to other creatives and to create a space in which the project can develop into the next creative phase. 


I have written the first draft of the screenplay. I've enlisted my coach and producing partner in Canada to help me with the second draft. I have been generously offered the use of a small space here in Florence, where I will create my own modern film version of a fifteenth-century artisan workshop. And I've even given it a name: Bottega Battistella.


My vimeo page byline reads ‘Handmade, personal films' ( The Bottega Battistella is an extension of this idea.


For the next phase of the project, I want to write and pre-visualize some of the key scenes with storyboards. I want the film on the written page and on the wall at the same time. This is a technique used in animated films with complex epic stories and I think this will fit as a working model for my creative approach.


I am looking for a few creative artists, with an interest in production design, who can enter into the workshop and help me visually realize some scenes that will set the tone and texture for the next draft. Remember, this project still has not had any major investment, so I don't have much to offer and the work will have to be kept secret. 



Call for collaborators


If you can draw storyboards and are willing to have a brief meeting with me, I would like you to help me take the next step up this small mountain, which now also has a name. Its working title is: Filippo: The Original Renaissance Man. All the Bottega Battistella has right now is a boardroom, located inside an existing office, a URL and a logo, which you can see here:

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