Light and silver

From inspiration to the screen

David Battistella
September 27, 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 chronicles the pursuit of his dream, including anecdotes of his new life in Florence and his efforts to finance and launch his ambitious project.


Cameraman | Photo by Tim S on Flickr Cameraman | Photo by Tim S on Flickr


Many may have heard the phrase ‘A writer writes,' and I have the same philosophy about making films. While writing is a big part of my filmmaking, I literally have a burning need to hold a camera in my hands or to sit at an edit console and create a film. It doesn't matter what kind of film it is, whether it is a personal film, a short drama or a documentary. The need to create films is part of me.


While writing the script for my film on Filippo Brunelleschi, I was inspired by the work of George Tatge, an American photographer who has been living in Italy for 35 years. Tatge uses classic methods,equipment and materials, and he still uses film. His work reminds me of the bottega system of the Renaissance. A master artisan had his own shop or studio-known as a bottega.


In fact, the bottega system still exists in Florence. Explore the streets and the city reveals goldsmiths, leather workers, and silk workers. No one can mistake the quality of a handmade Florentine shoe. This, it seems, is the place where the art of refinement and craftsmanship was itself refined. What better inspiration could I find than to follow the way of the master artisans and relate it exactly to my profession, filmmaking.


Tatge uses a photographic camera made of wood. He captures images a single frame at a time because that is all his camera holds. In this digital age, when it is possible to pop off a hundred images to get it right, Tatge does his best to get it right the first time, which takes practice, experience and knowledge. Following his process, allowing light through his camera to touch silver on a negative and then re-exposing it on paper to create a print, seemed to be a fascinating idea for a film. So I made one.


Light and Silver: The Photographic Life of George Tatge, a 25-minute documentary, is the result. I am thrilled to announce that it will be screened at the Odeon Cinehall (piazza Strozzi, 2) on October 10 at 3pm. This is one of those moments when I need to pinch myself as a reality check. When I came to Florence, the Odeon Cinehall, a grand, historic theater that shows movies, was a haven for me. I would sit and watch films, never imagining that one of my own would be shown on its screen within such a short time. It is an honor that the Tuscan Film Commission made it possible to show the movie there.


Light and Silver is the first film to come out of my virtual bottega, which I have named Bottega Battistella. My bottega operates on a few guiding principles to create handmade, personal films made with attention to detail and a goal of quality in the viewer's experience. Bottega Battistella is open to collaboration, to generating and exploring ideas, and encourages each person participating in the creation to feel proud of contributing to the process. I want the process to be different from the kind of filmmaking that is viewed as a dictatorial team sport.


What would Filippo think? I'm not sure-he was quite secretive and did not divulge his methods. He had only a few trusted creative collaborators. He had a vision that many thought was naïve and preposterous. I, on the other hand, believe that I have a great mentor, handpicked for me. Six hundred years later, Filippo Brunelleschi inspires my bottega.



Call for collaborators

Currently, the Bottega Battistella is a boardroom located inside an existing office, a URL and a logo, which you can see at If you can draw 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.'

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