Ruben Zaccaroni

Film Director/Writer/Producer

Ruben Zaccaroni was born and raised in Milan, Italy. He moved to New York City for college where he got a degree in Computer Science and Film. Toward the end of his college career he decided to pursue film. He has worked on set in countless roles and productions, from student shorts to Netflix features and shows. His work as writer and director of the short “Definitely Soy” (2018, prod. Andrew Karpan and George Zouvelos) has garnered international wins and recognition at festivals. His work was showcased in a 2021 commercial for the design company “Kartell”.

1. Your film Night Drifter won the Honorable Mention in the category Experimental Short Film. How was the film inspired?

The main inspiration for it comes from a Magritte painting called “Empire of Light”. He did a few variations on the same idea which depicts a house surrounded by trees and a lamppost. In the bottom half of the house it’s nighttime whereas in the upper half of the painting, the sky, is clear and blue as if it were day. I like something about that image. How stilland quiet it feels. Like something might happen from one moment to the next or it may not. But it carries a surreal kind of tension. And that’s what the short is. It recreates that painting very closely, both visually (though there is no house) and most through atmosphere, since the short is someone just waiting for something to happen.

2. Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?

I’ve always watched a lot of movies, but it started when I was a senior in college. I wanted to try something different so I started taking more and more classes in film, which I really enjoyed. From there I just kept working in the field and making my own movies.

3. Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?

There’s many movies I cherish. To name a few “Killer of Sheep”, “Eraserhead”, “Le Samourai”, “Red Desert”, “The Iron Giant”, “Odissea” (1968).

4. Who is your biggest influence?

David Lynch. I still remember the first time I watched “Mulholland Drive” when I was 18. It blew my mind. I didn’t think making anything like that was even possible. It was an aesthetic experience. Things seemed random but they couldn’t have been any other way. I remember showing it to a friend of mine years later in a movie theater. We were both speechless after and realized we didn’t even know how to talk about it exactly or even interpret. He cut the conversation short by saying “The movie is what you see”. That still seems to be the best way to put it.

5. Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?

I realize that a lot of the things I’ve done are surreal in some way. Sometimes comical, sometimes with more tension. I think I like it because it keeps a viewer guessing as to what’s gonna come next. But then most of the movies I like are much simpler in terms of the emotional beats they hit.

6. What’s your all-time favorite movie and why?

Don’t have one, but I’m gonna mention a movie that should receive more praise. It’s an Italian adaptation of the Odyssey. It’s called “Odissea”. It’s a mini-series from the 60’s that was truly epic. I remember watching it as a kid and was blown away when I rewatched it recently. Everything felt so real. The wind, the heat, their hunger out at sea. I highly recommend it. Bekim Fehmiu was amazing in it. The moment where Argo recognizes him is still one of the most gut-wrenching scenes I’ve ever seen. Or when his nanny from when he was young recognizes him from his scar.

7. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?

I would love to watch David Fincher work. There’s something to pristine about the way his scenes are built. So clean. With an actor, I love Mahershala Ali. I was blown by the difference in character he was able to show in “Moonlight” and the third season of “True Detective”. Really felt like I was looking at two different people, not just in terms of behaviour, but as if there was something fundamentally different at their very core. I don’t think very many people can do that.

8. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.

My brother.

9. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?

Finish your projects.

10. What keeps you motivated?

When I see people’s reactions to something I made. Especially when they notice things I’d never noticed about something I made.

11. How has your style evolved?

As I mentioned I think a lot of the earlier stuff I made was more surreal. The my latest project is perhaps the strangest, the things I have planned that come after are simpler. There are still some surreal elements, but they come down to being more stylistic choices rather than actively surreal elements.

12. On set, the most important thing is…

To have a positive attitude.

13. The project(s) you’re most proud of…

It’s my debut feature that I’m editing now. It’s also by far the most challenging project I’ve ever done. It’s called “To Love and To Lose” and it’s a surreal comedy set in New York. I wrote it together with my brother based on experiences we’ve both had. It’s basically a series of sketches about someone who moves to the city for work after college. Imagine a rom-com of someone working and dating in New York. Sounds fun right? Now imagine if everything went wrong in the strangest way possible. That’s our movie. The city is the real main character and the protagonist interacts with different and strange parts of it.

14. The most challenging project you worked on. And why?

“To Love and To Lose”, my debut feature. It’s been interesting learning the differences between a short and feature. In a feature you have to think a lot more about narrative arcs. So not just individual scenes but how the whole thing rises and then releases tension. It seems obvious to say but in a short you really don’t have that concern. A short happens almost always “in one breath”. Whereas a feature has a breathing in and breathing out rhythm to it.

15. What are your short term and long term career goals?

Keep writing and making movies.

16. Your next projects?

“To Love and To Lose” will come out in a few months so that’ll be my next big release.

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