Concordia film studies student finds his artistic style through horror genre
Vincenzo Nappi is an indie Filmmaker currently enrolled at Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. His award-winning short film ‘First Bite,’ which was featured in the Fantasia Film Festival, Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, and Flamingo Film Festival, is now available for viewing on Vimeo. With seven films under his belt and over half a decade of experience working in the film industry, Nappi sat down to discuss indie filmmaking and the horror genre.
How has the way you approached filmmaking changed from when you started to where you are now?
At Dawson, when I first started making live-action, I didn't know what I wanted to make. I was trying to find my voice and I was doing that by making what I thought people wanted instead of what I wanted. But when I went into film studies at Concordia my films weren’t part of any class. Now I get to do whatever and not worry. So, I started doing more of what I always wanted to do.
Would you define yourself as an indie filmmaker?
I would because I am independent. Actually, I took a film curation class and the professor said if you accept help from an institution then you're not an indie filmmaker. So, in that sense, I wouldn't count as one since I rent stuff from the school, but as far as being truly independent, I think I would fall under that for sure.
What is it specifically about the work that makes you call yourself an indie filmmaker?
I don't have to answer to anyone. I can tackle the topics I want. In most cases, it's a sort of anti-capitalist worldview so I don't have anyone getting mad at me for portraying my views on the screen. I think that would change if I was part of the Hollywood system or even the larger Canadian system.
How do you think the relationship between being a self-defined indie filmmaker as well as a horror director functions? Does one impact the other?
I think they are one in the same. Being an independent filmmaker working in the horror genre is the best thing you can do because the horror community is so accepting. Let’s say you don't have the budget to, I don’t know, blow up someone's head. You can do it in the least attractive way possible, and people will still be into it in the theatre.
What was that experience like going from making avant-garde, Wes Anderson inspired narrative to these gritty, suspenseful, horror shorts you're known for now?
It was liberating because I found the way to do what I've always wanted. Both easily in that I'm able to shoot it over a couple of days and for the least amount of money it needs. But also, I feel like as I've gotten older, my messages have gotten a lot less simple. The horror genre allows me to tackle things in a way that isn't so straight forward.
Did you always know you wanted to make horror films?
Yeah! I was watching horror when I should have been watching Caillou! It's always been there.
If you knew this, why didn't you make horror films from the start?
I didn't think I could. It was always so intimidating to me because, from a writer’s standpoint, I wasn’t able to write a horror movie worth making. Once I had written four or five shorts, I felt like I [had] a grasp of this whole short film thing. I understand pacing and stuff like that. I figured I’d give it a shot.
Why did you feel intimidated to write these horror films but confident with the films you were making?
I feel like genres like sci-fi and horror have such specific rules to them with tropes. So, I didn't feel like I understood the back end before now. Whereas I felt like I could write a pretty decent comedy and just shove it out into the world. I felt like I didn't fully understand how to write that sort of stuff without falling into making something that's totally generic and not doing anything new.
What was the experience that made you feel comfortable making these horror films?
I made a film that was in this realm called “Out From Within.” It was stress-free for me because it's just me and a couple of friends in the forest making this art-house horror film where all the takes were five minutes. Once I made that, although it wasn't like a straight-up horror film, the end product of that was close enough to what I've always wanted to do.
What do you think is unique about the horror genre for exploring messages?
I think the barrier to entry is a lot lower. You can be at any sort of level and depending on how interesting what you're doing is, it doesn't necessarily matter how technically good it is. So, I feel like you get a lot more diverse world views and opinions. So, you get films that are going way deeper into things that most drama films can. it definitely allows you to look at certain things in different ways, and by doing that you're immediately making whatever you're saying a lot more interesting.
My friends made a film on a zero-dollar budget but it’s going to be in an anthology series for Troma. The film is good, but as far as technical aspects go, it might not be advanced enough for what a drama film needs to be noticed. But the film’s content is so good that it will be put on a platform. Since there's less of a barrier to entry, they can do what they want, say what they want, and so the message is there for you to decide whether you want it or not.
Answers have been edited for clarity.