A US Congress Award and The Human Rights Award winner, Valentina Castellani is a film producer and President and Chairman of Quinn Studios Entertainment. Through Quinn Studies, she is continuing the legacy of legendary actor, Anthony Quinn. In the latest episode of citiesabc podcast, Valentina opens up with Dinis Guarda on her long experience in producing social impact films, her legacy, and what it takes to stand out in the entertainment industry.
Born in a family that was imbued with entertainment, Valentina Castellani found a bond with theatre and arts during her early life in Florence, Italy, watching ballet, classic opera, classical music, concerts, theatres, and plays. Pursuing her interests in designing and fine arts at the master’s level in Paris and New York, Valentina was fascinated by the world of art and creativity. After the painful and untimely demise of her husband, she found her ‘moment’, and created Quinn Studios Entertainment.
“Simple gestures in our life can really bend our destiny, shift our way of thinking, and make us see in a different way. We start making courageous choices and look ahead. So, that’s pretty much how I started production”, she recalls in the early moments of the interview with Dinis Guarda.
Taking Dinis on a journey through the rough patches in her life where she had to make bold and courageous choices, Valentina shares that the driving factor for any film is its content. If the idea and story are convincing, no matter what platform or film festival it is screened at.
“It’s the story that has to carry you, not vice versa. You have to find a way where the story is carrying you, where there is a thread, where you are following. Just like Hensel and Gretel with little white stones in the story, you know. Just like Cinderella with a fairy coming and putting on a dress and knowing that at midnight, the dress is gone, you know. So, in my case, this film is leading me. The story of the film is leading me.”
This thrilled Dinis into asking about what prompted her to screen some of the most unconventional films at the festivals. Valentina says that keeping a good portion of the budget for marketing is a smart choice that many young filmmakers fail to make. Adding to this, she also believes in focussing on the story and screening it on the most appropriate platform. This, according to her, makes a huge difference in marking the success of the creation.
“It is a very important thing to calculate the budget for the marketing campaign right away. And then, we have to have honesty. Is this an Oscar film or a more niche film? Where is it going to win? I mean, when we made The Butterfly’s Dream, we knew that this film could run for an Oscar. So, of course, the campaign was all geared towards that way”, she insists.
Despite being an admirer of films and arts, especially in the theatrical arena, Valentina appreciates the facility that digitised platforms offer, even in difficult times like the pandemic. However, she insists that the filmmakers believe in the story and let it guide the platform to screen it.
“You have a story to tell, where it’s going to go depends on how this story is told. I mean, imagine if Charlie Chaplin was dealing and dwelling on marketing changing and dwelling from ‘Oh, the movies are not silent anymore and stuff’, he had a story to tell with the tools of the moment, and he told the story.” She emphasises that if a story is good, it will create its own market by resonating appropriately with the audience.
Among the top influencers, Dinis is sensitive about creativity and arts making a powerful impact on society. He continues this custom to understand the impact films and creativity make on society as a whole. Valentina beautifully describes the role of digital tools in enhancing the humanitarian touch of creativity and arts. “We cry at the movie theatres, not because of a special effect, but because we feel an emotion that is close to us. Because we recognise a moment, a momentum, an emotion, a state of being”, she clearly explains.
Finally, concluding a marvellous session where the experts discuss everything from politics to leadership, arts, and creativity, Valentina says, “I would like to encourage people to think in a broader way instead of getting entangled with politics and blockages. With Politics and blockages, we don’t create, there is very little we can do. But, with spirit, with courage, with narrative, with creativity, there are millions of ways that can be expressed, created, found, you know, without being irrational.”
Creating Quinn Studios Entertainment
Valentina created Quinn Studios Entertainment in 2012 in the loving memory of her husband, Francesco Quinn, son of Oscar-winning actor, Anthony Quinn. The company was created to establish the Quinn legacy in the field of arts, entertainment, and world peace. ‘Life on a Bike’ was the first documentary series filmed for television. It was based on an Italian pro cycling tour, Giro D’Italia, as an ode to his cyclist husband.
A special film, close to her heart, Valentina filmed this masterpiece after her husband, Francesco Quinn’s untimely death in August 2011. Sharing her filming experience, she says, “It was kind of insane. Being there and doing it that way taught me everything as a producer to just break the barrier of thinking. Find another way, think differently, and get out of the box. So, it was a great conquest, and definitely, it did heal me, and the kids, and it was an inspiring moment in understanding that the power of our imagination is way bigger than the power of pain.”
The production house has some very special names to its credit- ‘The Butterfly’s Dream’ (a candidate for Academy Award and Golden Globe 2014, as Best Foreign Movie. Also winner of 13 International Awards), ‘The Square’ (documentary on the Egyptian conflict, winner of Directors Guild Award 2014, Sundance Film Festival 2014, Berlin Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival), ‘One Rock Three Religions’ (Documentary film about Peace in the Middle East, winner of HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD, The US Congress Award Recognition for the film efforts to create dialogue among Countries, Religions, and Ethnicities, the Jury Grand Prix at the Siena International Film Festival, The People Festival in NY as Best Documentary, The Impact DOCS Award), Augie (on the extraordinary life of Augie Nieto, the Steve Jobs of the Fitness Industry), and ‘Wonderful Losers’ (2019 Academy Awards Candidate Best Foreign Film and winners of 11 International Awards).
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