Writer/Director Gianna Mazzeo talks about life behind the lens and her path from teen video-store clerk to film-maker virtuoso.
Gianna is an Italian-Australian writer/director based in Melbourne (Naarm). She cut her teeth as a shopgirl at Civic Video Hampton and is now patiently waiting for her opportunity to shadow Sofia Coppola on her next feature film. Gianna works across narrative film, music video, and branded content and has been published on platforms like NOWNESS and Berlin Fashion Film Festival.
See more of Gianna on Instagram @i.am.gianna.thelabel
Give us a brief history of your creative life to date.
I started loving film in high school. I got along really well with my media teacher (who I secretly knew was the anonymous lead singer of TISM). From there I copied Quentin Tarantino and got a job at Civic Video Hampton and started to make my way through the arthouse section. When it came time to put in my preferences at uni, I had a Bachelor of Communications (Media) at RMIT as my first preference and a Bachelor of Mathematics at Monash as my second preference. Luckily, I got into Media.
From there, I worked for a year full-time at a video content agency. This taught me a lot of useful skills about the business and client-related part of filmmaking that then put me in good stead to go freelance. It’s been around 6 years since I’ve been freelancing and I really love it :)
Do you come from a creative family? Tell us about them.
My dad is a high school teacher and my mum is a fashion designer - she had a successful business back in her day and watching her work has always been inspiring for me. My parents were pretty apprehensive about my career decision in the beginning. They are first and second generation Italian Australians who came here post-war to work and make money to support their families, so they were concerned about the financial viability of working within the film/media industry. I made it my personal mission to prove them wrong. I’m still working on it, lol.
What is it in particular that draws you to film?
I just love to be entertained! When I go to the movies, I want to forget about my mobile phone and all the work I have to do and be enthralled by what’s happening on the screen. So that’s what I try to implement through my work. My greatest failure would be to bore people.
What advice do you wish you’d been given when you were younger, professionally or otherwise?
I always answer this question the same: Reply to your emails. Reply to them quickly. That is what will set you apart, lol.
What drives you to create?
My experiences. Our experiences are what make us unique and interesting, so I try to find a way to put a little piece of myself into the work I write and create. When something poignant or funny happens, I try to remember to note it in my phone and then I have a wealth of relatable and personal anecdotes that I can draw from to breathe life into a script and make it my own.
What sort of space do you work from? Home or studio? Alone or with company?
I feel so lucky to be able to choose where I work and who I work with! I have a desk in a co-working space in Brunswick East with 3 very funny, interesting and inspiring people who I love to see every day.
What’s your relationship with politics and public discourse? Do you include these in your films or do you find you need to set boundaries with this stuff?
My political and social beliefs infiltrate everything I write. I want to make films that say something and that reflect my ideology, otherwise what’s the point? Having said that, my intention isn’t to alienate people who have different outlooks than mine. The dream is that filmmaking gives me an approachable platform to share an opinion that someone mightn’t have considered before. But I don’t know if a silly little film could turn a One Nation supporter into a Greens voter.
If you could have a couple of hours and vinos with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Desiree Akhavan. I think she’s so funny and cool. The Bisexual is one of my favourite shows ever. I basically want to be her. I would try to make her be my mentor.