He is the man behind Nona Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Massimo Volta: My love for cinema begun when I was very young and it developed in a job as photographer. Today I work as a director and photographer for advertising. But my love for narrative filmmaking is still there and I’m working to make the big jump to cinema.
SKSM: When did you make Nona? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Massimo Volta: We shoot Nona in the summer/autumn of 2015 and we finished the post production early 2016. It has been a very ambitious project. We wanted to pay homage to a writer we love and in doing so make the best Dollar Baby ever! We shot for almost 20 days scattered around 4 months, then we did some pick ups and SPFX shots. The editing process was very long since we shot almost 2 terabytes of footage, and we have quite complex special effects. We shot the film with a Canon 5D mkIII, which is a photo camera, and we hack it and make it able to shoot RAW with a great piece of free software called Magic Lantern. The original soundtrack is composed and performed by Henoel Grech, a great great artist, and we were lucky to have several amazing songs from groups like The Zootstick or Pete Ross & The Sapphire. The total budget was around 2000 euros spent in hard drives, food and fuel, but we have to consider that many professional worked for free just for the sake of enthusiasm and if we quantify their job it would have costed much much more (for example the impressive make up FX made by Kyra: she just asked for a refund for the raw materials without any fee).
SKSM: How come you picked Nona to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Massimo Volta: I loved Nona since I was a kid. It’s dark, romantic and mysterious. It is connected to the whole Castle Rock mythology and has this eerie quality you can find in other works by the King (It or Bag of Bones or Lisey’s Story). We had to change the snowy setting since it would have been impossible to recreate considering our super small budget, so we opted for a torrid summer setting. Being the exact opposite of the icy cold snowy setting we believed it could work as a similar extreme environment. In the end what I love about Nona is the multiplicity of meanings: it can be seen as a mystery horror or as a metaphor for a sick relationship or just as scream for help of a misplaced kid…
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Massimo Volta: I was aware of this whole “Dollar Baby Legend”, I think I read it somewhere and I knew people like Darabont started their career like this. My griflriend (who plays Nona in the film and co-produced it with me) pushed me and we wrote an email to King. Surprisingly the answer arrived in a matter of hours and we received the contract and the “one dollar bill” agreement.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Massimo Volta: There were many! One time we got stuck in the cemetery because we kept filming after the closing time. We were filming guerrilla style without permits and when we went to the entrance we found the gates (very high gates) closed and we had to manage to escape with the people from the street looking at us like we were some kind of weirdos… Another time we shot in a bar and I had real bikers as extras: they love King and agreed to be there for the whole night just for beers… I thought “that’s cool” – after I discovered I had to pay almost 400 euros of beers!!! There were many funny moments, it has been a great shooting.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe an internet/dvd release would be possible?
Massimo Volta: It’s really frustrating since we cannot distribute or upload the film anywere. I received hundreds of emails asking where the film can be seen! I asked for a “special permission” from King and we are waiting for an answer. The only thing I can do is send it to festivals and then publish on our Facebook page the place and time and invite all the fans to go there…
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Massimo Volta: I showed the film to some producers and they were really impressed by the global quality of the film – they weren’t expecting such a level from a totally independent film shot with a photo camera… Some people complained about the English language but I wanted to shoot in English for two reasons: the first is that King’s universe is in the USA, the second is a kind of geeky homage to some Italian horror movies shot in the seventies, by Dario Argento, that were shot in English with Italian actors: I loved the accent! Maybe it’s just a personal obsession, but I like it!
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Massimo Volta: I talked with King’s assistant and sent her “work in progress” material. She saw the film, loved it and granted us permission for festivals. We’re still waiting for King’s verdict: it’s kind of scary!
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Massimo Volta: We are pre-producing a feature film, a mystery-horror with a very intriguing psychological concept. Right now it’s too early but as soon as we start shooting (end of June) we will keep you posted!
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick – at least – one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Massimo Volta: I have no plans also because the “Dollar Baby” formula is strictly non-profit. If I could fulfill a personal dream I would love to make a film from Insomnia, a book I really loved for its theme and because the main character is an underdog you don’t expect to be the protagonist of a horror story.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Massimo Volta: I hope they will like my take at King’s universe – I tried to be respectful and faithful to the material. And I hope to be able to show the move to many of them soon!
SKSM: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Massimo Volta: Thank you! Hope you’ll like our Dollar Baby!!!