Under the Dark Wing: A Conversation with Christopher Di Nunzio

When a short film is done correctly, it makes you appreciate the value of a good script, the importance of mood and style and, most importantly, leaves you wanting more. Under the Dark Wing, the new short film from the very talented director, Christopher Di Nunzio (Livestock, Her Heart Still Beats), does just that. And today, I sit down and chat with Mr. Di Nunzio after watching his film.

In the film's short 15 minutes, it captures elements of horror, noir, experimental, drama, supernatural; it really does pack a lot of content into a relatively short amount of time. The film was shot in gorgeous black-and-white, which only adds to the style of the film and, in a lot of ways mirrors the underlying themes and subject matter. Under the Dark Wing’s official synopsis is:
Johnny Boy (Fiore Leo) goes on a routine job; things go awry when he meets a vulnerable young girl (Jessy Rowe). His boss George (David Graziano) sees her as a money making opportunity. Neither one has a clue of the deep dark secret that lies within the girl. Once revealed it will change the lives of these thugs forever.
Christopher was generous enough to answer a couple of questions that I had after finishing the film, below are his responses.

MATT (FD): The character “The Girl” reminded me of a couple of ominous characters throughout horror history and cinematic history in general. The seemingly obvious character that she could represent is Death, but there are other elements that suggest she represents so much more than simply the grim reaper character. Without asking you to divulge too much about the mystery of this film, does she represent anything further to you?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: Great question! To me she represents life and death. The fact that she is pregnant means life and her actions represent death. She is someone who is born with these abilities and she's just discovering that she has these powers. Kind of like the antichrist. The antichrist is supposed to be born with the power to manipulate and lead in order to create a one world order. The character who was played by Jessy Rowe. I think she did an incredible job and was an absolute pleasure to work with. I took a non-religious point of view but still used the antichrist as a blueprint. She was someone born with this ability to create and take life. If you think about it we all have that ability but this character takes it to a new level. I wanted to make a human Grim Reaper that has no connection to any religion whatsoever. It's as if this responsibility is just being passed down from generation to generation. There's also the plot of power and control. The girl being a pregnant young woman in the eyes of someone like George played by David Graziano. She is weak and easy to control. As in life not everyone is as they seem to be and George finds out the hard way.

MATT (FD): In 2013, while being interviewed about your role as co-founder of the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival, you said, “If we're not going to make it as a filmmaker, we're going to make it helping filmmakers”. I’m seeing a lot of up-and-coming film makers, especially in the horror genre, treating their craft as an almost communal experience. They're out to make great and high quality films and are also out to see that others are able to make the best films that they can. From someone working inside the industry, is this something that you see going on as well?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: Yes and no. The horror community is great and very supportive but there's still cliques in the whole in crowd thing. The equipment is getting better and more people still think they can just pick up a camera and make a film. It takes a lot of studying and understanding of the craft. Anyone can do it. It just takes time. I am still learning and still consider myself a student of filmmaking. The one thing I would give credit for horror filmmakers is they are trying to find their own voice. On an independent level there's still an artistic quality to their work. With other filmmaking I see a lot of people just trying to mimic Hollywood which is really sad because the films end up being soulless. But I do have to say when I make a horror film I get much more support than when I make any other type of film. Horror fans want to be entertained and really do support people who have a dream. I love them for it! From my film festival experience when you get a bunch of filmmakers in a room they're just happy to be around like-minded people and love sharing ideas. Festivals are a great experience whether you're a fan of film or a filmmaker.

MATT (FD): In one of your previous films, Her Heart Still Beats, you put a modern spin on an Edgar Allen Poe story, "The Tell-Tale Heart". I thought that having this supernatural tale set in the gangster world, in Under the Dark Wing, mimicked that concept. It certainly allows for a more story-rich feature; is this something you're particularly interested in, mixing genres for a broader audience?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: I'm not necessarily interested in mixing it for a broader audience. It's certainly great to reach as many people as you can. I don't know if Under The Dark Wing  does that either. It's a little too art-house for some. I made it for the love of cinema. I do like mixing genres. I did this with an older film called Livestock. Her Heart Still Beats  is more of a modern take on Poe's classic tale. In Under The Dark Wing  I take a more of a mixed genres approach. I like doing this because it takes a concept that everyone's familiar with and allows me as a filmmaker to add something new or at least throw off people and keep them guessing. You can interpret it in a lot of ways and that's what I'm most proud of. As for it being better suited as a feature I would agree since I've been studying film to make features. I think that's a stronger suit for me. The responses I get with my shorts are that people want to see it as a feature-length. I take that as a compliment and at the same time it says I could've made it into a feature film. But anytime people say they want to see more of your work it's a great feeling.

MATT (FD): Who were some of your biggest influences as a filmmaker?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Fellini, Bela Tarr, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard and David Lynch.

MATT (FD): Since this is a horror site, can you speak a little about some horror films and/or subgenres that you’ve grown to love over the years – both classically speaking and some current films that you are interested in now?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: I love old school horror. The Universal monsters like Frankenstein  and Dracula. Creature of the Black Lagoon  is one of my favorites. I love movies with Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. My producer Skip Shea introduced me to this Italian horror film called Shadow, which I thought was great. I love the French horror films like High Tension and Inside. I'm really into things that have a more psychological element. I like the older horror films because it was really about story and performance. A great story can always keep my attention. I've been really into Korean films for a while now. Although they're not necessary horror they do have this revenge and violent aspect but yet they're all well written.

MATT (FD): As far as distributing your shorts and/or features, where can we tell our readers to look out for the future release of Under the Dark Wing, as well of any other projects that you've worked on?

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: I'm still waiting to hear back from a lot of festivals for Under The Dark Wing. After it's run I plan on releasing it on Vimeo. Her Heart Still Beats  was released as a bonus disc with the film The Ripping. I still believe that's available. My film Livestock  you can get at Amazon and Best Buy.

MATT (FD): Finally, feel free to discuss any projects that you can tease us with or just feel free to have a platform to speak your mind for a few minutes.

CHRISTOPHER DI NUNZIO: I just completed a feature film called A Life Not To Follow  which we are looking to premiere at a festival hopefully in fall/winter. I'm currently working on my new feature and we are at the end of production it's called The Delusion. It's a psychological thriller with horror elements. I'm again working with the talented David Graziano and for the first time with Jamie Tennille. She's amazing! Her performance is going to blow some people away. I'm also lucky enough to have Nolan Yee as my cinematographer again. He's an amazingly talented individual.

Thanks for reading. Check out the trailer for the film below and be sure to keep an eye out for Christopher’s other work; he seems to have a promising future.

Matt, Signing Out