Diego Di Iorio grew up in Italy. He began his journey in commercial production companies like Somesuch, Prettybird UK and Biscuit Filmworks in London. He completed his Film Directing in Los Angeles from UCLA Extensions.
He started his career with an alluring thrive into horrors and thrillers. We sat down with Diego to discuss Diego’s latest film ‘Scars’ which is now screening at festivals around the world.
Hi, Diego. Welcome to this little conversation. I have a bunch of questions for you because I am quite curious about a lot of things…pardon my intuitive mind. Let’s begin…
BCIFF: What were the prior challenges you had to face before the film went to production?
Diego: There were several challenges in pre-production. Finding and securing the right locations was one of them. The Victorian house was the first location I found where most of the interior scenes are shot, but for the basement it wasn’t the right choice and after some weeks of additional research I stumbled upon a house that was severely damaged from a fire the year before. The owners decided to keep it as it was and let productions film inside which made for a great basis to build our set. For the exterior scenes my concern was finding a place where we could safely film with a kid walking around with a candle as Los Angeles is prone to wildfires.
BCIFF: Talking about the treatment of the film, how would you like to describe it? Do you think the treatment was too loud or it wasn’t as loud as you wanted it to be?
Diego: I think the film talks about subjects like psychological family traumas and identity in a subtle way despite the disturbing images and that’s what I wanted since the beginning. Most films I love deliver their messages and themes in a subtle way that require multiple views to interpret and raise more questions rather than giving answers and hopefully that’s the case for mine as well without resulting too cryptic.
BCIFF: Byonghoon Jo, the director of photography in this film did a great job with executing the film’s vision. What inspired the dark narrative of this film?
Diego: The inspiration for the narrative came mostly from Gothic American literature of late 19th century, especially the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who wrote a lot of short horror stories. Byonghoon was exceptional in understanding and delivering the visuals I had in mind and we both took inspiration from several sources like Deakins minimal lighting in candlelit scenes for Jesse James, as well as visuals inspirations from films like The Others, The Witch and Suspiria.
BCIFF: The sound was intense and very well performed by John Also Bennett. Even Jacinto Gonzalez did an excellent job in designing the sound. What treatment did you plan for the sound keeping in mind that sound is one of the most crucial elements in horror thrillers?
Diego: Sound for me is absolutely crucial as much as the visuals and the script was already very sound oriented. When you have your main character walking alone in the dark in a big empty house or in the woods every little sound she hears can tell the story as much as anything visual or even more. While I had in mind most of the sounds in the film, I wasn’t sure specifically about the music. It took me a while to figure out the right tone and composer for it. My main influence was experimental, minimalist drone electronic music and how it’s used in shows like Dark or Chernobyl to create the sense of suspense, dread and terror I wanted to convey alongside the dark visuals.
BCIFF: I believe it’s harder to make scripts understandable to a child actor than to someone who is mature. How did you manage to bring the wonderful act from Charity Rose?
Diego: It was my first time working with a child lead and I couldn’t be happier with what Charity brought to the film. Despite the young age she has incredible awareness, emotional intelligence and hopefully a great career ahead. She was already pretty good in the auditions. When you have such a talented kid actor to work with it all comes down to making sure she understands where the character is emotionally in every scene and that she stays focused and not distracted when shooting.
BCIFF: The film insinuates towards certain messages. Would you care to share them by yourself for our readers?
Diego: Scars is a film about how the dark past of our family or society as a whole can affect and haunt us and how much looking into it can influence our perspective on things. It’s pretty much a film about the search for identity and loss of innocence and that’s what Rachel is going through the film. I believe some of the best horrors are family dramas masked as horrors and that’s why since the beginning I wanted to build mine around a family trauma.
BCIFF: From your point of view, what essential instruments or devices are needed to be present there in a horror film? I mean, what makes a horror film, a horror film?
Diego: That’s a great question, especially now that horror is blending more and more with drama and other genres. I think at the core of the genre there is a situation in which normality is threatened by a monster, where you can give different variations to the definition of normality and monster, sometimes very different from the classical ones. I also think horrors address some of our deepest anxieties about life and the nature of being human as well as raising the questions of what is good and what evil.
BCIFF: Do you think this set up could’ve been darker or do you think the healthy amount of horror helped the process itself?
Diego: I think the nature of the film being a psychological horror made me realize it wasn’t necessary to go darker in terms of images. The themes and the impact of the truth uncovered by the protagonist are already dark enough without the need for more impactful visuals.
BCIFF: How would you describe the film in one word? Obviously it is not only a mere thriller or a specific horror…rather the film has very dark overtones. So, what is your word…to describe the film?
Diego: If I would have to choose a word I would probably go with ‘suspense’ to define it, as the film plays with the feeling of dread and suspense at the possibility of something frightening hiding in the dark, compared to the word ‘horror’ that implies the shock of actually seeing something frightening or repulsive.