An indie sci-fi web series paid for by a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, RED VELVET REVOLUTION is a dystopian sci-fi story about an organization that directs the lives of its users, much like producers and directors shape the stories of shows like THE BACHELOR and BIG BROTHER. Unlike those shows, though, the people in RED VELVET REVOLUTION don’t know they’re in a show. They mistakenly believe they are in charge of their own lives. But not everyone is happy with this brave new world.
Recursor spoke with the maker of RED VELVET REVOLUTION, filmmaker and videographer Vivien Rosewood, about her interest in science fiction and film, and what it was like to film the first season of her web series.
RECURSOR: WHAT DREW YOU TO SCIENCE FICTION?
ROSEWOOD: Ever since I was a teenager, I was drawn to social criticism expressed through unconventional language and the use of strong metaphors and analogies, both in cinema and in literature. Sci-fi and fantasy were the culmination of my research.
And I still believe they are the key to changing our society by showing the great and terrible achievements humankind can accomplish, highlighting our failures despite the long “Human Instrumentality Project” [a concept of higher evolution of humanity from the anime world of EVANGELION]. Even though solutions are not at hand, the first step to look for them is to aim to find them.
WHAT FAVORITE BOOKS AND MOVIES IN THE SFF GENRE ARE YOU INSPIRED BY?
A long time ago, while reading the book Blindness by Jose Saramago, I understood for the first time how powerful a social critique could be coming from a sci-fi work. Powerful emotions are necessary in the search for change, and I remember I was shocked; I was both nauseated and amazed by the strong language in Blindness, and I felt like I was awakening from the falsehood and the mediocrity of everyday life. I decided I wanted to write stories capable of awakening other people in a similar way.
Then, the movie 2046 from Wong Kar-Wai inspired me through his cinematography and the connection between sci-fi and contemporary drama, past and future, fiction and reality, universal and personal.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN FILMMAKING?
I’ve always wanted to be a film director, ever since I was a child spending mostly all my time watching movies and then arguing with the other children because I wanted to “stage” them during our plays.
When I turned 15, the idea of becoming a filmmaker was more solid than earlier. At that point, I started to write my first script and I received my first DV camera, which I used to make short videos with friends.
In my twenties, I studied Cinema at La Sapienza University of Rome, and that opportunity opened up a whole new world to me. It gave a definitive push to my creative universe in terms of research of themes and reflection.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FILMMAKERS, AND WHY?
My personal filmmaking preferences go to Francis Ford Coppola, whose name is synonymous with brave choices. I am in the army of enthusiasts for his iconic and attentive eye that pursues stories through a multiform style. I also appreciate Jane Campion, Vittorio De Sica, and Andrei Tarkovsky.
WHAT INSPIRED THE STORY BEHIND RED VELVET REVOLUTION?
It was 2010, my second year at university. I had the feeling that even if we do believe to be in control of our lives, we are not, because our society traces predetermined roads and we end up following them, no matter what. It was really frustrating to think that often, making a decision or wanting to achieve something is the beginning or the ending of a journey in which our will, our real will, matters very little, and it’s just the consequence of a chain of external stimuli that have nothing to do with our true self. From this was born the idea of the lifemakers.
The original script I wrote told the story of another Unit, the first Unit of lifemakers who decided to rebel against the system. It was a very different story, but I had to rearrange it for a zero budget/low budget.
YOU MADE THE PILOT ON ZERO BUDGET. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
When you are directing and producing with little or no money, everything becomes a huge compromise and a race against time. The worst part in a zero-budget project is when you feel you cannot demand too much from the people you are working with because you are not paying them. It’s mostly something personal, a guilt you have to deal with and that you must defeat, no matter what.
It was also very difficult to film with 8 people in a 15 square meters studio flat. But I was lucky enough to have a very supportive cast and crew. I was capable of managing the whole filming thanks to their commitment.
HOW DID YOU MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR BUDGET?
I prepared myself mentally for having to compromise on a lot of technical aspects while being able to rely on incredibly talented actors. I bet on the latter, doing my best to direct them in the best way possible. With a low budget film, exaggeration can be your worst enemy; exaggerated visual effects, daring camera movements, overdramatized emotions could destroy the cinematic illusion due to the compromises in quality of the equipment and locations.
I wanted something as real as possible. I wanted lifemakers and lifeseekers to work as normal people; I wanted to see them in control of their emotions and see on their faces the indifference toward events around them because this is what’s happening in our society nowadays. This is how we are educated to live our lives.
In my plans, even “love” had to appear resized and become just an expedient to escape from the hell of a predetermined life. So, I guided cast and crew in this direction, to “de-emotionalize” characters and places. Maybe sometimes I asked my actors to be as less expressive as possible, but I don’t regret this choice; I think it was essential in order to stage the human constraints I was interested in.
Another important decision was to allow the music to write its own story. I asked the music composer, Valentin Doychinov, to create an additional narrative. In the series, the truth about the characters is revealed at the very end, but I asked Valentin to ignore this, and to use the music to tell the truth about the characters from the very beginning when it’s still hidden to the audience. Basically, I asked him to tell his own story. I must admit I was amazed by the incredible job he did. He took in great consideration the most hidden soul movements; the level of depth reached is stunning.
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO MAKE A SEASON 2?
I would love to. With a higher budget, I could use the original script I started to write in 2010. A second season would work as prequel, showing the story of another Unit involved in the revolution.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE IN LONDON FILMMAKERS.
We are a collective of filmmakers and videographers who use our passion and talent at their best, making our services and equipment available to those artists and companies who need videos at affordable prices. We create music videos, commercials, short films, and live events at moderate costs, giving everyone the opportunity to be filmed while they express themselves.
Originally, the London Filmmakers was founded by my colleague Riccardo Cavani, who asked me to join him 5 years ago, and together we relaunched the London Filmmakers, aiming to reinforce values and standards. I knew that for a person like me, there could be nothing other than London Filmmakers, genuine and unstoppable in its search for art. That’s why I committed myself headlong into the business and I never looked back.
Vivien Rosewood is the pseudonym and personal brand name of Viviana Di Capua, Bristol-based freelance videographer. Rosewood is also co-founder of London Filmmakers, an independent film and music collective that over the years has worked hard to become one of the most respected names in audiovisual production. Connect with her on the Facebook and Instagram pages for RED VELVET REVOLUTION.