Alis Locanta is one of the creative geniuses of SexArt – a director so inventive, so original, that you never quite know what he will come up with next. The Italian auteur, who is based in Barcelona, is responsible for some of SexArt’s most beautiful and groundbreaking movies, notably impressive series such as ‘The Writer,’ ‘Love For Sale,’ ‘Memento’ and recent crossover sensation ‘Love For Sale 2.’
However familiar you are with his work – and if you’re a fan of erotic cinema, I’m guessing you’re very familiar with it indeed – you will NOT be expecting what comes next. Locanta’s new series ‘Outlines,’ which launches this Sunday, is possibly his most stylish, daring and experimental work to date. Featuring four of the most exceptional girls to grace the screen, this ten-part series will push your boundaries and challenge your preconceptions of erotic art. It seems like the ideal time to ask our maestro a few questions about his life and work…
Alis, please tell us about your background in film, and how you started to shoot erotica.
AL: Life is an amazing journey and sometimes, unexpected things happen! When I was a kid my whole life was focused on music. I spent all my days playing, playing and playing, guitar and piano. I could only imagine my future as a musician (or an astronaut, for sure…!). But my journey had just started, and it took a different direction. One day I started getting seriously interested – almost obsessed – about how they shoot films. I was about 15, and I wondered how they use cameras, lights, dollies… I couldn’t stop thinking. As soon as I started working (in a big company, in IT), I spent my first wage packet on buying a VHS-C camera and started shooting stupid short movies with my friends. That obsession became a real passion. I worked many years for that company till the day I decided to soar. I became a filmmaker. During those years I shot a lot of projects (some good, some less good…) and I was finally happy my passion was my job. But something else was going to happen. One day I was watching a porn movie (oops!... I mean… a friend of mine was watching a porn movie!!!... haha!). It was a VHS tape and it started with some trailers: between a lot of trashy stuff, I saw something incredibly unique! It was an Andrew Blake film. I couldn’t believe it was an adult feature! It looked like a fashion or music video! Well… that was the moment I understood I really wanted to shoot erotica.
Do you remember your first SexArt production?
AL: Yes of course! I can’t forget it! It was June 2012 and I was in Budapest. After seeing a demo I shot, Jon [owner of the MetArt Network] asked me to shoot something better, something cooler. I spent many days thinking about that script. I wrote many ideas but in the end I trashed them. So I decided to stop thinking about other films and only imagine something very personal, according to my vision. So, like a tightrope walker without a net, I shot ‘Ode to Beginning,’ a visionary girl-girl scene with Aleska Diamond and Denisa Doll. I shot a lot of stuff handheld, inspired by my great masters, Mann and Soderbergh, using a classical piece of music I love: ‘Clair De Lune’ by Debussy. When I sent the final cut to Jon I was incredibly tense. I’d watched all the SexArt films and I knew I had shot something pretty different. I remember that night: I was in a pub (not my habit, I’m not a night life lover) and I got an email from Jon: he liked it!
What inspires you – movies, music, books, dreams?
AL: I don’t read many books (even if it sounds like an excuse, I don’t have time) and my dreams are not so erotic – most of them are about school exams or classwork! I get my inspiration from mainstream movies and music videos. I watch a lot of different genres; comedy is the one thing I don’t like that much. My milestones are ‘Traffic’ by Soderbergh, ‘Insider’ by Mann, ‘Memento’ by Nolan and ‘Babel’ by Inarritu. When I shoot my films I always want to tell a story. If you are not telling something, you have failed. Those movies and how they have been shot, help me to find a cool way to tell that story. When you shoot a scene, you have plenty of ‘tools’ for describing characters, moods and feelings. If you shoot the same action in two different styles, you can express two completely different emotions.
Are you interested in still photography as well as movies?
AL: I like photography, but I love filmmaking. It’s enough, isn’t it!
Do you have a preference for shooting boy-girl, girl-girl or solo scenes?
AL: Very good question! Every single film has its personal story. For example, when I want to tell a real life story, boy-girl films are my first choice. Most of the films shot with my great friend Franck Franco describe intimate and real moments: you can focus on small details of the character to convey a message. But I feel extremely creative when I shoot girl-girl or solo scenes. First of all there are some important technical aspects that allow me to shoot more complex stuff. There are fewer rules and I can dive into a visionary world. I can dare to shoot very long, continuous shots (like in ‘Io Ballo Da Sola’), BDSM situations and intimate moments such as an interview (like in ‘Girls Love Sex’).
Which scene or series on SexArt are you most proud of?
AL: That’s a really hard question! Honestly there are many films I love, but if I have to name one series it is the new one, ‘Outlines’. It’s something really special, something I shot during my three years’ anniversary with SexArt. It’s a 10 episode series, based on a new (risky!) concept. Just to make it easier, we could call them ‘SexArt short films,’ but I really don’t like that name! I reset my world and created something new, in terms of look, structure and duration. There are five solo, four girl-girl and one three-girl scene, each lasting about six or seven minutes. Casting was really hard, because I needed models that fit my vision: Melena A, Silvie Luca, Taylor Sands and Alexa Tomas. The ‘Outlines’ series is about single emotions: obsession with the body, medical cure, exhibitionism, time passing, animal submission… The images look different as well: be ready to access a new parallel world, made of dreams, hallucinations, faded and bleached colors and super slow motion. So, my dear members (especially my lovely Sydney): expect the unexpected! [Alis’ original word here was ‘unexpectable,’ which I think sums it up perfectly – you can’t imagine this!]. A few technical insights: ‘Outlines’ was shot with state of the art 5K and 6K RED cameras; all the editing workflow was in 4K realtime, processed by an ultra high-end workstation. And since members already had the chance to see some 4K films from me, I even decided to experiment with something new: you are going to see the first 60p SexArt films! There are two ‘Outlines’ episodes – ‘Forget the Writer’ and ‘Timeline’ – that have been shot in 4K at 60 frames per second. The delivery format is HD at 60p (4K at 60p is too heavy for most computers) and you’ll see a completely different kind of ‘motion,’ something more real. Melena will seem to come out of the screen!
Is there a model who particularly inspires you?
AL: Ahhh! That’s even a harder question! In the past three years I worked with a lot of models, more than 100, but only a very few of them could really understand my vision. I’m not saying I didn’t work well with the others, but those models really helped me to get what I wanted. I can say Melena A and Mango A are my muses when I have to create a visionary world based on breathtaking beauty. While my great friend Amarna Miller (especially in ‘Love For Sale – Crossdressing’) and Czech Iwia (just think about ‘The Contract’) show me incredible acting skills, worthy of mainstream productions.
How much planning goes into a shoot? Do you storyboard every shot in advance?
AL: I write a lot. To be honest I completely suck at drawing! So it’s impossible to have storyboards. So I have to write everything, every little detail. For a fifteen minute film I might have a five page script. Most of the time I decide the music soundtrack before shooting; as many of you know, music is so important for me. And having a good music track in my mind helps me a lot during the shoot.
How do you get the models to understand the role and get into character?
AL: Do you want to know a secret? The real answer to this question is: Google Translate! Hahaha, no, just kidding! When I shoot a model who already knows me, it’s pretty easy for us to understand each other. For example, with Amarna I go on defining the role even during the shooting (“… let’s try to do it like this, like that…”). With new models it’s more difficult: we talk a lot, I show them examples, scenes from mainstream movies, just to describe the emotions and expressions. A funny story: when I shot Lola Reve for the first time, for ‘The Heat 2,’ it was really hard; she only speaks French and I don’t speak French at all! So I really had to use a translator before and during our shoot!
You shoot a lot of technically complicated shots. Do you spend a lot of time experimenting with different techniques?
AL: That’s my passion, that’s my life. It brings me back to my very beginning: when I was obsessed to know HOW they shot films. Even if every filmmaker has a style, I’m trying not to shoot the same feature every time. I like to experiment with new solutions, but I need to think, develop, write and test before doing it in a final film. If I have a rule it is: what’s in front of the camera must be as perfect as what’s behind the camera.
What is the atmosphere like on set when you shoot?
AL: I’ve known some of my crew for many years. During my SexArt journey I had the good luck to get to know my Producer, Estelle Adams; she understands my vision and my ideas and helps to make my crazy thoughts possible! That said, even though we are very good friends, when we are on set we don’t have so much time for laughing or getting distracted; we put all our efforts into creating a good result – the best we can, as SexArt deserves!
How is your relationship with MetArt?
AL: As I said at the start, life is a long and incredible journey. In 2012 I couldn’t have known I would get to know Jon and get involved in the MetArt Network. I could say that was one of those moments when your life changes. My relationship with Jon is one of those things that makes my job priceless. I’m not saying it has always been easy… it could sound fake! But it has been a continuous growing up process. Jon helped me a lot with all his words, his critique; if now I have raised the bar so high, it is thanks to him. When we meet in LA we always have a great time, talking about new ideas, new projects and laughing about some of the ‘less good stuff’ I shot in the beginning!