Keeping secrets from Nonna is like saying no to cannoli, impossible.
For this week’s feature we are doubling down on fabulous women creators by sharing the comedy web series Welcome To The Family written by and starring Elisa Cristallo and Directed by Angela Pezzano. I asked what attracted them both to the film industry. “I’ve always been a story-teller, I liked that film was so visual. I like the team-work side to it.” Angela said. “Like Ange, I love storytelling and collaboration.” Elisa said, “Film is a way to collaborate with other storytellers who have different skills and talents to you, and together you can raise the bar and accomplish something you could never do alone.”
Produced by Dulce Aguilar of Nuh! Productions and supported by Blacktown Councils Creative Arts Fund Welcome To The Family is a short web series about young Italian woman Marie. After years of living independently, a blocked toilet forces Marie to move (temporarily?!) back to her Nonna’s house. Suddenly her independent habits, including wine and cheese for dinner on a Friday night, simply will not be tolerated. Plus, there’s that charismatic boyfriend that she’s kept secret for months. Will Marie be able come clean and reconnect with the family she has kept at arm’s length?
I asked Elisa where the idea for the series came from. “The series started when I was writing stand-up comedy material ‘in character’ as members of my family.” she explained, “That quickly became my strongest material and the most fun to perform. That lead to a 10-minute narrative monologue, then a full-length play for the Fringe Festival circuit and finally, the series. After so long developing the characters and the story, the script for the series was a dream to write.”
Director Angela came on board through Elisa’s passion for the story and the cultural connection as an Italian woman herself. “Everyone, no matter where you come from, will be able to relate to this family and will find moments to giggle at, go “awww” at and go “that’s just like (insert relative’s name here)” Angela said, “It is the beauty of the writing and performances and the vision that makes Welcome to the Family such a gem.” The project also had a high percentage of female key creatives which was an important part of the production for Angela. “I was proud to work on a film with such a strong female crew – writer, director and producers were all female as well as our composer Anisha Thomas, DOP Bayley Broome-Peake and 1st AD Caitlin McGann“ she said, “Not to mention the female driven story about a culture in Australia that is common and often stereotyped. I trust a female led story if I know women are part of, and leading, the story.”
As always with a film production of any kind there are highlights and struggles that come along with the process. For Elisa they became one in the same. “Sometimes the struggles, in retrospect, become the highlights – like that 40+ degree day when cast and crew were cramped into a bedroom with no air-con, the day when the electricity went out half way through filming a scene or when our DoP got sick and lost her voice (all pre-COVID of course)” she said, “The struggles become a highlight because in retrospect you think how did we get through that? How did we get this made!”
The series premiered on Channel 31 in Melbourne and has since appeared in multiple festivals including Miami Webfest, Illawarra Film Festival, Sydney Indie Film Festival and the Asia Web Awards where Elisa was also nominated for Best Actress in a Sketch Series. The whole 3 episode series can be watched on YouTube with no current plans for future episodes but as Elisa said to me “never say never” so it might be worth subscribing.