a Film by John Vamvas and Olga Montes

Scarpedicemente – Best Drama Feature Film; Best Cinematography Feature Film
by John Vamvas and Olga Montes

What made you decide to make this film?

In 1998, John Vamvas and I, Olga Montes, (Executive Producers, Producers, Writers, Actors, Filmmakers and Co-Director of Scarpedicemente) were invited to New York City to perform one of our plays, Bad Boy, Off-Off Broadway in a little theatre in the heart of Times Square. It was January and the weather was less than kind so a few industry people were unable to attend. When the play’s run ended, two theatre directors told our mentor that they were sad to have missed it. So, he suggested we hold a reading of the play for them. Two chairs, a small table center stage and the two audience members in the front row of the cozy theatre. When it was over, they thanked us enthusiastically, congratulated us, and that was that. A few days later, our mentor called to share that both theatre directors called him separately and told him that we were the greatest theatre experience they’d ever had. And this, just from a reading! John said to me, “You don't need big money to put on a show. You just need to keep the audience engaged.” At that moment, we decided that Scarpedicemente, a play we wrote and toured in 1996 about a delusional gangster, Luigi Scarpedicemente, and his wife, Holly, sneaking off to a desert Vegas motel to avoid bodyguards Ricco & Rocco and celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary, would be the best play to turn into a film. Two people. One location.

Some 20 years later, we adapted the play into a screenplay and presented it to a few industry professionals, we were told, “It’ll never work. Two people one location. Impossible. Cut out chunks of dialogue and add some sex scenes.” We didn’t listen, stuck to our guns, and shot it staying true to our script.

So, to answer your question: What made us decide to make our film: We finally had enough savings and a house we could mortgage, a challenge we were up for and a screenplay we really believed in. To that we added passion, a love for cinema, and some extraordinarily talented people who came along for the ride because they had fallen in love with our project.

We started the Film Festival circuit in late August 2022, it's now December 13, 2022 and we have so far garnered 51 awards and 6 nominations on the IMDB, including 2 from your fabulous festival. We think our indie feature is doing pretty well so far.

How long was the shoot and what were the main challenges on the set?

It took us 10 days to shoot 114 dialogue-heavy pages. The challenge was that it was August 2020, when Montreal (Canada) was subject to strict COVID-19 restrictions and only 10 people were allowed on set, given the space. We couldn't even have a stills photographer on set because of that so the cast and crew had to juggle a few roles at a time.

What was it like to work with your team?

Even though most of us had never met before, most of the team was phenomenal. We had a magical synergy that elevated the project as almost everyone was at the top of their game.

For you, what was the biggest lesson you learned after making this film?

As first-time filmmakers, we made some mistakes due to our inexperience. We learned: Be very weary of hiring friends. Stick to your guns and say NO (which we had to do often). If you truly believe in your vision, do not let anyone steer you away from it. Luckily, we funded 100% of the project by using all our savings, mortgaging our house and borrowing from our children’s university funds (which we’ve paid back) and paid everyone, so we had the power to make 100% of the final decisions.

To all filmmakers: Know that if you are successful, many people will want to stake a claim to some (if not most) of your success even though they only crossed a “t” or dotted an “i”. Make sure you draw up contracts! We are thankful we did! And the endgame is so rewarding!

What are your overall career goals and what’s next?

To direct and produce more movies! Next up is another feature film.

Are you happy with the final result or would you change something?

As Co-Director, I, John Vamvas, am very proud to have brought in my cinematic twist of going from Black & White to color, my fast-paced blocking and directed mine and Olga’s rapid-fire acting style to ensure that we kept the audience engaged, all the while paying homage to the different films, actors and genres and bringing in many other elements (don’t want to give spoilers!). The marvelous post-production team that Olga and I put together carefully, which includes our Editor, Sound mixers, Composer and our Cinematographer who chose and supervised the Colorist to ensure his palette could be the most beautiful it could be, contributed greatly to our vision as well.

Of course, there are some elements that I would change, especially those that do not align with my vision; we tried to fix many of those in post-production, but those we couldn’t fix provided a powerful life lesson. Regardless, we are very proud and happy with the end result.

What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?

We are currently working on a horror feature which we wrote in 2010, Wherewolves. This one is a much bigger project and we are very excited to look for funding and get started with it. It’s about a group of high school seniors, mostly “military brats”, who are headed for an army-type survival weekend and it’s full of twists and turns. We’ve been told it’s “Lord of the Flies meets Silver Bullet, but only way cooler”.

We tested the waters with the script and submitted the first 10-pages of Wherewolves to a respected screenwriting competition. It has been chosen a finalist and we are awaiting to hear if we’ve won. Crossing our fingers!

John Vamvas and Olga Montes