Many times within the developing career of a director, there are moments where compromising one’s own interests or idealism is considered predestined. This can be for a number of reasons such as to establish a further network or reputation, flesh out a portfolio, or even to earn much needed capital. The process of building towards success seems clinical, and somewhat commercialised, to a point that defeats the idealistic individual's natural progression as an artist. We interviewed Martina Amati (or Ama as many know her) whose career has certainly shed a light on this; most especially the subject of artistic identity.
As a filmmaker, Amati has an impressive portfolio: she is renowned for her use of underwater shoots, and ability to draw wonderful performances from child actors. Between 2008 and 2011, she found herself the recipient of a BAFTA, BIFA and UNICEF award, as well as several nominations for her short films A’Mare (2008), I Do Air (2009), and Chalk (2011). Her 2015 freediving short, Under, was a testament to her abilities as a filmmaker and was made possible by the Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award.
Speaking with Amati, we discussed her earlier work. Born in Milan, Italy in 1969, she studied Theatre Set Design at Belle Arti di Brera, where she was often noted for her avant-garde work on shorts during her time there. “I was told there was something very un-Italian about the work I was producing.” Referencing perhaps her initial draw to relocate to London, “I was invited to exhibit a piece of my work, a small animation of a woman swimming [entitled Breath], at Palazzo dell’Arengario. This was actually perhaps the original concept, if you think about it, that became Under.” This would be a sign of how she felt about the long labour that lead to her 2015 piece.
Amati, in her mid-twenties, was contacted with regards to her interesting style and invited to work in London for MTV Europe. She was charged with the design of the graphic visuals and promos for the launch of MTV Italy, a two year project. “This offer happened at a time when my life had taken some unexpected turns. The idea of a new life, working for MTV in London was a dream come true to me.” This being in the late nineties, MTV was at the height of its prominence in popular media. Amati had the freedom to exercise her methods of editing and art that elevated her expressive style.
She remembers fondly her two years at MTV. “My boss was something of an eccentric genius of music and animation. One of my promos had three seconds of footage from a Led Zepplin concert and he could point that out. He would tell me “This is all really good, but maybe let’s try to keep it contemporary.”” Amati laughs at the memory, as she recounts him taking her to animation events in London and really evolving her network and mindfulness of creative style.
After two years, MTV Italy was in full swing and Amati, finding herself as one of the people at the forefront of MTV Italy’s launch, decided to leave. “I was starting to spend what felt like most of my time on the phone. I was discussing what the key market demographic needs to see. To try using less black and white and make everything ‘happier’.” Choosing to leave without any regrets, we could see that Amati looks back on the experience of working at MTV with all positivity. Someone who knows when the best time is to pursue new courses in life possesses a rare ability.
In 2005, Amati made the 72-minute documentary Altitude. It was a freelance project exploring the plateaus of Tibet, with actor Joseph Fiennes and a group of creatives to examine the musical and theatrical culture and history of the rural areas of the country. The film was sparingly viewed at a couple of festivals however, in order to preserve the privacy of many of those involved in the film. “It was viewed at Hay-on-Wye Film Festival in 2005, but that was more or less it. I would be interested to go back and re-edit the footage, actually. I am so different now to how I was then as an editor.”
For Amati, the question seems to have never been what she must do to succeed, but what she desires to do as an artist. In this time she developed a keen love of freediving, which would bare much relevance in her work to come in the next part of her story; something which began with a very short, but significant animation of a woman swimming. We had to ask: why the love of the water? “With water there is a freedom I think, to let yourself go and do what feels natural.” This was the basis of the success that was yet to come for Martina Amati.
To be continued next week.