How would you describe what you do to a 7-year-old?
Alessia: Well, my kids ask me this question a lot, and the answer depends on how much time I have at that moment. Sometimes I tell them that Mama is working on films. One time I mentioned that they’re for adults, but then I quickly corrected myself, saying, ‘No, no, no, Mama means serious films- real documentaries.’
I show them documentaries about nature, and we watch National Geographic shows together. I explain to them, ‘These films help you understand how nature works. I’m doing something similar, but I’m not focused on nature. What I do is try to uncover the stories behind people.’ I’ve shown them some of the videos that I’ve made, so they understand what I’m doing a bit more. I want them to understand that there is always a story behind a person and this is what I want to capture on camera.
That is probably the sweetest answer I could possibly get. So, what motivated you to join Makmende, and how has your journey been so far?
Alessia: That’s a difficult question, just because there is a slight difference from my media background. After working as a journalist, I started creating documentaries focused on topics of my choice, which I then sold to broadcasters. I was involved in every aspect of these projects, from conception to production to directing. These documentary series were broadcast globally, and in a way, it was simpler for me because I had a clear idea and a passionate connection to the subject matter. I love diving deep into researching and investigating the topic. I even had the privilege of working on a documentary that won awards at film festivals, and I’m really happy about that.
There is always a story behind the person, and I try to capture on camera, the story behind the person.
The connection with Makmende is simple: it is the passion for human stories. I like taking a challenging topic and making it accessible to a wider audience, bridging the gap between complex topics and mainstream appeal. It allows me to blend my journalistic side with my love for heavy topics. Also, everything started because my agenda has always been a really feminist one. Women’s issues are a topic that I follow a lot. At Makmende, I discovered numerous projects related to women, which was the initial connection that drew me in.
That is the part that I like the most: speaking with the characters, interviewing a lot of women, seeing what is happening on the ground, directing from a distance; I found it really fun! I enjoy when I am directing on the ground but I also like directing from a distance, because you create a sort of partnership with your filmmakers: you need to trust them, and they need to understand you.
Being a visual person, I need to see the footage before working on a script. I review and organize everything, printing out the material and spreading it across my room. There, I piece everything together, trying to create the story and build the storyline. The goal is creating a story that I like and I’m proud of while also creating what’s the best for the client.
What project do you consider to be your best work in Makmende so far? Tell us something about it and why you choose it.
Alessia: I think that at the moment it is the River Commons project. It’s a 30 minute documentary about rivers in Colombia and Ecuador. I’m drawn to it because of its format, because of the topic, and the overall relevance. There’s an urgency to talk about water in general, but even more so in Colombia. I really appreciate the journalistic approach it takes, especially in the realm of documentaries. What I find particularly appealing is that it’s a 30-minute piece—a medium-length documentary and it’s closer to what I’ve been doing previously. However, I must say that there are numerous projects that I find equally inspiring.
For example, the Bayer Foundation project, with all these amazing women that work in STEM. They have diverse backgrounds, some of which were incredibly complex. And they still managed to succeed, not only for themselves, but also for their communities. They have a lot of determination, and they’re trying to succeed in fields that are really male-dominated. I find this incredibly inspiring because it reminds us that despite our aims at gender equality, there are still gaps that exist in various parts of the world. So the fact that we are highlighting these stories makes me really proud.
People took their time to try new things during lockdown. But now that we’re back into our usual business, what did you have in your lockdown ‘graveyard’ aka hobbies you stopped doing? Did it help you go towards your personal goals?
Alessia: Well, the problem is the COVID period was really weird for me because I had just sold a docu-series for my previous company. It all began in March when COVID hit, and by May, I had successfully sold a series consisting of five one-hour episodes to my first client in China. The challenge, though, was that we had to carry out the post-production work during the pandemic. So, I didn’t have any time for hobbies because I was working and the kids were at home. So, I was working 4 hours a day and my husband was working the other 4 hours- that way we could take care of the kids. But I had to work every night for an additional six hours to do the post-production. I was determined to make it perfect for its premiere.
It was intense, but worthwhile. This series had a lot of financial investment put into it, and there was uncertainty about whether it would have returns. However, we were really happy that the revenue from selling the series in the first country alone covered all our expenses. Then, we also sold it to 10 other countries!
Any tips or things you would like to say to younger people (or your younger self) who want to do what you do?
Alessia: Someone told me that there are two types of people: those who enjoy the process and they feel happy as they go along, and those who get satisfaction only from the outcome. So, my suggestion to people is “be the first, enjoy the process.”
This is what I wanted to say. Sometimes you have to think more about what makes you happy.
We all know it’s super nice to get a successful outcome, such as selling something or winning at a film festival. But that joy is often short-lived, only for a limited period of time. Most of our lives and our work involve the process. Personally, I consider myself someone who enjoys the process. I really like doing things, and this is what motivates me and keeps me engaged in my work. I cannot imagine myself not working, because I enjoy it.
If you manage to do what you love and find joy in the journey toward the outcome, that’s ideal. When the outcome is nice, you celebrate! But even when things don’t turn out as expected, that’s just a part of life. Some projects may not turn out exactly as you expected, but you can still find satisfaction in the effort you put into them. So, here’s my advice to young people: enjoy the process!
Our society, in particular, is too career oriented. Success in a project doesn’t necessarily mean you are satisfied. Just imagine you create something you hate, but it turns out to be successful. You may spend eight months working on it, dreading each moment, only to celebrate for a couple of days when it’s a success. Personally, I couldn’t stand those eight months. I’d much rather enjoy the journey and the process along the way.
Yeah, and we also have our own standards of what is successful, it’s different to everyone, so why should you judge yourself on a standard that is made-up by everyone else?
Alessia: Indeed. I think that we still have to aim, we still have to dream, but not focus too much on what happens if we don’t achieve that.
When I was younger and I studied journalism, my dream was to work for this one famous newspaper in Italy. However, even if I worked with various national newspapers, I never quite made it to that particular one. I knew people that secured positions there, but they were just writing article titles. Meanwhile, I was doing a lot of reporting, I wrote long pieces, I learned a lot, I met a lot of people and I did amazing research on the ground. Who cares if my work were not published there? Did this make me less successful than them because I cannot list that newspaper on my resume? I think that I was happier than them. This is what I wanted to say. Sometimes you have to think more about what makes you happy.
Stay tuned for updates on the River Commons project, as Alessia mentioned. So, stay connected with us by subscribing to our newsletter!
Want to get in touch with her? You can reach Alessia at email@example.com.