Cristiano Donzelli, the pencil of Oscar-winning directors. “So I reveal the scenes before they are shot” –

from Nicola Catenaro

The 52-year-old storyboard artist, originally from Teramo, receives the draft, reads it and turns the story into shots, freehand or using a graphic tablet. Among his “clients” also Scorsese, Spike Lee and Coppola

He has designed 75 films and worked with 13 Academy Awards. Among these, Gabriele Salvatores, Martin Scorsese, Paolo Sorrentino, Spike Lee. And now he has started a collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola on the recent project Megalopolis. The best known filmmakers in the world turn to him for his mastery of unveiling scenes before they are shot. Cristiano Donzelli, 52, Italian, is in fact a “storyboard artist”, the artist who draws the screenplay before the take and offers the director and his collaborators the opportunity to preview the sequences. A job not very popular in Italy, very practiced (and used) in Hollywood. He receives the draft, reads it and after a series of preparatory meetings he transforms the story into shots, freehand or using a graphic tablet.

The shock and the difficult beginnings

«I have used the pencil to draw from an early age and many notions – Donzelli says – I had acquired before attending the art school in Teramo, my city, to which I owe the basics and the most concrete tools. On Sundays, in the provincial environment, there was not much else to do but go to the cinema and that’s where I fell in love with Spielberg’s films and everything that came from America. It was a kind of shock, a passion that has never left me ”. After graduation, Donzelli enrolled in the faculty of Architecture of Pescara at the same time starting to collaborate with a publishing house of comic books. But his propensity for cinema prevails and after fifteen exams he leaves to pursue the dream of working for the big screen. The beginnings are not easy. “At the time there was no Internet or social networks – she says – and the only way to contact anyone was to look for them first in the telephone directory. So, I regularly went to the Sip headquarters, where the telephone directories of all of Italy were located, and I went through those folders in search of useful numbers. So I started proposing myself to Cinecittà directors and producers. And the craft of storyboard I learned it self-taught ».

Winner of the Golden Film

The first job opportunities came at the end of the nineties with the television director Alberto Negrin and with the set designer (three times Oscar winner) Dante Ferretti and, then, traveling between the United States and Londonthanks to important assignments like those for Gangs of New York
by Martin Scorsese e Kingdom of Heaven – The Crusades by Ridley Scott. In 2004 she produced, wrote and directed her first short film, A story of wolves, with Franco Nero as the protagonist. With the Academy Awards he returns to collaborate for the filmMiracle at St. Anna

by Spike Lee ed Siberian Education by Gabriele Salvatores. Later, he works with Ben Stiller (whom he becomes friends with) making the scenes of his film Zoolander 2. Other projects follow, among which Wonder Womandirected by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Siberia
by Abel Ferrara and with Willem Dafoe, the TV series Haloproduced by Steven Spielberg among others, e Ripleywritten and directed by Oscar-winning director Steven Zaillian with Schindler’s List. Last year Donzelli also won the prestigious “Golden Film” award, the equivalent of the Oscars for the workers and professionals of Italian cinema.

Coppola’s call

In Tortoreto Lido, where he lives with his partner Cinzia, after a long day of work, put on your shoes and go for a walk or get on your bike for long rides at sunset. “I like looking at the sea, it relaxes me.” A daily peace interrupted only by work emails. Like when, a few weeks ago, he opened his e-mail and found the message of the great Coppola (director of de The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Dracula by Bram Stoker), who asked him for help with the project he has wanted to carry out for thirty years. “I thought back to when as a boy I saw his films and for a moment it seemed incredible that he was looking for me.” Instead, that’s how it went.

August 6, 2022 (change August 6, 2022 | 23:03)

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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