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5 Years Of ITAL & Tiramisu For Two

On Tuesday, December 19th, a few blocks from the Vittorio Emanuele piazza in Rome, about 60 folks gathered at a funky cinema club called Apollo 11, one of those independent-community institutions respected by everyone in the Rome’s film scene. It was a small yet fascinating crowd of people who had heard about Tiramisu For Two in some way or the other and were eager to see the so called “Texan Italian Cult Classic." Luckily for us, the small size of the theater provided a nicely “packed/full” feeling that is usually appreciated at public events; it was a great and intimate way to wrap up TFT's unique community-driven distribution run.

The night was kicked off with a special TFT pre-show filled with Texan Heroes such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, and Gary Clark Jr. Given that our American pre-shows have featured Italian music, we thought that it was time for our Italian audience to get their education about bad ass Texan music as well!

The movie played fantastically: folks cried, laughed, screamed, and some perhaps wondered what kind of film had they gotten themselves into!!

Once credits rolled and we conducted our final Q&A of the tour, it all finally sunk in: “this is it!”

It was a bittersweet moment that will always be part of us, just as many other very unique experiences we had lived by choosing to embark on this fantastic journey called “ITAL”

And so... this is it!

We now say thanks from the bottom of our heart to all of you who have followed us thus far. We love you. You know that the videos we make, including Tiramisu For Two, are only a small part of a large and honest community-building vision we have been developing for many years. Thank you for believing in that vision and helping us advance it forward with ITAL.

In celebration of the last screening of Tiramisu For Two, we leave you here with a quick recap of the almost 6 years that lasted the creation process of this dear "Texan Italian" project (enjoy!):

2011 - Beginnings of Tiramisu For Two & ITAL project.

To properly talk about the story behind the creation of Tiramisu For Two, one must start by talking about El Gallo; an ambitious independent miniseries we created between 2009-2011.

Bobby Olson as Harry in El Gallo

In El Gallo, Bobby Olson played the role of Harry, a retired immigration cop that was after the legendary magical rooster Sietecueros. This was the first time that Sergio and Bobby had worked together in a project.

Unfortunately most of the footage filmed with Bobby never saw the light of day, as the project was cancelled due to lack of funding despite of the acceptance and enthusiasm it had gathered. The inexplicable demise of El Gallo left the entire production team fairly heart-ached and also itching to make something else together... Enter Tiramisu For Two!

2012 - Beginnings of Tiramisu For Two & ITAL project.

In early 2012 we launched a very personal Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the creation of Tiramisu For Two, a story that Bobby had written as a short that we were hoping to expand as a feature film.

During the crowdfunding campaign we were asked several times about the reasons why we had decided to talk about Bob’s story instead of explaining the actual story of the film. The truth was that we were not interested in making a regular film.

Our top goal was simply to collaborate with Bob in a project where he was the main protagonist, a dream of his that we felt compelled to help him achieve. Coming from the creation of El Gallo, we also knew this project was going to have different other layers, including an educational layer. We had actually started our work on ITALCHANNEL.TV, and decided from that moment that Tiramisu For Two would be a component of something much larger, focused on Texan Italian culture.

During the summer of 2012 we traveled to Italy to film the first ITAL modules and different Italian scenes that could be part of the movie. Given that our budget was too small to properly fly a crew to Rome, we decided that all of the footage of Giorgio in Italy would be used in the creation of a short film called Life of Giorgio that could be used to entice further investments in the feature film project. To create this film we had the chance to work with very talented follks such as EJ Enriquez, Marco De Risi, Shelby Comito, Bryan Foster, Piercarlo Abate, Drew Thompson and many other amazing folks.

The creation of Life of Giorgio and the first three ITAL modules had a significant impact in the development of the project. The process of creating materials that students were using and enjoying in class, felt as a very honest and intense storytelling process with a great deal of audience interaction.

Watch this abridged version of "Life of Giorgio" which we released as part of ITAL's Module 4.

The original version was almost 25 minutes long!

Life of Giorgio was presented in San Marcos as part of a Fellini Halloween Party in 2013; the film also played a couple of festivals such as Cine Las Americas in Austin. We ended up using many scenes of Life of Giorgio in the final version of Tiramisu for Two, including all of the flashback scenes with Young Giorgio and Young Hope.

In late 2012, we asked professional Austin actors and crew - many of them who had participated in our TFT crowdfunding campaign - if they would be interested in being a part of our film. Given that our budget was extremely low for the creation of a full feature film, our actors and crew agreed to participate taking a substantial pay cut. We filmed the “Interrogation scene” of the film; about 40 minutes of content that took place only inside of a room with four actors, which we shot for 4 consecutive days.

The idea was to record the “meat” of a feature film and then figure out how we would raise funds to record the “flashbacks” that would round up the entire feature. This was the beginning of our relationship with producer Chris Perez from Captiva Entertainment in San Marcos, the location where we decided that our film would take place. Our director Sergio had always considered San Marcos the friendliest and prettiest place in Texas; thus that was the place where he wanted to set the story. Our producer Romina Olson had also attended Texas State University in San Marcos and had strong ties with the city.

2013 - Tiramisu for Two starts to take shape.

In 2013 we made the radical decision of moving our entire operation to San Marcos as a way to get to know the city more and finish the film from there. We also created a very cool pitch package in video form (see below) to convince folks from San Marcos, Texas to make small investments in the film. These videos were sent as private links and hand delivered DVD's to key folks from the community. Through this effort we were able to establish relationships with great people such as Debbie Harvey, an avid supporter of cultural initiatives in San Marcos and Timothy Mottet, the former dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. The creation of this pitch package was a crucial point for us, as it pushed us deeply in to the idea of creating a "community-centric" effort; something that would encompass every phase of the production process, from financing to distribution.

In the fall of 2013 we filmed the "rest of the film" in 14 days days of intense production that involved the participation of well over 100 folks. For this shooting we were able to recruit new crucial talent for the film, including the maestro Peter Gonzales-Falcon, a Texan who had starred in Fellini films, our fantastic Hope, Melody Chase - a super talented actress that was living in Austin TX - and our dear cinematographer Ellie Ann Fenton. The film we shot was centered mostly around the character of TJ and his different friends and enemies played by an excellent ensemble cast of Texan actors. As most TFT fans know, most of the scenes that we filmed during this shoot were discarded when we decided to focus the story on Giorgio. We have toyed with the idea of releasing this other version of Tiramisu For Two... maybe. ; )

By late 2013, ITAL had gathered a great deal momentum, especially after the success of the Texan Italian Stories documentary series. In December 2013 we also launched a second crowdfunding campaign for the entire ITAL project, which was comprised of even smaller contributions and helped us in establishing a group of supporters that we called the “ITAL believers.” The community of ITAL believers has been with us since then, always supporting each one of our efforts. They have provided us endless inspiration in the times that are most needed; this project exists now because of them.

2014 - ITAL community turns down TFT, loves the rest!

During 2014 we created the first version of Tiramisu For Two. Staying true to our community building efforts we invited many of our ITAL believers and fans to give us their feedback on every major cut of the film. Unfortunately, once we were finished with the movie even our biggest fans did not really understand the film!! Back to the drawing table!

In 2014 we also spent a great deal of time presenting the ITAL project at diverse conferences - such as ACTFL- and building the strong academic foundation of ITAL. The methodical creation process of the Texan Italian Stories documentary series would give birth to Sergio's award winning thesis.

The thesis, which focused on how the process of creating media could be used to strengthen communities, won the top Master Thesis awards at Texas State University as well as the prestigious Conference of Southern Graduate Schools Master Thesis award, where the project competed with the best Master Thesis of over 200 US Universities. Make sure to check out some of the different Texan Italian Stories episodes. The series were also presented at the Calandra Institute in New York and reviewed by their well respected journal.

The success of the ITAL educational videos and the Documentary portion of the project, allowed us to feel a bit better about the failure of Tiramisu For Two's first cut of the film. It also reminded us to listen to our community and do what they wanted: show more of Giorgio. It was time to reshoot the movie....

Here's a video story created for the city of San Marcos, as part of the community-building efforts that we carried out in 2014. The focus of that year was "the community": building the community, understanding the community, and figuring out ways for the community to be a part of everything that we were doing.

2015 - Re-shooting the movie

In the summer of 2015 we went back to Italy, now with a small but talented crew (most importantly our super talented DP Ellie Ann Fenton) to shoot what would be the final version of Tiramisu For Two. Getting there was a very tough experience for us, as we literally had to cut out more than half of the movie, which included amazing performances from actors such as Shelby Graham, Daniel Palomo, Sergio Codognotto and other really dear characters. That said, the story felt much stronger once we had Giorgio finally in the place he needed to be: right in the center.

Later that year we also shot another week in Texas with some of the key characters in order to wrap up the new TFT story. This is when we had the chance to further explore the characters of Hope and Johnny - interpreted by Melody Chase and Dave Harper - during a few shooting days that produced some of the most memorable scenes of the final version of the film.

During 2015 we also created ITAL's Module 4; which we believe is our best one!

Module 4 has since then become the pillar of the Italian Intermediate classes at the University of Texas at Austin; it has inspired many folks to connect with Rome and its people through a novel system of storytelling that has worked really well in the classroom.

From ITAL's Module 4 emerged our fantastic Chef Panico character, played by Pietro Panico.

Chef Panico has been a part of many of our TFT screenings, gathering his own legion of fans. He has also collaborated with Romina in the creation of different recipes that we have distributed through our TFT Newsletters. Chef Panico is also part of our Real Life Experiences efforts, experiential storytelling ideas that we hope to continue developing and offering to our members.

2016 - The Grand premiere

Fulfilling our community-centric approach and vision, we celebrated the premiere of Tiramisu For Two on December 2nd 2016 at the most beautiful space in San Marcos, Texas, the Patti Strickel Harrison theater. During the premiere we counted with the participation of all the members of the cast, who enjoyed themselves in the company of a sold out house of over 300 folks. We owe this amazing opportunity to Dean John Fleming from the College of Fine Arts and communications, as well as Dean Andrea Golato and Dr Sandy Rao from the graduate college. These fantastic group of scholars and school leaders showed that Texas State University is a place where students come first; they took a risk for us which had a significant positive impact on our lives and aspirations.

During the premiere, the Mayor of San Marcos at the time, Daniel Guerrero, proclaimed the date as the Texan Italian Day in San Marcos, and our dear Italian Consul Elena Sgarbi came from Houston to also enjoy the film and receive this important city recognition. It was the perfect beginning for a very interesting distribution run that took place during 2017.

2017 - The Epic TFT distribution Run

Given the local success of the premiere, we were given a unique chance to share our film with a larger audience, thanks to Mitchell Roberts, a San Marcos native who is the CEO of EVO Entertainment, owner of different theaters across Central Texas.

The unique collaboration between independent theater owners and independent filmmakers that took place to make this run happen is a historical occurrence, never seen before for any other San Marcos made movie until then.

Our first trial week at The Spot was a smashing success, where we sold out 9 times in a row. This gave fuel to an even more ambitious idea: releasing the film in 3 different cities at the same time, playing 4 times a day just like any regular movie!

For our theater run we created our special Italian Pre-show, which warmed up the crowed with handpicked music videos of Italian music, as well as footage and info from every city where we played the film.

For the creation of the pre-shows we visited many amazing organizations, schools, businesses, and met tons of folks who were ecstatic to have been made somehow part of the movie experience.

The buzz around Tiramisu For Two's historic run spread through the southwest; granting us invitations by different folks from diverse cities, including a lovely screening in Albuquerque, super fun screenings in Dallas and Houston, and an official selection at the prestigious San Diego Italian Film Festival . Here are two of the many customized "video trailers" we created for each screening; we also created custom pre-shows for each city that we visited. We definitely have to give props to our executive producer Alejandro Yrausquin and his family who worked their buns off to make the best out of each screening.

And so we commend you, dear fan, if you're still reading this super long blog article!! You have shown that you have real passion and interest for this project. You have most likely understood the real value of what we were trying to do. So, was it worth in the end? You bet. It has been one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

Was it tough? Yes, very much! We worked our hearts off to create something honest and unique in a very interesting time in history where few folks give themselves the opportunity to fully explore an independent project like you just did. Those who were open to what we were bringing to the table had amazing experiences, some of them have become great friends. Tiramisu For Two and ITAL represents an example of a more localized, meaningful and community based form of telling stories that we hope to continue on developing as we venture in our new transmedia project.

Thank you for giving TFT & ITAL a chance.

We'd love to see you being a part of our future storytelling adventures.


Wondering what's next?

Check out the editorial post of this newsletter where we discuss the future of ITAL and Tiramisu For Two and how you can stay in touch with us after this last public newsletter...

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