September 18, 2014

MISC Works with Armani

The film, commissioned by Armani, debuted at the Toronto Film Festival

By Kelly Austin Davis

USC student film, iLA, directed and co-written by John Berardo, was one of six short films that premiered at the prestigious 2014 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month as part of the “Films of City Frames” project initiated by fashion designer and icon, Giorgio Armani. Each of six international filmmakers was given the task of capturing moments of urban landscapes and emotional situations through the filter of Armani’s Frames of Life eyewear line. Armani envisioned a collage of films showing urban encounters—with the eyewear taking on the attributes of a character.

iLA, set in futuristic LA, brilliantly captures the fast paced day in the life of a paparazzi—donning Armani eyewear, with mobile device in hand—as he pursues an elusive celebrity photo. Berardo, a recent graduate of the USC Film & Television Production MFA program and his School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) faculty mentor, Michael Taylor, returned last week from Toronto and spoke with me about the film and their experiences at the festival.

Taylor said he received a call from the Italian fashion house asking if SCA would be interested in this project. Taylor recognized it would be a wonderful opportunity for USC film students to work with a client like Armani. The project also appealed to him because the film could be done under the auspices of the Media Institute for Social Change (MISC), which he serves as Executive Director. Taylor turned to Berardo, who has directed other projects for the institute.

“The goal was to show a five minute short on what it was like to live in Los Angeles where the lenses of his (the protagonist’s) glasses are like a lifelong travel companion,” said Berardo, who has lived in various parts of LA for the last ten years. Berardo views LA as “a very progressive city…a city of the future.”

“If I’m going to make a movie about Los Angeles, why wouldn’t I set it in the future because I feel that’s what LA’s goal is right now,” says Berardo. He wanted to incorporate the progressive qualities of Los Angeles that “our character could travel through.”

The idea for the title, iLA, is to communicate our increasing reliance on technology. “The film succeeds at conveying the need for human connection in a technological driven world,” said Taylor. “Only when the main character in the film puts down his technology is he successful in making a human connection with the person he’s trying to connect with.”

For Berardo, the highlight of the TIFF premiere was meeting with the other five directors on this international project and “discovering how this project brought us all together in a way that we would never have had otherwise.” Berardo said that seeing the cultural perspectives and cultural differences that they each have and their different ways of storytelling was “eye opening.” In addition to the Los Angeles, the Armani films are based in Hong Kong, Paris, London, Rome and New York.   

Berardo shared some advice for current film students and described a few of his current projects. He encourages students to go into class with ideas you feel strongly about, but be willing to change your mind. As far as his future plans in filmmaking, he wants to continue directing. He enjoys creating roles and working with actors. He has other projects with Michael Taylor using themes similar to iLA about reliance on cyber technology.

Taylor and Berardo said “Films of City Frames” was a wonderful project for MISC and for all the SCA students who contributed to iLA.

iLA and the other films can be viewed online at framesoflife.armani.com/films-of-city-frames.