Filippo Savoia knows quite well that the best advertisement for one’s career in the film industry is accomplishing the extraordinary with every job you take on. His work on The Runner with Production Designer Alessandra Manias (as well as the famed Michelle Danner and DP Edouard Philipponnat) was so impressive that she offered him the position of art director for this year’s Never Alone. There’s an ingredient in Filippo’s skill that is easy to see but hard to define; much like the actors appearing in each film, he has the ability to see into the heart of the story and cultivate a tone that speaks to the audience in a profound manner. It requires viewing Mr. Savoia’s work to truly comprehend how powerful it is; words do it no justice. It’s because of this admirable talent that Filippo finds himself in the enviable situation of being able to accommodate only a select number of projects. A true artist behind the scenes who is passionate about telling unique stories, Filippo Savoia extrapolates meaning and energy from a script and those whom he collaborates with in the most magnificent way. Never Alone benefits exceedingly from an approach such as this. Filippo insists, “I’ve noticed that the art direction in a musical drama has its aesthetic roots in a brighter, eccentric, dreamy and oftentimes, flamboyant tone. In fact, I feel that there is an exaggerated accent compared to dramatic movies. This is probably because at first, musicals were supposed to be for a theater stage, therefore the emphasis was necessary to arrive at the audience. If for drama movies, the narrative and complex psychology of the characters is predominant, for the musical dramas, the theatrical and showy spirit is more important.In The Runner, the aesthetics were mostly following the scene and the character’s circumstance, whilst on Never Alone, every color and location had to get along with music, dances, and performances.
An essential ingredient in conveying the challenges of these teenagers in the Covid was placing emotional cues in the settings and scenery that communicated the connection and separation they were experiencing. During zoom meetings among music students, each monitor screen has a specific personality addressed to the student in order to caption the style and identity. Later at a club scene, the purple and red color scheme propels an ambience of tension and strain for a dramatic climax. During one of the film’s most emotional scenes, during the break up of two main characters on an LA rooftop, Filippo designed a lighted floor installation with curtains hung and swaying with the wind; a tone which correlates with the characters moving on to the future without clinging to any anger or resentment. These sort of visual components are done without a heavy hand. They covertly reinforce the thematic ideas of the story without being too blatant. Like emotional osmosis, Mr. Savoia’s creations seep into the audience’s sense of what these characters are feeling rather than relying on exposition. Never Alone expresses that for young people who are on the verge of adulthood, the experience they share as a generation is impossible to compare to anyone else alive. The choice of the filmmakers to do so in the genre of a musical drama is likely the most effective way to connect us to people of this age with the utmost sincerity.
Writer: Arlen Gann