You Won’t Be Alone is the feature debut from Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevski and it is edited by Luca Cappelli. The horror movie stars Noomi Rapace and Alice Englert, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2022. CineVino connected with the film editor of the movie Luca Cappelli to discuss Luca’s favorite part of the editing process for the movie and working with Goran Stolevski.
Luca Cappelli: You Won’t Be Alone is a feature film by director Goran Stolevski, which is about a young witch who has been just given shapeshifting powers. And so through these shapeshifting powers, she tries to experience life in the form of other human beings, humans and not, while at the same time, dealing with her sort of mentor witch which is an older witch who wants her to actually not live with humans, not experience human life, but live in solitude in the woods with her more or less. This is the synopsis of the project.
CineVino: How did you originally get on board with this project and what was that process like? What were those initial conversations like?
Luca Cappelli: The original conversations started happening with the producer of the film, which is Kristina Ceyton from Causeway Films. What happened is they watched the film that I had worked on previously called Acute Misfortune at MIFF, which is the Melbourne International Film Festival and they really liked it. The film was a little bit of a local hit, even if it didn’t do that well in festivals around the world. But you know, it really went well in Australia and they watched that film and they really liked the editing and and they had this project in Melbourne, which is where I’m based and their based in Sydney, where I was based. And and so they were looking for an email and and they just got in touch and that I had a meeting with Goran, who was the director. And yeah, we sort of, you know, had similar taste. The projects, I read the script and the script was quite amazing. It’s like what you see in the final film was was already in the script, you know, all the elements were there. And obviously it was such a strong new concept for me that I just wanted to get on board as quick as I could. And with Goran, we shared influences and sensibilities. He’s, you know, like me. He was born in Europe, he was born in Macedonia, and he moved in his early teenage years. He moved to Australia and likewise I was born in Italy, but I moved to Australia, you know at a later stage of my life. And so, you know, I guess, yeah, we bonded on certain on a certain a fascination for European cinema and certain directors and certain influences. And from that moment on I just wanted to get on board and I did what I could to make that happen. Unfortunately, the pandemic happened as well around the time, so the film was delayed over a few months. But yeah, then eventually it happened not too long after which was good.
“That sort of lyrical montages that switch the focus from the interiority of the character to what surrounds him, the nature around him.” – Luca Cappelli
CineVino: What was your favorite part of working on this project?
Luca Cappelli: Yeah. This sort of obviously montages are a lot of fun. OK. And there are lots of them in the film and with Goran, one of the biggest influences that obviously we’re talking about at all the stages was Terrence Malick and especially his early films like Days of Heaven but also Tree of Life and Badlands. But you know, that’s sort of, how can I describe it? Yeah, that sort of lyrical montages that switch the focus from the interiority of the character to what surrounds him, the nature around him. And, you know, but still sustaining in this hyper immersive stage. I’m fascinated with the kind of cutting, and how far you can take it. I guess. It can be divisive. You know, some people really go with it and some people fall for it and come on the journey for some others, it’s just too much. But but it was, I was interested in working in that with that methodology. And again, that methodology was kind of embedded in the project and in the script. You could already see them happening so that kind of made them easier for me, I think, to to put together. So, yeah, that’s always a lot of fun.
CineVino: What was it like working on this film during the pandemic?
Luca Cappelli: I mean, about the pandemic, thankfully we managed to be always in the same room. We never had to do the remote thing, which was really good. I mean, I’ve done it a little bit on a documentary because Goran’s film and I don’t know, I find it extremely tricky. It was also early stage of the pandemic so the technology wasn’t there in some way, the budget of this other film wasn’t allowing a sort of more advanced experience so it was a pain. But thankfully with Goran, what happened was that they managed to shoot the whole film in Serbia before the second wave of COVID hit. Just before. Basically they got out of the country and two days after it seemed like COVID exploded in Serbia. So they were really lucky with that. And then they arrived in Australia and we started cutting at the end of the year together. I think it was mid-December and and that summer, so COVID was really low. And by then, you know, we were allowed to go to a studio and be in the same room. The only thing that I did on my own was assemble. You know, I was assembling the film while they were shooting and I was doing that from home. I did all of that from home. There was an assistant editor in Serbia and there was like an assistant editor / assembly editor that was helping me in Melbourne. But that was all from home, which was not so much fun but still we were lucky in that sense.
CineVino: If you don’t speak Macedonian, can you explain to us the process of how you edit a film in Macedonian when you do not speak Macedonian?
Luca Cappelli: The script was translated, so we had the English and the Macedonian on the script. But Macedonian is written in Cyrillic. It’s like Russian. It looks like Russian or anyway, something really similar to that. In high school. I have done a little bit of Greek like in Italy, and so I could work out some words just some, let’s say, while I was assembling, I don’t know. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but maybe I got yeah 60 percent of the stuff was right. You know, obviously I had the translation but sometimes I was getting things completely wrong and when Goran came in, he was like, Look, she’s saying something completely different just delete this sub. But the assistant editor, who was in Serbia, I don’t think he spoke Macedonian, but obviously he had better take of it. He could work out roughly what they were talking about and. so he’s the one who put subtitles on the rushes. So I was getting rushes from Serbia that already had subs, So that that helped a lot. But in the past, I’ve worked on on a film that was shot in Cambodia. Like the whole film was in Khmer, which is the Cambodian language they speak in Cambodia. And it was really low-budget at the start we couldn’t afford translators, we couldn’t afford translators in the edit suite. So they were shooting and I was getting these rushes and I had no idea what they were talking about. There was also a lot of improv going on, so there was a whole early stage when we were cutting just just based on instinct. And sometimes we got things right funnily enough, but we were trying instinctively to work out what they were talking about. If you have the subtitles it’s better. If you can put subs so subs on it that is the way to go.
CineVino: What was the process like working with Goran Stolevski on You Won’t Be Alone?
Luca Cappelli: It was an interesting process again, all directors are different and with first time directors were you never know what what to expect. He was really confident, I think, with his vision at the end of the day, which makes which makes my work easier I suppose. He really knew what he was going for stylistically in the edit. And again, he had shot all this footage with that in mind. So, obviously I knew from the get go that it was going to be jump cuts, lots of jump cuts and again, montages with the music. And I knew that, the voiceover was going to play the part in the film. I think one thing that was quite peculiar was he really didn’t want to spoil his perspective. And so he was not a person who wanted to work on things and you know work them until death. He was really someone who knew where to stop and go, OK, let’s let’s leave it there for now and watch it tomorrow, which is something that I usually have to tell directors to do. Because there’s always this tendency with less experienced directors, they have this feeling that the more time you spend on the scene, the more time you spend on a sequence, OK, let’s work on this sequence for two days! While actually it doesn’t work like that, you know, it’s actually perspective and space and breaks that give you ideas and not just, you know, intensely going and laboring things. And yeah, Goran refreshingly really knew where to stop. And you know, especially when you work in that fashion, when there’s a lot of montages, a lot of moving parts, it’s easy to lose perspective, you know, and he was really careful not to do that, which was great, I think. But, it was a fun ride. We got stopped once by the pandemic. I think there was a lockdown in Melbourne, which went for a week, but it was fine because we were waiting for feedback and also we were really on the same page. I guess being both from Europe and, we were talking about these characters like them, you know, the mothers in the film that even the side characters, the villagers and how they were operating and their cruelty, their brutality. You know, it always rang true to both of us and really authentic, you know, coming from Europe, we both had this feeling that those people were someone that we knew some or some distant relatives that we met in our past, you know, like because, you know, here in Europe, you always have this echo of this peasant life in the past, especially if you go out of cities. And we were always trying to go for that feeling. That really folk fairytaleish, you know, Grimm fairy tale, you know, Anderson kind of vibe. Yeah, that was fun.
CineVino: Were there any other challenges with editing this film you’d like to talk about?
Luca Cappelli: The language, not the language really but like the voiceover was tricky to finesse and Goran was going for something really specific. He wanted this character to be muted and extremely inarticulate at the start of the film, but somehow her command of the language had to develop a little bit throughout the film. And again, even if she was not completely articulated, he still wanted a lyrical element in it. He still wanted her to be capable of expressing a sort of poetry in some way. So that took a long time. (laughs) Obviously, we were playing with the subs. We’ve never changed the meaning, but there are many ways to translate a words, and to phrase things and again, you don’t want people to pay too much attention to the subs. You want them to be able to absorb them without losing what is going on on the screen. That was a challenge. And yeah, at the same time, so worth it because I think, yeah, Sarah’s performance, the act, you know, the Sara Klimoska who’s the actress who plays Nevena at the start when she’s a young girl, a teenager in the cave? Yeah, her performance of voiceover was just amazing. Even without knowing what she was talking about it, just listening to the files was unbelievable, really evoking, just really moving. So, yeah, it was worth it as time consuming and finicky. But I’m glad that it’s there.