Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Will Colacito
By Travis Trew, Programming Associate
Scranton native Will Colacito is about to start his junior year at Temple University, where he’s studying cinematography. Made for one of his Temple courses, Whip Whop! is a bizarre and surreal short about a man who finds a mysterious, shiny object, takes it home, and discovers (via a hilariously unhinged 80s-style infomercial) that the object is an inter-dimensional being called a Whip Whop.
PFS: How did you get your start making movies?
WC: I guess I got my start in film pretty much the way a lot of us do. I started with my own Lego animations, messing around with my parents’ camera, and stuff like that. And that kind of evolved into my friends and I getting together and trying to make these ridiculous movies. We didn’t really know what we were doing but it was fun anyway. That’s how I got my start. Then it’s just progressed since then.
PFS: Did you know when you went to Temple that you wanted to study film?
WC: Yeah, I knew maybe sophomore year of high school. A family friend of ours is a production manager out in Hollywood and she was able to get us onto the set of This Is the End, with Jonah Hill and James Franco. I got to sit down with the editor and get a tour of the set. I think that sparked my interest in the industry and really made me want to do this with my life.
PFS: You’re studying cinematography, though you also directed and edited Whip Whop! Do you have one role that you prefer?
WC: I don’t know. I feel like I’m a very visual person and I think visually, so cinematography made the most sense for me to study. I don’t want to close myself off too much, I want to be a kind of jack-of-all-trades. I do enjoy directing and I feel like maybe down the line the technical stuff I learn from cinematography and being a director of photography will carry over into directing and hopefully I’ll be able to continue with whatever I choose to do.
PFS: How did the idea for Whip Whop! come about?
WC: A few friends and me were just hanging out one day; I think this was when I was a freshman. I don’t exactly remember what prompted the name “Whip Whop,” but we started this joke about a really cheesy 80s-type infomercial that would be about this inter-dimensional being that didn’t have any real shape, or form, or purpose. We wrote down that idea and for one of my classes this past semester I was trying to think of a short for one of the projects and decided to do a story around the commercial idea for this Whip Whop thing.
PFS: How did you go about shooting the commercial within the film?
WC: We did that last, actually. I’d gotten three or four of my friends together. I told them I wanted them to get as uncomfortably drunk as they possibly could. I thought it would be kind of funny. It was all improvised, I just told them to do a bunch of really weird stuff. My one friend screams a lot and I really love her scream, so we did like ten different takes of just her screaming her head off. That’s kind of how we went about it. I set them up in front of a green screen and just told them to do whatever.
PFS: Did you watch a lot of 80s infomercials to get inspiration?
WC: Yeah and for the parts before the infomercial shows up in the film I did a lot of research on YouTube trying to find the weirdest and cheesiest stuff. I just dig the whole aesthetic of those old-style infomercials.
PFS: How did you come up with the framing story of the guy finding the Whip Whop and brining it home?
WC: I’m really not sure. I’d been spending some time down by Penn Treaty. That’s where we shot the very beginning where he finds it by the river. The way I work—and I’m sure this is true for a lot of people—I’ll just get images in my head of something and I’ll let that simmer for weeks and weeks and when I’m walking around I’ll let these images sit with me and think of how I can relate them to a story or build a story out of them. So I got this idea of an eight-sided, chrome object and a river with the light from the sun coming off of it. That was one of the images I got, and then out of that I thought, “What if somebody found this object and it started to influence physical things around them?”
PFS: Did you make the Whip Whop yourself?
WC: Yes I did. It took a while, actually. We made it out of cardboard and I covered it in those metallic emergency blankets. We made two versions of the Whip Whop because when we shot by the river the first one got completely ruined. It just got so soggy, and smelly, and disgusting from the gross Philly river water. So we had to make another one. It took probably four hours each. And I’m not the most artistic person so it probably took a lot longer than it should have.
PFS: Do you think of it as a sci-fi movie?
WC: That’s not necessarily something I thought of. I don’t really know what genre to call it. Not necessarily sci-fi. Maybe a little absurdist, in a way.
PFS: The film has some really great lighting design. How did you envision the overall look?
WC: The interior scenes were shot in the main actress’s apartment. I actually chose her apartment specifically because I wanted an interesting production design with a ton of random knick-knacks hanging around and a bunch of art on the walls. And her apartment basically already fit that, so it worked itself out perfectly. For the lighting, I was kind of on an expressionistic lighting kick at the time, so I wanted to try my hand at that and doing really saturated colors. In the one interior scene there’s a very bright, green light. It’s totally expressionistic. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense.
PFS: What are your cinematic influences?
WC: When I first decided film was what I wanted to do, I was really into Quentin Tarantino. I can still appreciate his work, though I’ve kind of moved away from that. But I really appreciate his stylistic approach, over a story or plot approach. He put style above everything else and I really like that. I guess in general I really like Yorgos Lanthimos, who did The Lobster and Dogtooth, which is one of my favorite movies. The detached way the dialogue is spoken and the way he creates this world where you know it’s real but it’s also maybe not happening in this universe are things that really draw me in.
PFS: Are you working on anything now?
WC: I’m trying to work on an animated short with a friend about a talking, conservative dog. This couple that’s having relationship problems find this talking, conservative dog and have to deal with it. And it kind of fixes their relationship in a way.
PFS: What kind of animation is it?
WC: We’re still trying to figure that out. It’s going to be 2D animation. We’re thinking of –I’m not sure what the name for it is—but that old Nickelodeon-style animation. Almost South Park-type, with paper cutouts. Something like that. I haven’t really done any animation like that so it’s definitely going to be a challenge.
Whip Whop! will screen on Thursday, July 13th at the Prince Theater’s Black Box as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.