An interview with Sena Tunali | LOVE IN ITALY | VMA22 BEST SCREENWRITER/FEATURE | February Edition
An impossible love story that links the USA and Italy. Two different cultures, two different languages, but united by one universal language: Love.
This is the central theme of Love In Italy, a script by writer Sena Tunali that recently won the Vegas Movie Awards™ in February 2022 for Best Drama/Thriller Screenplay and Best Screenwriter/Feature.
Sena Tunali is an award-winning film producer-director and actress who Produced, directed, and also wrote several scripts and films and has so far received an encouraging reception on the Film Festivals circuit.
Sena's origins lie in the old continent, a place that is very dear and intimate to her and from which she has taken inspiration to give life to her fictional characters, with the intention of reaching through her literary works her biological family.
Today we have the pleasure of having her with us and learning more about her and her personal and professional history.
• Welcome Sena and first of all, congratulations once again on your wins here at the Vegas Movie Awards™! To introduce you to our audience, tell us briefly a little about yourself and the journey that led you to be here with us today.
I graduated from 3 universities. One of them was a conservatory that guided me to become a professional concert Pianist on my life journey. While I was giving concerts throughout the world, one of the head office members of the New York Film Academy saw me playing in Greece. He invited me to be a student at the New York Film Academy and learn about acting in front of the camera and, all, through an email he sent. When I got this email, I got so happy and answered “yes” to the email. I was living in Massachusetts, but now moving to LA seemed incredible for me. On my first day at the school, I heard about the auditions that have been held near the school. And I decided to attend. At the audition, they asked the actors to perform a very drunk person then perform a monologue. I had a monologue in my mind, and when it was my turn, I first performed that monologue. They liked it a lot. Then they asked me to perform, a drunk person. I did it. The performance must have been looking so real that the casting director, and the people who were watching it, started to laugh and cheer “wow” and clap. It was a very positive response, and at the end, the casting director asked, “how did you observe yourself when you were drunk this much because drunk people usually don’t understand that they are drunk” I was like, I never get a chance to be drunk. I am allergic to alcohol, but I observed people and my friends when they were drunk with my cranberry juice on my hand. Yes, I am terribly allergic to alcohol 😀😀 Even at my college graduation party, I spend the night with cranberry juice... Anyways after that performance, I got the job. After that job, I started spending most of my time on film sets. I started working both in front of the camera and behind the camera. I played in more than 40 short films. I realized that I loved being in this industry so much, so I decided to produce, direct, write, and act in my own films.
• You're a multi-talented artist: you're a writer, director, actress, producer, and also an excellent pianist. When did your love for the arts begin and in which of these roles do you feel you can express your full potential as an artist?
I am a concert pianist and started playing when I was a little kid. Music, Film, Theater, Art, all of them are amazing ways of telling stories. Till my high school age, I spent most of my time telling stories with piano in concerts around the world. However, I always had filmmaking and theater in my heart. Somehow, I felt half only with music to tell a story. I needed other forms of art makings to feel full at my heart. The art of Filmmaking fascinated me the most because it contains all forms of art in it at some point. Music and moving pictures of amazing things on a silver screen are more than fascinating. The sound, the music, the pictures, the people, and the places that the pictures are unfolding all together. Isn't it marvelous?
I always love to work on film sets. That is the place where I feel at home and happy. Somehow, I was always familiar with the placement of the cameras, the angles, the lighting, the production design, and all. It is like filmmaking is in my genes that passed me through a family member.
• Let's go deeper: what artists, if any, do you feel most akin to, and who do you believe has had an influence on your creative process for all of these roles?
Everybody has their own uniqueness because we all have different life stories and experiences on our journeys. But I take Leonardo DiCaprio and his works as my example in the field of global warming and environmental issues. I am also an environmentalist attending field works to protect some animals, like Caretta Carettas. I am participating in the projects to protect their habitat in the Mediterranean. I am also producing environmentalist projects, and one of them is called 'Who is Responsible'. I shot the 'Who is Responsible' film in 2019 before the pandemic, and will be shooting more films about global warming soon.
• Let's talk about inspiration. At the Vegas Movie Awards™, you won with a script about an impossible love between Denise, American and innocent, and Marco, Italian, and son of one of the most powerful Mafia families. Can you tell us where the idea came from and what inspired you the most to make it into a script?
Love in Italy is a fictional story inspired by a family that I got the chance to meet while I was in Tuscany, Italy. It was such an inspirational place. I met with old twin-flame lovers who married and lived happily ever after for 60 years. Their fight for true love, and reunification after a long separation, inspired me to write Love in Italy. The family convinced me that true love still exists. In our generation in the year 2022, it's so hard to see or encounter true love anymore.
Love in Italy's characters Denise and Marco are two different and very opposite characters. Marco is the Mafia's son in Italy, whereas Denise is a college girl from the USA who came to Italy only for a vacation. The two fell in love on the first side and started seeing each other against all the odds.
• What were the challenges, if any, in writing 'Love In Italy'?
Nothing was challenging, actually. I enjoyed every part of the screenplay of Love in Italy while I was writing. Maybe, I better discuss it here as well, but I have another project named Zumrut, where it's been written (and will be produced soon) with the intention to find my mother's side biological grandparents, who are from Greece. Through the research we made since 2017, we found that we also have so many relatives who live in Italy and from Italy as well. So, this summer, my film crew and I intend to shoot some scenes of the Love in Italy project in its original place Milan, and Tuscany, Italy. With those genealogic discoveries, I will be going to Italy differently, this time with a sense of belonging. Home-like feelings next to my relatives. So, there was nothing challenging, but beautiful, amazing, and super cool things are up in the air. Already excited!!!
• We know you are working on the feature film of 'Love in Italy'. In what capacity will audiences see you for this project? As a director, producer, actress, or, given your versatile nature, all of them?
I will stick with my “Versatile Nature” as always :D :D :D I will be directing, producing, and acting in Love in Italy.
• What are your current challenges in making the feature?
The current pandemic is the biggest challenge for the whole film industry at the moment. The number of crew members decreased, and only a certain number of people were allowed to work on film sets. Even though you get your vaccines done, there is still a high possibility that you caught the virus. There is no way to keep the two meters distance from the other person that works with you on set. So, trying to stay safe and healthy is the biggest concern and worry. Other than that, I always love to work on film sets. That is the place where I feel at home and happy. Somehow, I was always familiar with the placement of the cameras, the angles, the lighting, the production design, and all. It is like filmmaking is in my genes that passed me through a family member.
• Of all your accomplishments, which ones are you most proud of, and what do they mean to you?
All of my accomplishments mean the world to me. I am so happy and honored with all of them. I won two awards from Vegas Movie Awards™ recently, and I am really happy that I was part of this amazing festival.
• What will be your next steps and where do you think you will want to focus more attention in your future career?
After I finish shooting the Love in Italy project this coming summer, I have one more project that I will be working on. It is named Zumrut, inspired by a true story. Finding my family members is the biggest dream of mine. Finding out where I belong and where I come from is my everything. Now, I am living half missing most of who I really am with the absence of my family members. One's family is everything and your reason to live. So, producing Zumrut is the biggest journey of my life. Through the film's international sales, I will make sure (wherever my grandmother is in the world: a hospital, an elderly center, Papua New Guinea, doesn't matter) she will watch the film and contact us.
• Thanks for being with us today, Sena, it has been a great pleasure having you as a guest for this interview. Would you like to dedicate these recent wins to someone in particular?
Thank you very much for this great interview. It was a pleasure for me too. Yes, absolutely!!! I am dedicating these amazing awards to my mother and biological grandmother. Every success I make in the film industry gets me closer to my biological grandmother 🙏🙏🙏
- SENA TUNALI'S DEMO REEL -