On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig killed 11 people and injured 17 others. Over the course of 87 days, an estimated 4.4 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the fractured well leading to an unparalleled environmental catastrophe. Over a decade later, a filmmaking duo travels back to the Gulf Coast seeking a simple answer. What has changed? 10 Years Over the Horizon is a journey of personal observation, with an eye on the future of the coast dealing with the fallout of the largest marine oil spill in history.
Interviews with Matteo Zengaro (MZ) and Elisabetta Zengaro (EZ):
Name and what you did in the film?
MZ: I am Matteo Zengaro, and I co-directed 10 Years Over the Horizon with my sister, Elisabetta Zengaro. I also narrate the story.
EZ: My name is Elisabetta Zengaro. I am the co-director of the film, alongside my brother Matteo Zengaro.
What inspired you, or attracted you, to work on this film?
MZ: My sister and I lived on the Gulf Coast during the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and we wanted to look back on the spill 10 years later.
EZ: My family used to live near the Gulf, and I remember the impact of the Horizon oil spill when it happened. The year 2020 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Horizon oil spill, so we wanted to share a perspective on the impact of the oil spill over time.
What do you like most about the story?
MZ: What I like most about the story is that this film shares a personal story about looking back on the spill. The story is about extraordinary circumstances told from ordinary observation of everyday life. We all experience moments in life that shape who we are, and this film looks back on the spill and hopefully draws renewed attention to drilling in the Gulf and this issue.
EZ: I like that it shares a personal experience and reflection. The film is not just about the tragedy of the oil spill, but in thinking about the impact of the oil spill a decade later.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
MZ: I always had a passion for video and photography growing up. While in college, I received a grant from directors Anthony and Joe Russo that they were running with their Italian Film Forum to complete my first documentary.
EZ: I started college as a telecommunication and film major, wanting to use my love of writing and storytelling to tell stories through film. Although I eventually switched to journalism, I never lost interest in filmmaking and continued to find myself behind the camera, whether it was filming video highlights for sporting events or taking photos to go alongside written features. When I was in graduate school, I started to study film again from a more theoretical and critical standpoint, and I taught a couple of classes in film theory and criticism. I’ve always been interested in filmmaking, but I didn’t start making films outside of student projects, until my brother finished his first documentary. I helped him with some of the cinematography, and we started to think about how we could combine our talents to work together and found we make a good team.
Tell us about your process? Where do you start?
MZ: I always like to start by making the kinds of documentaries I’d like to see. Filmmaking can be a lengthy process and at times very challenging, but finding a story that you are passionate about is a great way to keep yourself motivated in completing your film and making sure that your story gets shared.
EZ: Since my brother and I co-direct our films, we usually start with brainstorming ideas of stories or narratives that haven’t been told. We try to find a unique story to share, and then we outline the script from there. We do some research, and then we plan the more technical aspects.
Tell us some difficulties during the process or a unique story that happened?
MZ: On this documentary, we started production right at the start of the pandemic, and there were several obstacles to filming. The pandemic brought many challenges to filmmaking, but I’m always encouraged to see and hear about other filmmakers continuing to produce and share new stories.
EZ: Obviously, the pandemic was the greatest challenge. It severely limited where we could go film and how we could film without in-person contact. However, flexibility is a big part of overcoming obstacles, so we adapted our filming style to tell the story in a unique way. In many ways, the pandemic expanded our creativity because we began to use new software and technology.
Tell us how important independent filmmaking is to you?
MZ: I think independent filmmaking has a vital role in casting the spotlight onto diverse stories and new voices in film. Independent filmmaking has been hit by the pandemic as well. I believe that sharing independent films is a great way to ensure that independent filmmaking continues to thrive as an industry.
EZ: I believe independent filmmaking is very important because it provides an outlet for telling stories that may be overlooked. There are a lot of really creative and unique stories that are told because of independent filmmaking.
What are you currently working on or plan to work on in the future?
MZ: One of our documentaries just finished it’s festival circuit and will be released soon. I recently got into acting and I worked on Castle Falls directed by Dolph Lundgren and Wire Room starring Bruce Willis.
EZ: There are a couple of projects we have in the works. Recently, my brother and I co-directed a documentary feature that we are looking to release soon.
What are some filmmakers, directors, writers that inspire you?
MZ: The Russo brothers have been a big inspiration to me, and I am a big fan of their work. I’ve always liked how they work together because my sister and I are a directing team, too. Quentin Tarantino is another director who’s style I’ve been inspired by.
EZ: I really admire the Russo brothers and their style of filmmaking, especially since I work as a team with my brother. I really like how Anthony and Joe Russo work together. I also am inspired by Christopher Nolan. I find his films very unique, and I admire his artistic style for storytelling, especially how he incorporates time and memory as deeper theoretical elements that guide the overall narrative.
Any advice to filmmakers just starting out?
MZ: I have a few pieces of advice to someone who is interested in film. A great way to start out is by going to film festivals. Not only do you get to see the work of others, but often you get to meet and hear their stories. Meeting new people can be a great way to learn about the industry and hear about new films being made and possible opportunities. Many festivals have screenwriting competitions and 1st-time filmmaker categories, and entering those can be a way to get your foot in the door. Background acting is another way to get started in film. You get to work on movie sets and meet people who are in the industry, and use that experience later on. Oftentimes, working in background can be a way you can move into crew jobs as well. Once you’re ready to set off on your own projects, you’ll also have experience on set and can reach out to people you’ve met along the way.
EZ: I would say to find what interests you, and don’t give up! I also think it is very important to enter film festivals. Even if your film doesn’t get accepted, going to film festivals is a great way to network with other filmmakers and industry professionals. If you can, it’s a good idea to get into background acting on the side. Working as a background actor gives you invaluable on-set experience in which you can see how the pros work and apply what you learn on the set to your own projects. It also gives you an insight into the importance of acting, if you’ve never had to work with actors or had to work in front of a camera, and you may be able to network with other professionals in the industry. So, my advice is to find what interests you and learn as much as you can, whether that’s through attending film festivals and workshops or working on a film set.
Vimeo: Matteo Zengaro
Twitter: Mezzo Studios (@MezzoStudios)
Now available on IVOX+