A young Langley filmmaker has been granted an exciting opportunity to experience la dolce vita for herself.
But for Chelsea McMullan, spending a year in Italy doesn’t mean sitting at the edge of a vineyard, sipping wine or browsing world famous fashion houses.
Instead, the 26-year-old will spend the next 12 months working on her craft at Fabrica, in Treviso, a town of 60,000 people.
The creative think tank, operated by the Bennetton family — best known for their United Colors of Bennetton ad campaign — is located 20 minutes outside of Venice in the country’s far north.
Fabrica is, in its simplest terms, an “artistic incubator,” McMullan said.
It is also a startingly minimalist piece of post modern architecture located outside a medieval Italian city.
“It’s a pretty wild place. It’s got a huge, beautiful library, a photo studio — if you’re into the arts at all, it’s like being a kid in a candy store,” she said.
As one of only 40 people selected to live and work there for the next year, McMullan will get an apartment in Treviso and receive a stipend to sustain her while she focuses on creative pursuits.
“I have tons of ideas of what I want to do,” she said.
It’s not entirely up to her what she will work on, however.
There are no classes, per se, but she will be getting direction and assistance as she works on different film and video assignments.
“Projects come up and people are chosen,” she explained.
McMullan learned about Fabrica through the company’s Colors magazine, which she’s been reading since she was 15.
“It’s pretty revolutionary, stunning stuff,” she said of the magazine’s content.
And it was here she first learned about the opportunity to work abroad at Fabrica. A couple of years ago, with the 26-year age limit closing in, she decided to give it a shot.
“I thought, why not throw my hat in?”
Six months later, the phone call came from Italy, inviting her to take part in a two-week trial period.
Last October, McMullan boarded a flight for Europe, bringing along some raw footage to edit while she was there.
At the end of the two weeks her short film was screened and she was soon invited back for the full year.
McMullan left for Italy on Feb. 7 and won’t be home until Fabrica breaks for the month of August.
“This for me is, more than anything, creative development,” she said.
“It’s an opportunity to work with people from all over the world (who come) with a different perspective,” she said.
The nine-minute film she created during her two-week tryout was based around auditions for a production of one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies.
It explores ideas of mortality and masculinity — death and grief as seen through the eyes of boys in the 12- to 15-year age range.
“I was reading a lot of Hamlet,” she said.
“Reading it after the death of someone close to you gives you a whole new perspective,” said McMullan, whose mother, former Township Councillor Heather McMullan, passed away a year and a half ago.
“You come to understand he was grieving in a world that doesn’t allow for it. He was banging his head against walls.
“I responded to it,” she said. “I remember the pangs of first understanding death.”
During her time at home in August, she plans to work on her ongoing project — a feature length documentary about Canadian trans-gendered musician Rae Spoon.
The two first worked together when Spoon provided music for McMullan’s short film Deadman, which was filmed in the desert near Kamloops and is currently making the rounds of the independent film circuit. She then directed a music video for Spoon’s single There is a Light (but it’s not for everyone).
It caught the eye of Bob Lefsetz, a well known music blogger in the U.S. and online visits to the video jumped.
“Overnight, viewership tripled. I started getting offers, I’ve been approached by labels, said McMullan, who rushed to take meetings in L.A. before heading to Italy.
“It’s a bit exhausting, she said of her recent travel schedule.
“I’m a bit of a nomad.”
Having a supportive family has made her demanding life easier to handle.
In addition to giving her a much-needed set of luggage for Christmas, McMullan’s father, Rick, has been her most ardent supporter.
“He’s my number one fan. He’s been to every single screening of Deadman. He may have seen it more times than I have,” she said.
As a lawyer, he’s been able to provide her with practical career advice, too.
Where her dad and older sister, Kylie, are the analytical thinkers in the family, McMullan believes she takes after her mother.
“I’m more passionate. I’m always ready to jump in with both feet.”