You wander into a world that fascinates you in every way and that was my initial reaction to “Leaves”. I became obsessed with the visual element, an open field, vistas, the landscapes that would be encompassing the characters and the undercurrent of thematic tones. Once I began developing the project I visualized it in a way that reflected mood and the subtlety of behavior as language. Outside of the actual language, dialogue, itself the tether in the visual frame was always a varying concept of atmosphere for me. I found myself genuinely intrigued by the idea that there could be some hidden corner of the world that protected the unknown geography of an ancient artifact. Untouched, this pristine lineage of a secret kept safe in the metaphorical sense becomes exposed to the world around it. The need to accept the unknown as a possibility was the main currency in motivating my camera’s existence in any given scene. In some instances it was used to move through open spaces as if a totally separate voice existed within, a dynamic symbolism of the other without drawing attention to itself. An atmosphere capable of permeating the lens acting as guidepost for the nature of a power greater then ourselves.
The religious mysticism imbued throughout inspired me to investigate, develop and create the world this story lived in. The initial part of the visual journey involved creating a specific identity, from Houston to Sicily and a connection from past to present. Each location and character appealed to my love of the cinematic including all the details that went into establishing them. The olive grove, the cathedral like structure that served as a home to an ancient order of priests, an old isolated estate in the countryside, each a symbolic gift in turn with the characters they represented.
Thematically the film explores a need for myth. The quantifying factor takes place when myth no longer serves as legend but is made real, becoming a palpable entity. What and how do we try to possess it? Do we share it? Do we keep it a secret? This was a project that offered a unique set of problems giving way to a much more rewarding set of solutions. Within the context of character the motivations that circle around the tree traveling from past to present offer a specific parameter determined by need. In another perspective the idea that our limitations are designed by need sparks the concept of a greater power. The tree as character defines the nature of the piece, collectively reflecting the projected truths of each individual’s desire for it. By developing the scope of the tree’s identity I came to understand the perspective that it had the ability to choose, communicate without language. This influenced the overall look, feel and sound of the film. -- Ante Novakovic, Director
ABOUT THE FILM
Origin of the story and its evolution into the film.
The film originated from a web blog written by David Healey during a protracted illness as a way to keep his mind engaged. A lover of history and Sicily, Mr. Healey crafted the story from his own personal experience during the depth of his illness, his study of history, and his love of Sicily and his family. To his surprise, a following for the blog developed, and Mr. Healey then turned what he had written on the internet, and turned it into a novel: “Kindness for the Damned: A Novella of Intrigue, Love and Redemption in Sicily”.
Mr. Healey’s illness left him unable to return to work full time, and he remained intrigued by this project. After taking a screenwriting class at Rice University with Cressandra Thibodeaux, and follow up individual sessions with her, Mr. Healey wrote dozens of versions of a screenplay, which over 2012-2013, won a series of awards and honors in its different iterations at various film festivals.
Ultimately, a film came together with Director Ante Novakovic and producers Donna McKenna, Joanna Lu, Perla Montemayor, Mr. Novakovic and his brother Kresh, supported by Mr. Healey’s wife, Rebecca Healey, and later his extended family in Sicily as well as Mr. Colomba. After four days of filming in Houston, in which Director Novakovic worked with Mr. Healey to make some adaptations to the scenes being filmed, it appeared that the original ending would be too expensive and difficult to film within the available budget and time.
Mr. Healey and Director Novakovic then met together in Los Angeles to re-work a new ending for the script that was logistically and financially more feasible than the ending in the prior screenplays. They discussed changes to the story line to facilitate the changes while keeping the same characters, arc, themes, tone, and trajectory. Director Novakovic brought his own sense of the mystical to the script, as well as his enormous creativity and his deep industry experience, in working together with Mr. Healey to create the final shooting script.
The film is the result of a five year journey that started with that web blog by Mr. Healey.
Tone and Character. Ethos of the underlying synergy between the visual and atmospheric elements within the frame. A composition of.
Along the journey ahead identity gives way to hope and abandonment turns to love, somewhere, within (embodied through character) resides an open space for the mysteries to come. The *miracles live in the breaths characters take, Arriving unannounced to the individual they were designed for, Long before a path was chosen.
The use of Location as character; establishing an undercurrent to the inner life of the characters that occupy it.
When scouting Erice, a very old mountain top town in Sicily.
This location occupies the visual space between heaven and earth, overlooking the lush valley and seaside below, almost as if having a hand in the creation of the vista before it. Both beautiful and somehow sinister with its heavy stone edifices (Churches) it appears the most logical and depth worthy backdrop for the Conquistadores De Cristos (Don Diego and Don Pedro). The introduction to their initial scene - plot places them in a position where they are “at the top of the world” looking out.
The Tree and Chapel design.
The tree instantly needs to communicate age, a wild nature, unruly and alive in its gnarled bark and wisdom.
There are so many olive groves in Sicily with neat rows that are obviously used to produce olive oil and olives. I’m looking for a beautiful ruin. An unkempt, wild garden of a tree.
The chapel should reflect the ruin, it should be built along the spine of the trunk of the tree, crooked and imbalanced in one sense. Nothing about it should reflect a sense of neatness and or be neat.
The underlying ethos of the Tree as character within the framework of the storyline.
The tree acts as anchor to all the characters, drawing them closer and closer to its inherent * spiritual, mystical, medicinal power* throughout. In one sense it becomes a center from which all spokes go outward. The communication is ethereal, created through the use of music and visually resonating symbolism. The character of *the other is a more appropriate goal in attaining a characteristic voice, as in a palpable vibration and or energy.
introducting Sarah Sebastiana
Executive Producer - Lead Producer - Writer
Rebecca Leibowitz Healey
Director of Photography
Original score by
Donna McKenna CSA
Unit Production Manager, Sicily
Postworks and Technicolor, New York City, N.Y.
Post Production Supervisor
Gerry Robert Byrne
Makeup Department Head
This film is dedicated to the memory of
Margaret Rita “Gogi” Leibowitz (1919-2013)
Sebastiana “Diana” Buffa Healey (1937-1996)