Guy Windsor: I’m here today with Alberto Mattea, who is an Italian film composer and filmmaker, actor and re-enactor with a deep interest in the Middle Ages. In the historical martial arts world, he is perhaps best known for his short film Fiore, which is, I think, the most accurate representation of the late 14th century ever put on the screen. So well done, Alberto and welcome to the show.
Alberto Mattea: Thank you. Thanks for having me. And thank you for such an introduction.
Guy Windsor: So whereabouts in the world are you?
Alberto Mattea: Oh, I live in a little town outside of the city of Turin. In the northwest of Italy. That’s where we film most of the film, actually. So we can start from there.
Guy Windsor: That’s pretty close to Fiore territory, isn’t it?
Alberto Mattea: Well, not really. Yeah, he is very northeast and we are very north west. But yeah, same height, we could say.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Is it much different to the northeast?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I mean, I guess not particularly. I mean, normal differences in geography, but I guess the mood of the of the place is pretty much the same.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Because, I mean, it would have been absolutely fantastic to go to Premariacco to shoot the film.
Alberto Mattea: I know. I know. And we did talk we did talk about that. And some of the people involved in the making of the film said, hey, why don’t you join us over here? But, you know, logistics and that sort of stuff. Yeah.
Guy Windsor: No one just said, oh, here’s a few extra hundred grand for the logistics.
Alberto Mattea: That would have helped.
Guy Windsor: That would have helped. All right. Okay. Well, you never know. There might be some random secret billionaires listening to the show who might help you out in the next one.
Alberto Mattea: I hope that. Very much.
Guy Windsor: All right, let’s get on to my actual first proper question, which is you’re, I think, primarily a film score composer, like a music person. Okay. So how did you get into making music for films?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I come from a classical music background. I studied at the Conservatory in Turin or Torino, whatever you prefer to call it. So I have, say, 15 years or so of musical training behind. And I guess just one thing led to another. I mean, I had a passion for early music since childhood. So that kind of took me on that sort of path along the years.
Guy Windsor: It’s an interesting obsession for a child to get.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, maybe. Well, it had basically, I was around that sort of world very often as a child. My parents are both… They’re not professional musicians, but they’re like high end amateurs. And back in the day, they used to perform a lot of renaissance and medieval music. And since I was a child, I mean, they would often arrange rehearsals at home. So all these professionals coming from everywhere would come over and bring their instruments. And so in my early, early years, I was accustomed to seeing lutes and shawms and recorders and psalteries.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Like my kids with swords. But unfortunately, my kids by the time they were about seven, had totally lost any interest in swords. That’s that weird stuff that Daddy does. But you actually kind of got the bug.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, I was I was fascinated. I mean, all those instruments, the kind of instruments that then you go on and see in miniatures, you know, and paintings and historical evidence. So I guess it just evolved from there.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So what is your sort of preferred early music instruments?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I play I play several. I play the shawm.
Guy Windsor: Which is what?
Alberto Mattea: Well, the shawm is I like to call it the oboe ancestor. If you’re more familiar with the oboe, it’s a double reed instrument. You find the show and very often in iconography, it’s a double reed instrument, very loud sound.
Guy Windsor: Looks like a big clarinet, doesn’t it?
Alberto Mattea: Kind of does, yeah. No keys, just holes. But yeah, that’s the family, let’s say recorders of various kind or percussions. I mean, it’s a bit of a one man band sort of thing. Like you start with one and then you kind of get pulled in and depending on where you play, the people you work with, you have to be very flexible. So it leads to an open minded approach, I would say.
Guy Windsor: Right. Because the last question I had on the show, who was into the early music stuff was Andrew Lawrence King, the harp player. He got into depth and detail about how we recreate historical music because you don’t have recordings from the 14th century. That went down very well with the listeners. So if you are trying to recreate a piece of, say, 14th century music, you’ve got pictures of the instruments. So you can make reproductions and there are probably some surviving instruments that can be copied.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, there isn’t much really, especially from that period. But yeah, iconography.
Guy Windsor: Where do you go from there? How do we create the music?
Alberto Mattea: Well, we have there are a lot of manuscripts. So I guess it’s a nice parallel with Fiore and the Flower of Battle. Because you have manuscripts, you have surviving examples of music and you kind of have to look at them closely and try to understand the way they’re written and what they’re trying to tell you. And of course, now we especially over the past few years, we have a much stronger early music community, a lot of very competent people that have devoted their lives, really, their studies to the understanding of that particular repertoire. So in a way, today, nowadays we stand on the shoulders of giants, really. A lot of people already did a lot of that work for us. But still today, I mean, different performers, different people, different schools of thinking, you know, sometimes you will work with somebody and like, yeah, I guess you’re familiar with that.
Guy Windsor: It’s a lot like the historical martial arts community where, even though, say, Fiore scholars, actually there’s probably less of it with Fiore scholars, but maybe we say Liechtenauer scholars who are like agitating about the differences in these interpretations of the Schietelhau, for instance, and there are these camps developed and “this is the Schietelhau”, “no this is the Schietelhau”. Kind of forgetting for a moment that from the perspective of the rest of the world, nobody cares and no one can tell the difference. So it’s probably better if we all get along a bit and recognise that in the context of the wider world, we are all like weirdos who play with swords or in your case, weirdos who play with old instruments. And the differences of interpretation of perhaps not as important as the fact that we’re all functionally weirdos.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, we’re all try to understand the craft, you know, trying to make it as good as possible.
Guy Windsor: And so for the music for Fiore, the movie. You composed that, right?
Alberto Mattea: I did. I did.
Guy Windsor: When I listened to it, because you very kindly put it on YouTube for free. Actually, I had a brilliant idea. Would it be all right for me to tack it on to the end of this podcast episode so that people who are listening to this can listen to the music?
Alberto Mattea: Sure. Of course.
Guy Windsor: Brilliant. Okay, we’ll do that. So listeners, get the very end of the show and we will stick it on the end so you can hear what we’re talking about. So you composed the music for the film. To me it sounds indistinguishable from music that I have heard from like 14th, early 15th century. It sounds like you have taken historical music and reproduced it. Was that deliberate?
Alberto Mattea: It was. And actually, there is a very specific example where we’re talking about real early music, and that’s for the title card, where the title Fiore appears. We hear arrangement, re-orchestration of L’homme armé, which is a maybe more 15th century. We don’t really know exactly when that the main line was composed, some say early 1400s, some say even maybe very late 14th century about the armed man. It’s a French song that basically says, beware the armed man. Everybody like put on your mail and your Halberd. And, you know, and so I thought it was just perfect for a short film about an armed man. And some people who know the piece picked up on that and say, hey, that was very, very cool.
Guy Windsor: That is a classic Easter egg. Right. There are there are probably not a hundred people in the world who would have got that joke.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, probably.
Guy Windsor: That’s fantastic.
Alberto Mattea: I mean, a lot of people into the early music world, but I don’t know how many of them know Fiore.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, exactly. The crossover is actually smaller than it should be, but that is genius. Okay, so what is the process by which you composed the music for the film?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I think something slightly unusual is that I’m also the director.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Alberto Mattea: Which means that I usually…
Guy Windsor: Can I just interject? Wouldn’t Star Wars have been so much better if John Williams had directed it?
Alberto Mattea: Err, you know, I am a huge John Williams fan.
Guy Windsor: Of course you are. How could you not be?
Alberto Mattea: I love John Williams. I actually attended a concert that he conducted in Milan just a few weeks ago. It was wonderful. So yeah, like fifth row right behind him. It was wonderful. So yeah, yeah. Well, I don’t know, maybe.
Guy Windsor: Sorry, that was a digression.
Alberto Mattea: I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Especially the comparison. But yeah, well, I mean, already knowing what I am trying to achieve, or at least not having to, to disperse too many energies on trying to put a lot of people together. I mean, not that it’s not a good thing. I mean, it’s great to have multiple people contributing because filmmaking, of course, is a creative group process. But I guess on something like this, something this small where you really have to be efficient already knowing the direction more or less is helpful. So I mean, the approach is very helpful, I think, to be even in the writing process already and maybe already have a general idea of what you want the overall thing to sound like. It can be helpful in the process of writing. And once you’re on set, you can get a better perception, a better feeling of where things are going.
Guy Windsor Do you compose the music after the film is done? Or written, but not shot?
Alberto Mattea: A bit of both. Sometimes maybe I’ll come up with ideas that are not going to make it into the final cut, but they’re still helpful either in showing somebody like an actor or the whole crew. Like this is what this scene has to feel like or like it’s about this. You know, you get the mood and it can be helpful. And other times I’ll just, you know, score from scratch. It’s happened a couple of times that I just rewrote an entire cue or something at the very last moment when it was already done, like it was already in the movie, I thought it was going to be the definitive version of that. I said, you know what? I’ll change a couple of things just because it works better in the end. It’s an evolution. It’s a process.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. So they. They feed off each other.
Alberto Mattea: Mm hmm. Yeah, they do. They do.
Guy Windsor: Because in my head, I have an image. I don’t know where it came from, from the making of DVD, where you have an orchestra, great big screen behind them. And the conductor is watching the movie as he conducts the orchestra.
Alberto Mattea: Yes, that’s for sync. First of all, I wish I had that opportunity to have the orchestra.
Guy Windsor: And yeah, I didn’t think you were lucky enough to have the whole orchestra. It sounds like a few instruments.
Alberto Mattea: We did have, well, I mean, I wrote for a full orchestra and choir and then I had some live musicians perform some parts, and I put together the two things for better realism. But yeah, I didn’t. Get to work with like 70, 80 musicians. Next time.
Guy Windsor: Next time. Well, when that mysterious billionaire shows up.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Guy Windsor: Okay, so it sounds to me like your historical music thing then sort of developed into re-enactment. Is that fair?
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, I kind of. Because I guess I was already open to that sort of world. And I was also I really enjoyed swashbuckling movies. Like I think most people or kids, I guess, I don’t know.
Guy Windsor: We’re all kids really.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, well, I don’t know. I was big into like the old Zorro movies. But the one with that Guy Williams, you know.
Guy Windsor: The really old school.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. I also love that and the music too actually. So I guess it went hand in hand. And The Three Musketeers. The 1948 version or whenever it was from. So I like that sort of atmosphere. And you know, as a child it was kind of like my favourite go to entertainment really. And then it got to the point where I started just naturally re-enacting that. So a bit of acting, I guess. I was already used to the idea of performing music. So acting was also natural, I suppose. And just as an extension, you know, music, singing, acting, I guess. And one thing led to another and then I got to the point where I had the chance to meet some reenacting groups, of course, later on. And I suppose I was just very, very interested in the whole package and, and I started doing that too.
Guy Windsor: So do you actually like gear up and go on the battlefield and fight people with swords?
Alberto Mattea: I never really done that. I suppose I like the idea of it. As a musician, I always had to be slightly more careful, hands and that sort of stuff.
Guy Windsor: I’ve interviewed an orthopedic surgeon on this who armours up and does Fiore armoured combat stuff. And I asked her about hands and she’s like, yeah well you’ve got to live, haven’t you.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And as a musician, you’re going to have to pay just a little bit of extra attention I suppose. But yeah, so maybe not full scale battlefield but I had my fair share of duels. I mean I’m not as good as I might come across on screen, but I mean, I enjoy it.
Guy Windsor: That’s screen. I mean, that’s what movies are for. You take someone who is not actually a Jedi and you make them look like one on screen.
Alberto Mattea: Exactly. Yeah. Preferably a good jedi.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. All right. Do you actually train historical martial arts at all?
Alberto Mattea: I did. In the past. Over the past few years, I haven’t really just too many things to do work, making movies and you know all of that. I need more time. But yeah, I mean, I like it. I read the manuals. I try to keep up with interpretations. I will enjoy a nice chat about it, and I’m always hoping, you know, to get the chance to go back and do more. It’s just a matter of time, really.
Guy Windsor: So if you’re not, like regularly practising historical martial arts, what made you think I’m going to spend a huge chunk of my time and attention on producing this short film on Fiore?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I don’t have much time maybe to practice it, but I love Fiore and I like fencing and. Come on. I mean, Fiore is like Superman, I guess, in the world of historical fencing. So who wouldn’t want to make a movie about superman? So, I mean, Fiore is not my first historical production. It’s the first one that actually got spread everywhere through the internet. But I was coming from a feature film. A low budget feature film set in 1378, which I worked on. When was that? From like early 2019. And then we wrapped it after COVID. So that was already a very big first approach to a more accurate 14th century.
Guy Windsor: And so what is that movie? Was it called?
Alberto Mattea: It’s called Lucifer: The Legend of the Devil’s Bridge.
Guy Windsor: Lucifer: the Legend of the Devil’s Bridge.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. Well, actually, it’s Lucifer XIV, but it’s Roman numbers. And it sounds good in Italian. Not really in English because it’s just 14. And that kind of opened a few doors because it led to conversation. Actually, it’s not been released online yet. I don’t know when it will be because like it was made with a cultural association. So it’s not just me, but we’ve been screening it a lot actually in theatres, cinemas locally, you know, whenever people want to see it, we’ll try to arrange a screening. And that kind of sparked conversations here and there. And at some point I was attending a yearly re-enactment market in Piacenza, if you know about it, Armi&Bagagli. It’s a very big thing in Italy.
Guy Windsor: I’ve never been, sadly.
Alberto Mattea: It’s nice. It’s a re-enactment fair, market. And I met a few people there and I met a swordsmith from Rome, Spadanera, Jacopo Matricciani. And so we just started talking about the other movie, and then it was like, it would be so cool to make something about Fiore. And I was like, you know what? I’ve been thinking of that for a long time. But you know, you do what you can. And it was like, hey, why don’t we do something? And so we started thinking about it and it kind of happened very quickly because I had ideas about it. He had ideas about it. So in the end, we co-wrote the screenplay and I put together the crew and we just went on from there.
Guy Windsor: Tell us a little bit about the screenplay it seems to me like you’re trying to encapsulate the various phases of Fiore’s life. And specific textual references to anyone who knows Fiore reasonably well will go oh, my God, that’s from that page. Oh, my God, that’s from that page. Watching it, I just had this succession of “Oh, my God!”, moments where it was like, that’s the book.
Alberto Mattea: Yay.
Guy Windsor: Right. But it’s not a sort of beginning, middle and end story. It’s more of a picture of moments from his life and which then appear in the book.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. Well, we knew we knew that we were not going to make a feature and we knew we would have a budget of about €3,000.
Guy Windsor: You made that film for €3,000? Fucking hell.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. Yes.
Guy Windsor: I was guessing like ten times that at the very least.
Alberto Mattea: No, no, no. I wish. We knew we didn’t have much to work with except a lot of goodwill and a lot of passionate people. But when you’re doing something for that money, aside from the fact that you’re not getting paid, so you do in your off time, all of us, everybody, you do it in the hope that it might lead to something else. And who knows, hopefully will.
Guy Windsor: But also you do just because you’re making a piece of art and it matters.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. I mean, you hope that people will appreciate it and think it’s a piece of art and so thank you for saying that. But yeah, I mean, we had all had intentions of making something good, but we knew that we didn’t stand a chance to make something big. You know, it would have been hard to develop the whole storyline because you have 10 minutes, 11 minutes, and you know, there is a relevant risk of being cheesy. So we just decided that it was going to be a bit of a… how can I say it? Just, you know, touching some relevant parts of Fiore’s work and the things that he says about himself, which of course would have to be writing the Il Fior di Battaglia and potentially going back to something unusual or particular about his work, about what we find in the manual.
Guy Windsor: It opens with one of the duels that he talks about, the five duels that he had against false masters.
Alberto Mattea: Exactly. And that was the other big thing because we needed to show Fiore in action. And we figured that that was the right way to do it.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Alberto Mattea: So, yeah, I mean, we kind of wrote it around what we knew we could achieve, more or less, in terms of practical means and logistics.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Alberto Mattea: Jumping back and forth, which I mean is also something that is being done recently, I mean in cinema and series, you know. Focusing not just on one thing but having a bit of variety. It also allowed us to, to have a bit of visual variety, giving it a bit more movement rather than going from point A to point B.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, and you get lots of different like scenes. I mean, the main ones are you have the outside sword fights, you’ve got the inn or the restaurant where. Tavern I guess.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah.
Guy Windsor: And then you’ve got Fiore’s studio where he’s writing the book with the Scribe. So those are the three main. You get these three distinct settings. Incidentally, Fiore’s studio which looks just right with like actual pictures or colour on the walls.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, we did it all.
Guy Windsor: Where is that?
Alberto Mattea: That is an old room from a house that will one day be demolished, I guess. We painted the walls. We built a fake fireplace. We built fake windows and fake furniture made of insulation polystyrene.
Guy Windsor: You are kidding me.
Alberto Mattea: No. Well, you know that blue poly stirring that you use for insulation? We heat carved it, textured it and painted it.
Guy Windsor: Wow. Oh, my God. I’m a woodworker. I mean, reasonably serious, like, you see that cabinet and bookshelves? I made all of that. I used to be a professional cabinetmaker.
Alberto Mattea: Oh, okay.
Guy Windsor: I didn’t notice that the furniture was fake.
Alberto Mattea: Wow. Well, thank you. Thank you.
Guy Windsor: Now I’m going to have to go and watch it again. Now, I will probably be able to spot it, but I wasn’t looking at it, I didn’t watch it with this, like, hypercritical, “Hmm I’m determined this film is going to be shit. So I’m going to find anything I can.” That wasn’t the attitude. I went to see what it was going to be like. Because friends had recommended it and I was just blown away. Okay. I will watch it for maybe the fifth time, but this time I look at the furniture.
Alberto Mattea: All right, Well, yeah, it’s just installation panels, polystyrene. And we just worked quite a lot to make it look decent on screen.
Guy Windsor: You’ll have worked a lot to make it decent on screen. Okay, so that’s what brings me on to the breadth of material culture that you tried to get right. And like in the tavern, for instance. The pots and beakers and all of the things that the people are interacting with, like the food and the stuff that the food is served on, the things they eat the food with. And they all seem right. So how did you do that?
Alberto Mattea: Well, first of all, the tavern in itself was another big endeavour because we built the whole thing.
Guy Windsor: You didn’t? How could you do that with €3,000?
Alberto Mattea: A lot of Sunday’s spent cleaning, dusting, well the main building used to be my grandfather’s workshop. He was a woodworker, so he made furniture and stuff. So I guess I was familiar with the look of good furniture. But so we had to completely clean it up, empty it. We painted it. And then we build whole wall again, made of polystyrene panels, which we painted, and we added wooden parts here and there, the window and all of that. So that was the start.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. What about all these, like, pots and plates?
Alberto Mattea: Those. Well, some of the extras. Some of those are ours from re-enactment. We got some from some very skilled people in Sardinia who made some very, very, very nice reproductions. I think somewhere I have a video with the historical artefacts and the copies they made. So we really tried to be as faithful as possible in the depiction. And some of the extras that came from Fiore’s land brought some of their own stuff. So we assembled a lot of good things.
Guy Windsor: I guess it really helps when all the actors are actually really experts in their own right. It’s like hiring really good martial artists to do a martial arts movie.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, exactly.
Guy Windsor: It makes life a lot easier. Okay, so some of the material culture stuff came from the actors themselves. That makes a lot of sense.
Alberto Mattea: And some of that we made. For example, I made all the replicas of the manuscripts, all the pages and all that. It’s all hand painted.
Guy Windsor: That reminds me, I have one. There was one moment in the film where I was like, that’s not quite right.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: The artist is drawing on a single sheet of vellum that is about the right size.
Alberto Mattea: I know, I know.
Guy Windsor: But it should have been a folio. It should have been a piece folded in half. That’s going to be a pain to stitch into the manuscript. And I know the collation of that manuscript. I know the structure of folded sheets and what not, because Michael Chidester went and sorted it out and did a great post on that. It’s like, super exciting for us manuscript nerds. That shouldn’t be a single piece, that should be a folium.
Alberto Mattea: I know. We had to look for fake parchment and it only came in A4 size.
Guy Windsor: There you go. Okay, so the size wasn’t quite right either.
Alberto Mattea: I know. I actually wanted to try to have, you know, the big folio thing. Like patching it together and all of that. And it looked kind of fake. Like you could see that it was like stitched and kind of patched. So I just, you know, went let’s see it like that. Some people will pick up on that. Other people will think that it looks okay and it’s probably better than trying to glue things together and make it look weird.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay. And honestly, a single sheet of vellum of the right size would have cost you about 10% of your budget.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, I did look into it and fake ones and I don’t know. I mean, yeah, we went for that, which was a nightmare to work with because it was kind of greasy. I guess that the way they treated the paper to make it look more like parchment.
Guy Windsor: Fake vellum is horrible. Real vellum is lovely. I have been able to work with it myself. The fake stuff is horrible.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. It was hard to work with.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So I’m very glad I got to have my little moan about the A4 paper with the very sharp corners. So the process, I think most listeners and certainly me, have really no idea how a film is really put together. And so you have your script and you get your actors. That bit is reasonably straightforward, but there has to be some kind of logistical genius behind it, making sure the right shots in the right angle are taken and they’re all put together in the right order and all of that. How does that work?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I’ll start by saying that we were a bit of an unusual production, not just because of the money, but also because we didn’t have really many people involved. So we had to do a lot of things ourselves, like every person on set had to take care of a lot of things. I usually go into filming, I mean, I try to, with the full picture. I mean, I like to sit on set being able to watch the movie in my head. So the acting, the pacing, the shots, the editing, the music, even if possible, because I know that a lot of stuff will have to be nailed the first time because we have very little time. People do it when they can. So it’s a nightmare to arrange just to have everybody showing up at the right time.
Guy Windsor: I know this from doing photoshoots for my books, like getting eight students and a photographer in a space with the right light at the same time. That’s hard.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And on top of that, you know that if you don’t do something, I mean, trying to get it historically right is one thing. And you have to be careful because then you have people with ten different opinions on what is right. So you know that that may be an issue, but you also have to make it look decent enough. It has to look good enough, otherwise people would tear it to shreds because it doesn’t look like the latest movie that came out yesterday in the cinemas. Because most people will not think about the fact that you had, you know, €3,000 to make it, and most of that went into buying fabric.
Guy Windsor: Right, right. They don’t care. It’s like if somebody writes a book and if it takes in the week but people are blown away by it or if it takes you ten years and people are like, meh, they don’t care how hard you worked to produce it, they only care what it does for them.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, And I mean, in a way it’s right because you’re putting it out there for people to enjoy or not enjoy. But anyway, you know that you have to show up and you need to be well prepared and you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. And everything is made much harder by the fact that you don’t have the luxury of extra time and extra money and just trying things out and see if they work. You get there and you get it done. So I think in our case, it was essential I had to surround myself with very reliable people, reliable people who I trust and I knew could perform their task well. So I was directing, I edited, I scored, I took care of the dubbing because the whole thing is ADR’d.
Guy Windsor: What is ADR?
Alberto Mattea: ADR means replacing all the dialogue in post. But the moment you replace dialogue, you’re also replacing every single sound. So everything you hear, 100% of what you hear in the movie is recorded in studio after the movie is made.
Guy Windsor: Why did you do that?
Alberto Mattea: Because. Well, you could record live sound. The thing is, if you’re on location or you’re not on a soundstage, so you’re filming in a house with cars driving back and forth.
Guy Windsor: They didn’t have cars in 1400.
Alberto Mattea: They didn’t. And some people say, well, I mean they had dogs and bells. Yeah. But like not a dog barking on one word and then you cut and it disappears. So I mean, it gives you a lot of flexibility. And that was definitely the way to go. It’s a lot more work. A lot more work. But I think it paid off.
Guy Windsor: So did you get the actors in? There isn’t a lot of dialogue.
Alberto Mattea: No, no, no, there isn’t.
Guy Windsor: So you just get the actors into the studio to record that dialogue and they would have to say it the same way in the studio as they said it on set. Otherwise the mouth movements would be wrong.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. You have to get it right. And we’re talking about non-professional actors. So it’s also. Yeah, I mean, Fiore, old Fiore is probably the most experience. I mean he has decades of acting under his belt. I mean, he’s not a professional actor in that’s not his job, but he teaches acting. He teaches diction, reading. And I mean, he’s done it for decades, really, so he’s really good. But otherwise you need to train people. You have to put them in the moment. They need to go back and feel once again everything that we’re feeling on set to be able to do it again. So, yeah.
Guy Windsor: All right, so you shot it and then you just replaced all of the sound. Brave man. All right. Now, the thing is, because I don’t really know anything about filmmaking, I’m sort of struggling as to which questions to ask to get the juicy details out. Okay, well, here’s one. What was the worst thing that happened on set?
Alberto Mattea: Well, yes, for example, we were filming the opening scene, which is also the last thing we filmed. The duel in the field. And because, well, basically the location we had is a place where a lot of cyclists go by constantly. So we had to find the right moment and the right weather to avoid too many of them. So we ended up filming in the late afternoon on a day that constantly menaced, just pouring rain. So it was fine because it got sunny at the right time, but we had like 2 hours maybe to do the whole thing. And I know that it’s probably less than a minute once you see it edited, but it takes so much more. But not just the filming. I mean all the gear, the moving around, the re-setting the camera positions. You have people with big diffusers. You have to reflect light, to block light. And we were not doing it with a huge machine that you normally have on a set. So there was a lot of extra running here and there. So we knew we had to get it right. We knew we had a limited amount of time. The sun was going down, down, down, down, down, down, down. Really fast.
Guy Windsor: It looked great.
Alberto Mattea: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, we also completely replace the sky and we erased a power line. Yeah. 100%. You can actually there is a video. We put out a video on YouTube with a little bit of visual effects breakdown just a few days ago. So if you’re interested, you can find it there. We had to be careful because I had to go through face replacement in post to look more like old Fiore. I need to be middle aged.
Guy Windsor: That was you?
Alberto Mattea: That’s me..
Guy Windsor: I thought you had another actor, so you have young Fiore, which was you in the pub. And then there’s old Fiore in the studio dictating his book. Then there’s middle aged Fiore murdering Federico Mallagutti. And that was you?
Alberto Mattea: That was me. So we had to do everything twice because I had to act out my part. Try not to be too crazy with my acting, unfortunately, because, I mean, it takes a lot of time to do that in post. So we need to make sure that we could actually pull it off with no budget. And then the other actor would step in and he would do the same shot moving the same way. And we had to rush because the sun was changing. And I mean, you can tell even just in that split second where I would step out of frame and the other guy would come in, the light was already different.
Guy Windsor: So what was the other guy doing?
Alberto Mattea: He was doing exactly the thing that I was doing face wise to be able to then make a track of my face, A 3D track of my face. Create a fake mesh, I guess we can say, of his face and match it to my facial expressions and make sure.
Guy Windsor: I’m not fully understanding. Let me see. Yes. So you’re there on the screen?
Alberto Mattea: Yes, I’m the one wearing the costume, doing the duel and looking very grim.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So why didn’t you just put the other guy in costume and make him do the duel?
Alberto Mattea: Because he looks too old for the character.
Guy Windsor: And so what is the advantage of having him there?
Alberto Mattea: Well, what he does is that the moment I’m done with my shot, every single shot, I step out, he walks in and he does the same thing. But all we care about is his face. And the way the light is interacting with this face, which has to be the same way it interacts with my face and my body. Because then we’ll take his face. We’ll blend it basically, just to keep things simple, we’ll blend it. They will find common points in the face, matching points, and basically we will overlap. It is not really overlap. There is more into it, but there’s more to it than just that. But basically we end up with a face that is a bit of mine and a bit of his. And that face needs to be 3D tracked to my head or my body with a costume.
Guy Windsor: So basically you’re taking your basic characteristics, so it’s the same actor playing Fiore until later on, and basically you are borrowing his age.
Alberto Mattea: I’m borrowing his age and some of his main facial features.
Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. Wow. I need to look at this film again. Honestly, I don’t normally watch making of DVDs because when I go to the movies, I go to experience magic. And knowing how it was done sometimes it adds to the experience, and sometimes it takes it away. But in all cases, like I don’t care about the private lives of actors.
Alberto Mattea: Sure.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Like, because you know what Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt or whoever else does in their own time is entirely irrelevant to me. Because when I’m watching them on the screen, I’m not watching Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or whoever else. I’m watching that character doing that thing. And if they do their job right, the actor just becomes irrelevant.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. I agree.
Guy Windsor: But I have some friends who do close up magic. And sometimes I get them to actually show me how this trick that they have just blown my mind with is done. And when I see how incredibly difficult it is to do with misdirecting my attention and doing this and doing that, it makes the magic bigger.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah exactly.
Guy Windsor: So at the moment we’re in the getting my magician friends to explain how the magic is done because that blows my mind twice.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I have no idea. Really, it is the furniture that you killed me with, and there’s no way I didn’t spot foam furniture. So why did Fiore insist on a particular illustration in the manuscript being coloured in blue?
Alberto Mattea: Well, correct me if I’m wrong, because you probably know more about that, but I don’t think we actually have an official answer.
Guy Windsor: It’s a complete mystery. No. There’s that academic answer to it.
Alberto Mattea: Exactly. Exactly. So basically having to dramatise it, having to create a connection between Fiore and the audience. We want it to somehow hint at the fact that he might have had some particular connection. I don’t know. Or memory connected basically to that particular play, and that was very helpful because it gave us the chance to start from something that is also, I would say, unusual. I mean, in a fighting manual, you have something like that, which is a bit like, okay, no sword, no poleaxe, no dagger. You know, bastoncello, something slightly different, maybe. And it opened the door into a different world. I guess we decided to exploit it. And so it’s colour because it’s vivid. I mean, I dunno if it makes sense. We it was like, okay, make that one blue.
Guy Windsor: Why?
Alberto Mattea: Why? Well, maybe, now I don’t want to spoil the film of course, but maybe it was a good memory from a day that went particularly well because then he meets somebody else.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay, let’s not give any spoilers. It’s not actually a twist. But there’s a kind of an ‘a ha’ moment at the end of the film. Okay. So you mentioned that you spent most of the money on fabric.
Alberto Mattea: Yes.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Why?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I mean, not exclusively fabric, but yeah, fabric and buttons and raw materials, basically, because yeah, it’s true, we had some re-enactors joining in, so they brought their own wardrobe and accessories and objects. But. Yeah, very helpful. And I mean, very good quality, but still not enough. Of course, it would have been great to have more people, more re-enactors joining in. But again, logistics and distance and money. Unfortunately, it’s so unfortunate that so much goes down to that. So we had a handful of people who joined with a lot of their own stuff. And then we had to make more costumes. So we got some nice wool for old Fiore, young Fiore, the other character that shows up at the end, I don’t know if you want or don’t want to say.
Guy Windsor: No, it’s a reveal.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, it’s a reveal. But yeah, we need a good fabric for him too.
Guy Windsor: He would have worn pretty nice clothes.
Alberto Mattea: He would have. He would have it. I mean, he was travelling so maybe. Yeah, but yeah, he needed to look dapper enough. So that. And then accessories like belts, we actually had one belt that I wear in the opening scene made by some very skilled people in Puglia, south of Italy. They volunteered a belt, very nice, but otherwise, yeah, we had to buy materials, raw materials to make a lot of stuff ourselves. I mean, even just building the furniture and that sort of stuff, you have to buy in bulk. And you have to buy paint and materials, I mean, a lot of stuff. But really, it just went into the making of all of that.
Guy Windsor: Wow. I think it’s an example of constraints can sometimes be positive. Because I don’t honestly think you’d have made a better 11 minute film if you doubled your budget.
Alberto Mattea: Probably not. I mean, yeah, I guess I would have been able to just indulge in more, like there were a few things I would have wanted to put on screen. But I think that ties to the fact that we wanted to take this short film like ten, 11 minutes and showcase as much medieval goodness as possible. We wanted it to be alive. We wanted it to be colourful, detailed, tailor made.
Guy Windsor: That’s the thing I actually love about it. Right. Honestly, I was expecting it to be a bit shit.
Alberto Mattea: Hmm.
Guy Windsor: Because every depiction on screen of medieval stuff I’ve seen in the last decade has been shit. It’s been greyscale and grimy and it’s like they didn’t know how to wash and they didn’t know how to wash their clothes. And it was always a little bit dark. And just like the grimy Middle Ages is just not how it was at all. Some people were pretty dirty because they were very poor, but generally speaking, not. And they had sunny days then, too. So the colour palette, I think that was spot on, kind of a relief. All right. The writing of the book. There’s Fiore in his writings and whatnot, with the fireplace going and everything, and he’s dictating the text to a scribe who is writing it. And he’s also supervising the artist who’s doing the drawing. But in Fiore’s prologue, in the introduction, he says the knows how to read, write and draw. Yes. Which some people have taken to mean that he did the writing and the drawing himself. I have never thought for one second that he would do the writing and drawing himself. I think he may have written out the first draft himself and maybe sketched the swords for the illustrations that he wanted. But to my mind, the manuscript itself is produced by professional scribes and professional illustrators.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. It would make sense.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So how did you approach that?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I mean, of course, Fiore says that he can read or write and all of that, yes. And I’m sure it’s of tremendous help if you’re trying to monitor the making of a book, making sure that, you know, you get your point on paper or parchment. But he’s trying to do something to gift somebody with. I mean, it’s supposed to look impressive. It has a purpose. And one could say a selfish one, it has to impress big time. So I think it makes sense that he would turn to some good people to make a good product.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, he would hire a professional. The same way, I write my own books, but I hire somebody to do the layout. I don’t do the illustrations and things myself, but I have a photographer who does the photographs or someone who does sketches or whatever.
Alberto Mattea: It doesn’t mean that you can read and write.
Guy Windsor: I can’t actually draw, but I can certainly read and write.. So do you think it’s likely that the images. What we see is a page with no text and images being drawn in and then text being added. Do you think the text came after the images or the images came after the text?
Alberto Mattea: I think the text came later. I wondered about it. I read about it. I checked as much as I could the pages of the manuscript. And I think I spotted several instances in which the drawings or at least the paint, the red and blue paint goes over the rest as if it had been added later. So there was the drawing. And then you have some of the red and blue decorations in the letters.
Guy Windsor: The lettering?
Alberto Mattea: Okay. The lettering, yes. And probably also the main text. So I took it as a sign that it had been added later on. I mean, some people say one thing, others say another.
Guy Windsor: I don’t have a strong opinion. And it’s quite possible that in some sections the text went in first, in the other sections, the pictures went in first. And honestly, I am mostly interested in hitting people in the head. So I don’t, I don’t think that’s.
Alberto Mattea: Another thing that that got me thinking about that is that sometimes in some pages you have text placed in some I wouldn’t say unlikely, but maybe not intuitive parts of the page, almost as if the drawing had gone a bit out of hand, like, oh, it was a bit bigger than expected.
Guy Windsor: Or there should have been a drawing in there. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving. I’m just going to get something. So I just wandered off. This is honestly what I’m doing. Obviously. So. I just wandered off just to get my glorious HEMA bookshelf facsimile of the Getty manuscript. And the thing I’m thinking of is at the beginning of the longsword section. Hang on one second. If we have embarrassing long pauses we can always just edit them out because, you know, we have that. We have that power. Oh, one of the things I absolutely love about these HEMA Bookshelf things is the collation of the facsimile is the same as the manuscript.
Alberto Mattea: Hmm.
Guy Windsor: Mr. Chidester has an appallingly deep attention to detail. Makes me worry about him sometimes. Yeah. So between the guards and the first master of the Zogho Largo we have this bit of text, “Spada son contro ogni arma mortale.” So I am the sword against all of.. is that “mortale”? Deadly. Sorry, I’ve got the wrong glasses on. No glasses on at the moment. My reading glasses are over there and they’re too close for the video stuff. And my distance glasses are over there and they’re too far away for the video stuff. So yeah, okay. It’s no glasses at all. So there is a space where illustrations could go. Yeah, but there aren’t any. And you get a similar thing at the end of the Zogho Largo section where it says “Qui finisse zogho largo dela spada a doii mani”. So here ends the zogho largo, sword in two hands, and there’s a space underneath where text could have gone. It’s in two blocks. Unlike the text that we referred to before, which was the “Spada son contro ogni arma mortale.” Where there’s a space underneath. That is one paragraph that stretches all across the width of the page. Yet here at the end of this zogho largo section, these two paragraphs which basically it’s here ends the zogho largo and here begins the zogho stretto. And it’s separated out into two paragraphs, which is odd. Like, why? Yeah. That, to my mind, that sort of supports the idea that the text might have gone in first, expecting pictures underneath. But they’re a bit far down the page for that. So, yeah, we are going to have to dig him up and ask him.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, right. Maybe it’s possible. Maybe that it’s both things are true. Maybe. They got it done, you know, working at the same time. Maybe it’s like, yeah, go ahead. We’re going to write that down and, you know, go ahead and make the drawing and vice versa. Maybe.
Guy Windsor: Maybe the scribe got sick for a few days, and so the illustrator got ahead of him and then back and forth. The swords. We have talk about swords, at least a little bit. Beautiful. Like the close up of Fiore’s sword hilt. Yeah. That pommel. Oh. Is that Jacopo who made the swords?
Alberto Mattea: Oh, yeah, that’s him. He made my sword. He made Fiore’s sword. And two of the daggers that we use. Two rondel daggers. One is the one I’m carrying, and the other one is the one that the attacker, the bold attacker, is using. When I pick up the stool.
Guy Windsor: And so the rest of the weapons that were brought by others?
Alberto Mattea: By the other re-enactors
Guy Windsor: I think I recognise at least one Malleus Martialis sword.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. That’s the one Federico was using.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, yeah. Very pretty. Yeah. We had Eleonora Rebecchi on the show. It’s almost like it is a very small world.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, it is. It looks great on screen. Very nice sword.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. I mean it would have been nice to use sharps.
Alberto Mattea: It would have. Actually I was writing back and forth with Roland Warzecha the other day and we were discussing swords and how cool it would have been at least to give the actors a better idea of what they were dealing with. Then of course, I mean, you’ve got regulations and safety on set, which is paramount, but yeah, I get the point. No pun intended. No pun intended. I mean, no, I didn’t. The other guy did.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I understand. And in Italy sharp swords are harder to come by. Malleus Martialis are not allowed to make sharp swords. It’s fucking insane.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. They’re not. Yeah. Yeah. It’s not everything you say. Well, different regulations, I suppose.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, but I would like to know why the regulations are like that. Because you can make kitchen knives.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. And I guess, at the end, trying to explain the other, the other actors, a bit more about actual sword play. I was like, imagine waving a very long kitchen knife. And you can really see that the change in approach like, oh yeah, this thing really cuts, this thing is bad.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, I use the same analogy myself because most people have experience of kitchen knives and they don’t have experience of sharp swords. But yeah, it doesn’t take much to slice your finger off with a kitchen knife.
Alberto Mattea: Oh yeah.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve mentioned Jacopo. Was there anybody else you’d particularly like to name check in the interview for who is important in making the movie?
Alberto Mattea: Oh, well, I think the most important person was actually my wife, because she is the director of photography.
Guy Windsor: Oh, right. Yes. All hail.
Alberto Mattea: She DP’d the movie. She took care of the visual effects, most of the visual effects.
Guy Windsor: Wow.
Alberto Mattea: The colour grading, pretty much like all the visuals on set and in post-production. She took care of it. She was involved in the. In the making of a lot of costumes.
Guy Windsor: What’s her name?
Alberto Mattea: Sarah Alderson. She’s American.
Guy Windsor: Oh, okay. I just think it’s good to get the name out there.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, it is. And, well, actually, I take this opportunity to thank publicly, she won’t be able to understand it, probably. But our costume designer, who is a lovely elderly lady, her job was high end clothing. She a very, very talented seamstress and she’s been taking care of costumes in all my productions. And she’s worked on Fiore too. She’s really great at checking out manuscripts and in historical iconography and turning it into something that you can just put on and feel like you’re there in the moment. So she’s Ensa. I want to mention her for her great contribution.
Guy Windsor: Fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. And you can send her this episode where it goes out and point her to the time stamp.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. I will translate it for her. I’m sure she will appreciate it.
Guy Windsor: It does seem like a massive collaboration.
Alberto Mattea: It is. I should really thank everybody.
Guy Windsor: We have the credits.
Alberto Mattea: We had a great fight director, Alessandro Tosoni. And all of my team, the core team that made the movie, that made it possible, like on set. So the camera people and all people that I work with normally in these adventures and I mean, they’re super important.
Guy Windsor: Absolutely. So I guess you’re the tip of the spear. But without the shaft, the spear ain’t no good.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, precisely. Exactly. Yeah, right.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So I have a couple of questions that I ask all of my guests. And the first one is, I hesitate to ask you this one, what is the best idea you haven’t acted on yet?
Alberto Mattea: Oh, well, I guess part of it would be just trying to bring this somewhere bigger.
Guy Windsor: Okay. The Fiore movie?
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, we’re trying to knock on a few doors, hoping that somebody will open. Maybe the person you were mentioning at the beginning of our conversation, the billionaire.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. The secret billionaire.
Alberto Mattea: The secret billionaire. And just because I think it’s relevant to changing the narrative in historical medieval films, I think, also means changing the narrative in our perception of the period, and that is of great cultural relevance. Because ultimately people’s modern view in mass culture. I mean, what people think of the Middle Ages is determined mainly by film and television.
Guy Windsor: Absolutely.
Alberto Mattea: And it’s really hard sometimes when you talk to people, people who claim to love authors like Dante or Petrarca or Chaucer or whatever, like great international European names of the Middle Ages. But then those the same people are convinced of what they watch on TV or in the cinema.
Guy Windsor: Well, because you see it. So you believe it. It’s like an end run around judgement. And in the same way that actors who play villains on screen sometimes get hate mail in real life. Because people have difficulty in understanding that that perfectly nice person who’s pretending to be evil isn’t actually evil.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. And actually, speaking of actors, I was, in a way, let’s say, saddened as a re-enactor, as a history lover. I was watching the making of DVD of The Last Duel.
Guy Windsor: Oh, God.
Alberto Mattea: I don’t want to bring up, anything too painful. But hearing some of the actors, fully convinced, being convinced of the fact that what we see on screen, what they did was actually real. Like, oh, these people, the armour they used to wear, so cumbersome, you can’t move in it and all you can do is just hack each other because you can’t even move.
Guy Windsor: If I ever meet Ridley fucking Scott, I would punch him in the face.
Alberto Mattea: Well, he made a few bad decisions, I guess.
Guy Windsor: No, no. Gladiator, was great. Although, of course, Roman scholars are like, that’s not really what I was like. That one set in Jerusalem with Orlando Bloom. Oh, God. And then the Robin Hood one. It usually starts amazingly well, like the Robin Hood one. It starts with this siege of this 11th century castle, and it’s fantastic. And then it so quickly degenerates into the most god awful shite ever put on the screen. Oh, God. He is a classic example of insufficient constraints.
Alberto Mattea: Hmm. Maybe
Guy Windsor: He started to believe all this. Is it The Last Kingdom, the Orlando Bloom one where he goes into.
Alberto Mattea: The Kingdom of Heaven.
Guy Windsor: That’s it. Yeah, right. I’ve seen him on the making of DVD. Which I watched to try to understand how that clusterfuck would have appeared on the screen. He talks about, you know, they would quench a sword by running it through a slave.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, something like that. Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Okay. If you’ve ever actually handled a sword at quenching heat. You know that if you run it into a person, the blade is going to go wobble wobble wobble and the person is going to get burned, and they the power to do that. But you simply can’t run it through somebody like that. It just won’t go because is it’s wobbly. Right. You have to hold it point down and dip it into a tank or it just turns into crap. And there he is spouting this utter shite. Ah. Don’t get me cross. Yeah. You should go and talk to Ridley Scott and remake all of his films and do them properly. There we go. I have an idea for you. Go forth and remake all of Ridley Scott’s films to the standard of The Duellists.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Because he’s capable. This is why he makes me so angry. He’s capable of brilliance and capable of superbly accurate historical movies. That film was superb. But. Oh, God. Yes, you should go and remake everything from Gladiator onwards.
Alberto Mattea: So to all billionaires out there, we’re trying to get something done.
Guy Windsor: But so you want to do something to make the Fiore film more widely known.
Alberto Mattea: Well, I think it would be great to get a chance to do a feature film or even a series.
Guy Windsor: Oh, hell, yes.
Alberto Mattea: But, you know, it’s not something that one can do in the backyard or in the old house, you know, where you can paint the walls. It takes a bit more support because I am.
Guy Windsor: I am curious. I mean, is there any mechanism by which you can get paid for making this film?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I suppose you would take finding a producer or multiple producers who are.
Guy Windsor: What I mean is like the short that you’ve put on YouTube for free. Is there any way of getting for that film?
Alberto Mattea: For what we already made?
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Alberto Mattea: Well, I mean, it’s out on YouTube, so I guess it was a bit of a compromise between trying to get a lot of eyes to see it. And if you’re a nobody, let’s say, and you put it on a platform where people have to pay to watch it, you’re probably not going to get a lot of views. And what we’re trying to do was to put it out there and hopefully trigger something else. So as a first step. I kind of had to make a choice and just make it readily available. That way more people get to see it.
Guy Windsor: Fantastic that you did. Yeah, because I fund my artistic researches and productions and whatnot, books and courses and these sorts of things by getting people to pay for them. But an awful lot of it is available for free in one form or another. It strikes me that there may be ways actually of taking that core movie, maybe adding some making of stuff, some behind the scenes stuff. And producing something that people might… The thing is, it’s generating a lot of goodwill and when people of goodwill, they are usually happy to throw cash at you. It would make me very happy to hear that your €3,000 has returned €3 million in the first year. That’ll be great.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, it would.
Guy Windsor: Because I’d be pretty confident that that money would be going somewhere useful.
Alberto Mattea: Well.
Guy Windsor: Now, that’s very unlikely, obviously, but it’s just for you to be able to make more of these things, the money has to come from somewhere.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, exactly. Because it would also allow it to take care of those few things here and there that we just have to cut corners like just in the making of the whole thing because you have a bit more freedom, you have a bit more support, and you can make it better and better every time.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. You need some, like, big shot Hollywood producer person to see the film and go holy shit. We’ve got to give these people money to make something bigger.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, that would be nice. I mean, we know that a lot of people actually already saw it, and they provided feedback. I actually have some personal contacts in the world of Hollywood express a lot of admiration for what we did. But it’s individuals, single people, not really somebody with the power of making decisions or giving us anything to make anything bigger.
Guy Windsor: And so what would you make next?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I mean, if we get a chance to expand on Fiore, I think a series would be great because we could show a lot more of his whole life.
Guy Windsor: You need to have him like, commanding the artillery on the walls of Udine.
Alberto Mattea: Exactly. Exactly. All through the War of Succession and all of that and the different students he had. But I was thinking that he might end up just being something like The Last Duel because we might have the big Galeazzo and Boucicaut fight at the end.
Guy Windsor: You would have to have that in there somewhere.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Guy Windsor: Although the actual duels themselves were really very quick.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. But I think it will be a bit underwhelming because, I mean, they kind of just bashed each other and kind of stopped there.
Guy Windsor: I mean, I think Galeazzo stabbed Boucicaut in the face with a spear.
Alberto Mattea: Well. I think what happened the first time. I think Galeazzo was mounting or something and Boucicaut attacked him. So it kind of was solved very quickly. But yeah.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, definitely, that would have to be in there.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Oh yeah it would, it would. And something that I have there just in the back of my mind would be some sword and buckler related thing.
Guy Windsor: Wouldn’t it be absolutely epic if a company like Netflix put the kind of money into this that they put into The Crown.
Alberto Mattea: Oh it would, it would. My only concern, and some people in comments here and there brought it up, is if a company like Netflix decided to do something like that would they still want to do it the right way.
Guy Windsor: Well, they did with The Crown.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Guy Windsor: Like the level of historical detail there. Okay, recent history, but still historic, is stunningly good.
Alberto Mattea: That’s the point. I think what you said is exactly the point. It seems like the farther back we go to looser things become.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Which is understandable.
Alberto Mattea: Yes. But I think personally it’s unnecessary and when you have evidence like we do, like we do in so many respects for the medieval period, you could still do the right thing.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So it’s a kind of my last question. I think I know what the answer is going to be already. And you can interpret the question however you like. Somebody gives you $1,000,000 to spend improving historical martial arts or related fields worldwide. How would you spend it?
Alberto Mattea: Well, I think improving. I think by improving, you mean, like bringing it closer to people. Like making it more of a thing.
Guy Windsor: You can interpret the question however you like.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Well, I mean, I guess as far as my skillset goes, making some visual product that could make people interested, people who don’t know about it yet, people who might just have heard about it, like HEMA or things like that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think I heard something like that. Something to make it more mainstream because I think historical reenactments, historical fencing, it might be seen a little bit as a very specific, almost nerdy thing, like, oh yeah, yeah, that’s ‘those’ people I think it should become more of oh, yeah, that’s cool.
Guy Windsor: Okay. What we need in historical martial arts is our Bruce Lee. Because what Bruce Lee did, love him or hate him or whatever. But what Bruce Lee actually did is he took martial arts and put them in the mainstream. Before Bruce Lee, every little town in America had a pub and a church. And after Bruce Lee, they all have a pub and a church and they have a dojo of some description.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Right. By the movies he did and like Green Lantern and all that TV stuff he did in America. It just transformed the perception of chop socky stuff. And he paved the way for everyone else. And now, tragically dying kind of helps with the legend. But, yeah, some something. Basically some kind of televisual project that does for historical martial arts, what Bruce Lee did for Asian martial arts.
Alberto Mattea: An eye opener. Something that would make it really cool. Mainstream. And at that point, people would be interested in trying and approaching it. And then, of course, there are people like you who can teach, who can do the research. Experts, I mean.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. I mean, obviously it would benefit me enormously, because people would go out and buy my books. That would be great. But that’s not what this is about. So what would the project be? I mean, like a biopic, a Fiore might be a possibility or?
Alberto Mattea: It may be. And that’s definitely what we would like to do. I mean, we would like to try to make something bigger about him. But I think even just working on a more convincing, a more accurate depiction of the period in which you can feature Fiore’s soul one way or another, like his way of life, let’s say. I mean, you have fencing, you have his historical period. Just making all of that more of a thing because that would really change things. It would open up a gate, you know?
Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. The biggest projects tend to make money if they’re in English. Here’s the connection. Right. You could do a John Hawkwood. Because there’s a lot of overlap there. Yeah. Right. Or the Boucicaut who led the French Vanguard to Agincourt was the same Boucicaut who got his arse kicked twice by Fiore’s student Galeazzo. The English, particularly, love a bit of Agincourt. For obvious reasons.
Because the thing is it’s difficult to make a hood a biopic about someone who isn’t at least a little bit famous.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: You know what I mean? It’s easier to someone who is already connected to major events that people would go for. So you could have some kind of biopic where Boucicaut is the anti-hero.
Alberto Mattea: Yes.
Guy Windsor: I mean, he was a seriously cool knight. He was like top knight in Europe, pretty much. And his feats of arms are stunning.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah, they are.
Guy Windsor: And he still got his ass kicked by Galeazzo. So to all of my French listeners, I do apologise about harping on about this so much, I can’t help it, I’m English, what can I say?
Alberto Mattea: Doing some math. I think he got his ass kicked by Galeazzo. Galeazzo is a student of Fiore’s.
Guy Windsor: There you go. But the whole Agincourt story is pretty well known. And it’s 1415 so it’s right after the Getty manuscript came out. If it’s pure fiction there’s all of things you can do to get historical characters in doing stuff like maybe the actual secret to it wasn’t really the archers. It was the line of English knights. And maybe they had a trainer who came from the Fiore tradition or whatever. Basically, anything gets the notion of knights being highly trained, martial artists who do seriously cool stuff with swords and armour and whatnot. I think that’s the key thing, because there’s still this notion of men in armour clunk around and bash each other like the archetypal and also fictional caveman thing, you know?
Alberto Mattea: Exactly right. Yeah.
Guy Windsor: So I think maybe there’s a lot of scope for storylines there.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Yeah. Because I mean, you can still write your story. But then it can feel real. Everything else around the storyline can still be accurate. Believable.
Guy Windsor: Yes. Like Bernard Cornwell did a book on Agincourt, which I didn’t like very much because it had some historical inaccuracies in it, which made no sense to me at all. Like waterproofing bow strings with hide glue. Which is very stupid, because you use beeswax. Because beeswax repels water and is very light. Hide glue is very heavy and attracts water. So if you try to waterproof a string with hide glue you’re just going to make the string wetter and heavier and less useful. But he didn’t tell the history of Agincourt. He told the story of various fictional individuals who ended up at Agincourt. I think something like that might be the way to go.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, it’s interesting, actually, I mean, it’s not strictly related to Fiore, but not so long ago, I wrote a little, little screenplay, just a few pages about the evening before the Battle of Agincourt from a French point of view.
Guy Windsor: Oh my God.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, but it’s really nothing. But like, I was thinking already about, like, how could we explore? How could we do something else? And so it’s like the evening before, and you have Boucicaut, you have all the other people like Alençon, all those people in at hand. And they’re there discussing like, Oh, yeah, the battle. We have a few thousand men that should join us. I hope they can make it, you know, this sort of stuff.
Guy Windsor: Okay. I think we have a project ahead of us.
Alberto Mattea: Well, I don’t know. I mean, a lot of plate armour. Very expensive.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, but, you know, they did it for Joan of Arc.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: And they did it kind of like fantasy-esque. Big spikes on pauldrons.
Alberto Mattea: Oh, yes, yes.
Guy Windsor: Oh, yes, yes, I know. Yes, we could do it better.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. Oh, yeah, we could. It doesn’t take much.
Guy Windsor: The thing is that we could do it more accurately.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah. More accurately. Yeah, exactly.
Guy Windsor: Well, but this is the problem. Accurate isn’t always better. So if you think about it, stage combat. When you put sword fights on the screen in Fiore. And yes, I got the textual references. I saw the exchange of thrust. I saw the colpo di villano. Yes, I saw these things. And I was like, yes! Of course I do them a little bit differently. And I was like, well, I should have a word with your flight director because actually, I think you’ll find if you read the text carefully, because this is where I get very nerdy. But the thing is, if you’re actually trying to get that somebody with a sword, no one should see what just happened. Especially not him. And the person dies. On stage or on screen, everyone should see what just happened and nobody actually dies.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Right. So you have to mess up the martial arts a little bit to make them work on screen. Otherwise it looks like nothing’s happened.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, that’s true.
Guy Windsor: I had this experience when I was going mocap for a games company in the States where they were trying to get medieval swordplay right in their game. And so I did a bunch of motion capture for them. And then I came back six months later to do some more. And I saw what they were working with and then the person was like moving their shoulders around and clomping about. I was like, that is not me. And they went, no, but the problem is, when you do it, it doesn’t look like anything.
Alberto Mattea: Oh.
Guy Windsor: Right. Fair enough. Fair enough. I mean, I worked really hard for that to be true. So when I move my sword from over here to over there, you have no idea what happened until afterwards. I don’t want to advertise it. So, I mean, some compromises, some liberties have to be taken.
Alberto Mattea: I guess they can be compromises, but they shouldn’t disrupt the overall experience.
Guy Windsor: Exactly. And I think the thing that really should come through is how very highly trained and sophisticated martial artists these warriors were. That’s what I would like to see.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, I agree.
Guy Windsor: Make it so. You have your orders, go and do it. And here’s your fictional million dollars to do it with.
Alberto Mattea: Yeah, I am sure that’s going to help.
Guy Windsor: Absolutely. Brilliant. Well, it’s been lovely to meet you, Alberto. Very nice to meet you. Thank you very much for making that fantastic film.
Alberto Mattea: Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.