The Music Lives On in Rosa Costanza’s short film: XING

Nikita Raja

This week, we double down with award winning Writer & Director, Rosa Costanza about her short film, XING, a story focused around the underground rave and dance electronica movement of the early 90’s. Rosa’s short film was showcased at last month’s HollyShorts screening, and we’re now bringing this candid Q&A to our community where she highlights her creative approach to filmmaking and discusses the importance of Talent. Check it out:

What is your process when preparing for a film?

My methodology in film prep has a background in my almost 2 decades as a technician, where my duty was to breakdown a screenplay for the needs of my department. I separate the technical & logistical production needs and budget-scheduling factors from the pure creative aspects of my job. To be free and to gain the greatest creative expression as a Director, I wish to understand my limitations in regard to material and human resources so as to bring maximum creativity within those boundaries.

Understanding the best way to work with talent on a project is the unknown variable that cannot be quantified and anticipated like other aspects of filmmaking. Outstanding cast performance is the goal that has the most chaos associated with it, the most risk, and the most reward as a Director. Ultimately, I make space for that talent magic to occur on camera by being as prepared as I can otherwise.

How has being part of Women In Media helped you?

Women in Media has provided a community where I feel understood and supported in my unique ambitions and challenges as a female filmmaker. I know that the work we do collectively is enabling younger women to advance in the entertainment industry, and that is a huge encouragement. The reciprocal moral support I receive is a blessing.  

I like to be a part of a group that elevates other women, that gains them access to knowledge and human resources, and that grows strong role models for women in various career pathways in Hollywood.

On the last film I produced I was able to hire a woman fresh out of college who sent me a cold-email inquiry. She reached out via Women In Media’s database and asked me if I would go to coffee. I read her resume and offered her a PA job instead. That is the benefit of being in Women In Media’s community for all of us.

Who have you been inspired by in your career (visual artists, directors etc) ? 

I have gained tremendous inspiration from those whom I observed while working on film sets for so many years, witnessing directing styles first hand across many genres and styles of filmmaking. My favorite experiences on set include watching Sam Raimi directing talent and being mentored by Dave Cass Sr. who was a stunt actor before becoming a director. I have always loved the storytelling styles and production value of Alan Ball and Ryan Murphy. I include Orson Welles and Stephen King in my list of role models. Women who have career pathways I appreciate include J.K Rowling and Suzanne Collins. Prolific ladies.

Tell us about XING:

XING is a proof of concept for the feature length screenplay which I have in development now. The short has gained official selection in 20 film festivals, including Cannes (2017), and been nominated for 14 awards. We won 6 awards. This proof of concept has also gained six figures of investment for development, the feature script has been sent to a few key industry executives, two highly respected music industry executives have signed on to be Music Director & Music Supervisor and our Line Producer, Michael Mandaville has gained us an engagement offer from a film finance and production company. So, the short has sparked and allowed for the development of the feature. Next up is to attach talent to the feature film.

Creator’s Vision Statement:

“My exploration of the underground rave world of early 90’s New York, when the electronic music scene was fresh, inspired me to document my most durable and memorable experiences. The XING story captures my unfiltered access to the rave and club world after I was hired to distribute flyers as a promoter for ACME Lighting company, and my subsequent attempts to become a House Music DJ at 17 years old. The authenticity of XING, has attracted internationally recognized pioneers of house and techno music; Producers/DJs who have remained relevant since the inception of electronic dance music.”

Who or what got you into film?

I am the third generation of my family to work in Film & TV production. My grandfather Thomas Horton began his career as a filmmaker in the 1960’s when he worked as Captain Jacque Yves Cousteau’s Vice President for the Cousteau’s production company, Thalassa. He oversaw the TV series “The Undersea World” and “Odyssey” and then went on to make his own production and distribution company. My grandfather stayed in the niche of undersea projects, helping to create Shark Week for a brand new Discovery Channel, for which he was estimated to have created over 135 hours of shark-based TV content in his 30+ years in production. My mother got her start as an editor in her father’s company in the 1980’s and then she went on to work for Viacom, and then into academics. She was the administrator of the Film Studies Center at Yale University for over a decade. I grew up immersed in the culture of production. 

What are your preferred technicals (camera/editing software/etc)?

I do not have preferences as I believe that you have to find the right tools that fit the production style and needs of each project. I have shot in 16mm and in HD video, and edited on Adobe and Avid platforms as well as DaVinci.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? (Something unique or unusual)

I lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa for three years from 1999-2001 and became fluent in KiSwahili. I worked on a program to record traditional music that was part of a European and Tanzanian initiative to document vulnerable tribal cultures. I produced over half a dozen albums of African music. The album “Yellow Card” by Congolese guitar virtuoso was named “Best of World Music” by the NY Times in 2003. I have also been a voting member of the Recording Academy/ Grammys for 16 years.

 

What’s next for you? Can you share any upcoming projects?

I am currently developing the feature length version of XING, as I mentioned above. I have also got these projects in the works:

       LIFELINK – An innovative survival challenge show that I helped create by producing and directing the pilot episodes. The first episode is edited and can be found on YouTube.

       THE LINE – A feature film written and directed by my longtime friend and colleague Jorge Suarez, for which I just produced the first 30 pages as a short this year. We are strategically staggering production as we gain the financing. Very excited about this project.

       ETHNICALLY AMBIGUOUS – A comedy webseries which I co-directed and produced for creator Tiffany Phillips, who is the writer and lead actress as well as my co-director. The first 3 episodes of this pilot was shot in November 2018 and is currently in post production.

As a screenwriter, I have two new feature films outlined. One is an adaptation of a book for which the author engaged me to create a treatment recently, and the other is an original work which is based on a true story. I also have an outline for an original comedy series. Lots to do and very honored to do it. I am blessed to work in many genres.