Behind every film is an entire clan of creative minds. You need only sit through the credits of your favorite flick, watch the scrolling columns of names responsible for the producing and directing, the casting and acting, the makeup styling and costume designing, the set dressing, soundtrack composing, special effects generating, camera operating, scene sequence editing, and a countless number of other tasks, to fathom this medium’s collaborative complexity.
For over a decade, Troy and Madison Campione, the dad/daughter duo of Cineteller Productions, have joined forces for the sake of film. With Troy’s mastery of visual cinematography and Madison’s finesse with dialogue and directing, they share a mission to emotionally engage and consciously empower through storytelling. Their partnership first began when Madison assisted her father with a number of goofy, three-minute originals for Wine Spectator’s worldwide video contest. “They were low tech,” Troy admits, “but were effective enough that we were the only finalist five years in a row.” He chuckles, recalling one in which they shot him “flying” by means of a green screen in the front yard.
“I’m definitely into achieving the visual impact,” Troy says. With a forte in production and cinematography, he has filmed everything from sweeping shots of freshly tilled ground and thriving crops for a farming documentary, to closeups of Notre Dame High School seniors giving testimonies for a fundraising event, to a rotating shot of a couple’s emotional reunion for a music video.
In contrast, Madison strictly focuses on fiction. Her favorite tasks include directing actors to ensure peak performance as well as writing and structuring fluidly complex stories for the observant, clue-seeking viewer. Her Cinequest-featured work In Our Heads (a short inspired by ’80s and ’90s romantic comedies) went through no less than 30 rewrites.
Unlike their zany Wine Spectator pieces, Troy and Madison’s next project—a cowritten short called Remembrance—takes a dark turn. The dramatic thriller reveals the tale of a girl who utilizes new memory-mining technology to uncover the truth behind her twin’s murder. The story is an intriguing chronological tangle that starts with the aftermath, jumps to the beginning, then feeds in pieces from the climax throughout (but portrays them backwards and in slow motion). The objective was to “tell it in a way that no one had ever really seen before,” Troy explains. These reversed scenes—a gun rising back into the hand of a killer, blood rising from the shower tiles to once again stain guilty hands—are eerie, striking moments of cinematography. Remembrance was one of 500 shorts nominated for the 2017 Action On Film Festival. “Don’t expect anything,” Madison remembers her father telling her. “We’re just here to have fun.” Yet despite all odds, they won Best Short Film and Best Cinematography. “I had no speech planned,” Madison reminisces.
Remembrance played a large role in Madison’s acceptance into USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is excited to apply her experience at school as well as her internship at Cannes Film Festival with Lotus Entertainment to writing and directing the long-respected feature-length film. “Short films can help prove yourself, but they don’t go anywhere,” explains Troy, who will handle the film’s production and cinematography. “So we really need to step it up.”
Step one is filming a proof-of-concept short of a supernatural mystery/drama in the vein of Prestige and Twin Peaks. The Disappearance of Violet Willoughby (the film’s working title) will follow a yet-to-be-named young woman who is plagued by guilt over the disappearance of her little sister. The hope, Madison says, is to get viewers hungry for more; to prompt investors to say, “I need to know what happens. I’m in love with this character. I’m with her, and I want to go on this journey with her.” Of course, this also means Troy and Madison are setting out on their own adventure. It’s a cliffhanger that leaves us wondering: where will these
You can see the film that Madison Campione wrote and directed called In Our Heads during the Cinequest Film Festival. It’ll be playing at Century 20 Redwood City on Thursday, March 14 at 9:40pm and Friday, March 15 at 10:15pm, and at 3Below on Sunday, March 17 at 12:45pm. Purchase tickets.