We have already mentioned to you the launch of the Kickstarter for the horror musical short The Threshold. To mark the occasion, we sent a short interview with the mastermind behind the whole project.
Welcome to our web portal. Let’s start with the simplest question, how did The Threshold come about?
First of all, thank you so much for allowing me (again) this interview for The Threshold!
Simple questions do not necessarily need simple answers, but I will try to do my best…
I consider myself a pessimist, both philosophically and characteristically speaking. And that, more often than not, people don’t like. I am also an avid reader of Weird literature, and the two converge in the works of Master HP Lovecraft and those of the lesser known (but equally capable and terrifying) Thomas Ligotti.
Ligotti wrote a book, an essay in which he expresses all his pessimistic and antinatalist thinking, also correlating it with the world of horror literature. This essay is entitled “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,” and it deeply dissects the human condition in the most brutal possible way. Needless to say, I agree with (almost) everything expounded therein and it is equally needless to say how much this book affected and shocked me. For better or for worse.
From here to an animated musical was a huge journey, but it can be simply summarized by saying that I felt the need to express this thought as well. I wanted people to take note of the existence of this point of view about life and human existence. But, as Ligotti himself says, certain things cannot be talked about openly, unfiltered, otherwise barriers are raised and doors closed in your face. So, what nicer and “sweetened” way to express this way of thinking than through a musical?
I had a character in mind for a long time, a plague doctor trying to eradicate “the virus of conscience,” and it fit like a glove for what I wanted to do. So.
I divided the book into chapters, each chapter deals with a theme and each theme is expressed through a song; then I took two characters as far as possible from the pessimistic thought, but immersed up to their hair in the “human condition,” let it all collide, salt and pepper as much as needed and voilà, thus was born The Threshold.
Why specifically the title Threshold?
The Threshold has many aspects within the short: I often refer to the metaphor of the stage play, so in this case it is the threshold of the heavy red curtains that separates reality from fiction; but it is also a threshold that separates one vision of reality from another, Schopenhauer’s famous “Veil of Maya.” But that’s not all: the short film unfolds in several subterranean levels, and each level is preceded by a door to cross, so here are a multitude of small thresholds… And finally it is the threshold that separates dream from reality, but unfortunately we are not (yet) able to distinguish which side we are on…
You chose an amusement park as your setting. Why?
It’s an allegorical short, based entirely on visual metaphors, and the amusement park is one of them. But it’s not just an amusement park, mind you: it’s a remote amusement park, surrounded by a forest where you can’t see the end, but all the people visit it. Isn’t it a little reminiscent of a tiny speck of dust adrift in the boundless, dark space of the cosmos? The amusement park is reality as we know it, or rather, as we have constructed it, to distance us from what surrounds us, from what plagues us; it is an escape from emptiness. This is just the starting point from which we will venture (literally) deep into the earth…
Why the puppets?
Ligotti uses the metaphor of the puppet very often, and in my opinion it is something brilliant. We are nothing more than puppets who are aware of their condition — tied to the strings of consciousness — but who do everything they can to disguise it.
The character disguised as a plague doctor is the only one who has no “strings attached.” Does this characteristic of his, in a way, make him freer than the others?
We sympathetic pessimists see conscience as a curse. Even Shakespeare said it: “To be or not to be?” It is the sentence of Sisyphus. It is the Pale Blue Dot. It is something that the mind struggles to hold and so the mechanism of self-deception starts.
I don’t think it is freer than others, but it is not afflicted with the suffering of being.
What is the message behind The Threshold?
Ligotti‘s text is a pessimistic, antinatalist, and “extinctionist”-allow me the word. And like him also the aforementioned Schopenhauer, or even Giacomo Leopardi, Peter W. Zapffe and many others (maybe not so many, but some…). There are also so many groups, such as the Movement for Human Extinction (VHEMT) or the Church of Euthanasia.
Even I, in my own small way, want to take responsibility to express these thoughts and say that no, being alive is not so good and not being born would have been much better.
When did you decide that The Threshold would become a musical short?
Pretty much at the beginning, otherwise it would have been something extreme and brutal.
The relationship between you and Paolo Cotrone. How this collaboration came about.
Years and years ago, I threw myself headlong into making an animated feature based on the Call of Cthulhu (not a project I abandoned, just postponed due to lack of means… but which I’ve been thinking about starting again recently – no spoilers!). I publicized it a bit on Facebook pages and groups that talked about HPL….
Paul contacted me, saying he would like to take care of the soundtrack.
The message ended up in spam and I didn’t read it until a year later, when I posted a small ad on Facebook looking for a composer for The Threshold.
Let’s say it was meant to be.
With him I found a great composer and a great friend.
From day one we were always on the same wavelength on pretty much everything.
Except for a few minor changes of some tempos and pauses in the piece, I never had to ask him to redo or change things.
If this project is seeing the light ( what a paradoxical thing) it is because of him. But now I’m getting sentimental, sorry…
We talked about The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Tell us a little about this text, how it influenced you and whether and why you recommend reading it.
I absolutely do not recommend anyone to read it! It is a brutal, mean text that catapults you into a view of reality from which it is impossible then to escape. No, do not read it; it is the way out of the amusement park, but I assure you that this awareness is not something so light and positive. In fact, thinking back to that text, over and over again a shocking hopelessness descended on me. However, I think one must to have the strength, or the courage-or the madness-to embrace these thoughts.
Otherwise stay away from it!
And the same thing applies to The Threshold.
Although–although I would love to see a debate, a comparison or even a confrontation come up. We talk very often about whether we liked or disliked the films, whether we found them good or bad, whether they moved us or bored us, whether the actors or the cinematography were to our liking, whether the directorial shots told the story well and whatnot… But we almost never talk about the message, the expression of the director’s thought. That happens very few times. I want to take responsibility for what I say. I want to take responsibility for someone telling me that they disagree, that my thinking disgusts or repulses them. But that’s the beauty of it too, isn’t it?
Are there other works that this short film is inspired by?
Works of fiction no, but let’s say there is the presence of some Lovecraftian Outer God… But no spoilers!
Let’s talk instead about the people behind the scenes. Who are the other faces behind The Threshold?
It’s me, Paolo, his girlfriend Maria Di Maro and our friend Andrea Cerbone. The end. This is the huge team behind an animated short. I take care of all the visual and production part, Paolo takes care of the music (and he also lends his voice to the Plague Doctor!), Maria and Andrea first of all support us morally and psychologically in this odyssey we have catapulted ourselves into, and then they helped us and refine the story, they untangled some directorial passages in which I had gotten tangled and couldn’t find the way out; Andrea also made some drawings featured in the short! But not only that, they were also an active part in writing the lyrics for the songs. And then they helped us develop the fundraising campaign.
Some of the Kickstarter prizes are really exclusive. How did you choose them?
We chose them as we weigh the most important decisions in life: over coffee or a beer. We thought about what might be cute and inexpensive (for us to make and for you to buy, eventually), in addition to the more “classic” and time-honored rewards such as wallpaper, soundtrack, digital access to the short, etc…
I had a puppet made and I am very proud of that, by the way.
One last message to our audience. Why support this project?
I’m not good at convincing people to do things… Paolo decided to help me because we’re both crazy, but I think (I hope) that most of your readership is made up of clear-headed people with a good head on their shoulders.
Let’s say I could tell you why I would support this project (I am biased, I know): mainly because it is an ambitious project, both of the content and the form. We’ ve discussed it abundantly about the content and I don’t want to be redundant, but I believe that freedom of expression is something sacrosanct and there is a need to express even thoughts that most of the time are concealed and escaped-unless they are hate messages, in which case all freedom and rights are lost.
And then for the form: we are a small group of guys who want to make an ANIMATED HORROR short film IN ITALY. In our country, genre cinema is relegated to the lowest meanders of productions–not to mention what concerns animation! Only children’s products. There is no investment in either.
We want to try.
And with your help we hope to succeed.
Special thanks to the entire editorial staff of Vampire’s Tears and to Kei Leela for always giving me these spaces with each of my crazy projects!
A big hug to everyone!