In the Limelight: Daniel Torelli

Interviews with Local Musicians and Artists of the Hudson Valley
By Ami Madeline Daichman

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Tell us about yourself. You’re a film-maker?

 Daniel Torelli   Photo by Allyson Ferrera (@moondoggin)

Daniel Torelli
Photo by Allyson Ferrera (@moondoggin)

Daniel Torelli: I’m an aspiring independent film director mostly working and freelancing in videography and photography right now. I’ve been making some music videos for local musicians and am working on getting my next short horror film into production. I’m most interested in creative projects and would love to direct independent features.

Is horror your niche?

It’s definitely a passion of mine. I’m interested in the dark or “shadowy” side of human nature. Of course, I appreciate both sides, but I’ve always loved horror movies and being unsettled by a story. There’s just something I find endlessly exciting about it.

What sparked your passion for horror?

I’ve always loved bizarre and macabre things. My first “horror” memory was probably when I was just a little kid and I saw the Winnie the Pooh special where he is having a nightmare with creepy Heffalumps and Woozles. I was very fearful of creepy things as a kid and would draw a lot of monsters. When I got a little older I saw movies like Godzilla and later, “The Thing” and “Alien.” I got really into “creature features.” I’d say that was probably when I first became fascinated with horror.

Are the directors of the movies you mentioned your main influences?

The most influential directors are the ones who’ve made me rethink movies and life in general. I tend to like directors that make me cringe because of how real their films feel and how that feeling sticks with me. I think that is what really matters to me: that it resonates. David Lynch, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter and Lars Von Trier are some of my all time favorites. 

Was there one film that really made you want to create your own?

“The Silence of the Lambs” had a huge impact on me at an early age. But initially film was actually my 2nd love. My first was music. When I was a teenager I got really into death metal. I started writing, playing, and recording metal songs. I always had a vision in my head of what I wanted to put on paper and tried to describe the scariest visions I had. So I was already making horror but it was horror music. When I got out of high school, I thought I’d better try for my dream which I had finally realized was always making film. 

What’s your starting point in creating a film?

Curiosity. I always start with a big question and figure out the details as they come. Something happens and it has to be intriguing enough for you to want to ask what happens next. If you’re not interested in what’s going to happen next in your film you can’t expect someone else to be.

What interests you about character based films?

Each film is its own universe, so to speak. You’re in control of the universe of that film. You can fit so much concept into a story and portray it visually. The characters you put in that world can represent different pieces of your mind. I find it fascinating how there are so many sides to every individuals personality that comprise them. When you see all those personalities, you can better understand someone and their motives. Characters can be an exploration of our sub-personalities. You might see something within yourself or the people around you that you weren’t able to see before.

Is that a goal for you as a director? To better understand ourselves and each other?

I just hope people get a feeling. I hope they feel something. That’s the only goal. That they feel. I find humans to be so remarkable. Self-awareness is the reason for all our existential issues. It’s worth reflecting on. I want to invite people to explore their own minds and realities.

Innovative storytelling by writers like HP Lovecraft and Stephen King inspire me because they try to describe the un-explainable. Lovecraft’s stories in particular revolve around monsters and dimensions that are beyond human comprehension. Again, I love that exploration of the unknown.

I’m also inspired by the idea of capturing 

those moments in life we’ll catch ourselves really present for. But they’re fleeting, and usually if you realize you’re having that moment, the suspension of disbelief you experience (like when you’re watching a movie) is lifted and you’re taken out of it. I like the idea of recreating those moments.

There’s an ethereal quality to it like in dreams. Films are like dreams and that’s how I want to present them. They connect people beyond boundaries of language. It’s all about feeling.

What’s the most challenging part of being a director?

For me personally, probably the level of organization you have to have. But from a creative standpoint, you really have to be there. If you’re not present and in the zone when you’re looking through the camera, you’re seeing something from the outside and it’s not real. If you want people to feel, you can’t be afraid of feeling. That’s the best and hardest part of writing good film.

Getting real with yourself isn’t easy. I find it interesting when someone watches a disturbing movie and they’re personally offended. We’re afraid of our own reactions and feelings, but feelings are meant to be felt. I’m not really sure, but for me.

A film (not unlike a novel or a painting etc) is like looking into the creator’s mind. Directing a film is directing the audience’s attention. You’re showing them what you want them to see. For example, if you have a shot that’s all in focus and there are a lot of things happening in that shot, you’re supposed to look at all those things. It’s not easy to conceptualize an entire feeling and direct it. Creating an atmosphere in that way is so challenging but equally rewarding. 

How do you experience film in the Hudson Valley?

There are so many talented artists in the Hudson Valley. I love the community here and I think the Film industry in the area is growing. I used to think I had to go to LA (although I still want to go), but there’s a lot going on right here. I manage a film studio, just got involved with other Hudson Valley Filmmakers and have collaborated with local musicians and other creatives. It’s also great being relatively close to NYC. I try to get there often to freelance. I’m happy to be here and to be a part of the community.

See Daniel’s work at DanTorelli.com
Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo by Allyson Ferrera (@moondoggin)