….. Francesca’s story begins in Cluj, long before she begins her true adventure of life that will later take her through the wide world. Having parents from Cluj, she was born in Austria, studied in Switzerland, moved to college in Great Britain and then decided to settle down in the USA. All these extraordinary adventures around the world in less than 24 years. And this is only the beginning. How many more will she achive in a lifetime? ……
A life lesson, suitable even for those who have already passed their early youth, which proves once again that a dream can come true. Francesca Kirchmair, Fran for friends, answers our questions sincerely and manages to compress in her answers all the adventures, challenges and achievements she has lived until today.
I now let you read and enjoy the whole interview.
- How were your childhood and adolescence?
I was born on October 7th, 1996 in Linz, Austria. My family comes originally from Cluj Napoca, Romania, so, even though I lived in Austria, at home we spoke Romanian and Romanian values were passed on to me. Growing up I was very active in sports, mainly horse ridding and professional figure skating but also ballet, skiing and snowboarding.
When I was 11 years old, my parents decided to send me to a boarding school in Switzerland by Lake Geneva, Institut Le Rosey, in order to pursue a better education. I had the best time, made so many friends for life in Switzerland and initially left to London for University after I graduated Le Rosey in 2015.
- Where does your great passion for movies and cinematography come from?
Going to the cinema was always one of our favorite things to do with my mum. However, I think that the first time I really fell in love with film was already when I was very young, it was the first time I saw a Harry Potter movie when it came out.
I remember the film world feeling so real that I was convinced I should receive my own letter from Hogwarts any day. When I truly accepted that it was all fiction, I remember being so fascinated with film making itself. I started watching all the interviews and all the behindthe- scenes material and I understood that the real magic was happening in film. That is the first time I decided- I NEED to be part of this film world.
I have always been very extroverted and, while in school in Switzerland, I first discovered my love for performing arts. We had a fantastic theatre department and great facilities, which gave me the opportunity to begin performing in every single school play as an actress. Furthermore, at 17 years I wrote, produced, set designed, directed, marketed and acted in my own theatre play to commemorate 100 years from WWI— it was basically an art installation inspired one-man show from beginning to end, the only help was the guidance received from my theatre teacher and more actors performing with me.
However, despite this early ‘calling’, I was initially too scared to pursue the arts professionally and ended up with all my high school friends in London during my first year of university, studying economics because it was the ‘safe’ choice and because economics comes easy to me.
After 1 year though, I felt unfulfilled and, through a miracle, I found my great acting coach, Bernard Hiller. Bernard is a very renowned acting coach in Los Angeles and he is very connected and respected in the industry. He began training me and shortly after he also got me my first professional acting job in AR Rahman’s (Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire) feature virtual reality film ‘Le Musk’. The film is the first feature length VR film to ever be shot with real life actors and already had a great reception at Cannes Film Festival 2020, during which I was involved in its promotional efforts, despite the virtual reality viewing technology not yet being vastly accessible to the large public.
Being an actress in this film finally lead me to Los Angeles. Once there, I knew I could not leave anymore and my acting experience gave me the courage to fully pursue film. Being also interested in the business side of film, I decided to begin studying Film and Media Production in Pepperdine University— a program from which I just graduated during this quarantine successfully.
I still consider that coming to Los Angeles and really living my passion for film was one of the best decisions of my life.
- You lived away from home and family for so long, how did you adapt?
I have to say that the transition to the US, once I made the decision to come live here, was not too hard for me from an emotional perspective. I know that this is because I left my home for boarding school in Switzerland at such a young age and I had to become very independent very fast. Though it was very difficult for me in the beginning back then, now I am someone that has the confidence to be able to set up a ‘home’ and a life for myself wherever I want or wherever you put me.
This is a very valuable characteristic and certitude to have and I am very grateful for it, as it allows for many opportunities to develop instead of being stopped by fear. Regardless, I am very close to both my family and my friends which are still mostly in Europe. Hence, I come to visit as much as I can and it always ‘recharges’ my batteries.
- Your first movie. How did you come up with the idea, how did you choose the theme? Tell us more about this project.
The first film I made was the short La Ricetta della Mamma, even though I produced a web commercial for the Italian motorcycle brand Ducati (“Ducati: The DRE Enduro Tuscany Experience”) before that.
The idea for La Ricetta della Mamma was born out of a friendship with Roberta Bellesini, the widow of Italian best-selling author and famous tv personality Giorgio Faletti, who wrote the short story of La Ricetta della Mamma. Together with Roberta we adapted the story into a screenplay, put together the cast and crew for the project and brought it to life.
The experience of making La Ricetta della Mamma was a dream come true. Mostly being a project to honor Giorgio Faletti, everybody who was involved was there out of pure passion for him, his talent and his legacy. This created a wonderful family-like atmosphere on set. Furthermore, being a project so close to Giorgio, the movie, even though a short film, also attracted a great professionals to work with us— starting from our talented director Dario Piano, to wonderful actor Andrea Bosca, to famous, fan-favorite actor Giulio Berruti.
I remember specifically flying in from Los Angeles to shoot this project and we ended up having the best time on set. We shot for 3 days, beginning very early in the morning and ending very late at night, in Asti Piedmont and, despite the long, hard work hours, everybody was full of energy and truly lived for the project. Also, it was October 2 when we were filming and Italy during that time of the year is so wonderful. Furthermore, Asti is Roberta and Giorgio’s hometown, hence the reason we shot the story there, and Roberta showed us around the beautiful region when we did have some time off work. It was also particularly special that all the interior shots you see in La Ricetta della Mamma were filmed in Roberta + Giorgio’s real home.
- Were you surprised by the success of the film and its awards or did you expect it to be noticed?
When we were making La Ricetta della Mamma we were really trying to bring Giorgio’s story to life just as greatly as he had written it. This dedication to the project is of course the reason why all worked so hard, as we truly aimed for the film to become a successful end-product. However, one can only do so much and then a filmmaker can only hope for a good audience reception. You make the movie to your best capabilities and then it is out of your hands… However, the happiness and satisfaction when the film is successful is even greater because of the limited control one has as a filmmaker.
Personally, the Cluj Shorts Price was particularly exciting for me because Cluj is my Mum’s hometown, which she loves so much, and my grandparents still live there. Hence, I also visit Cluj a lot. It felt like a personal victory and was truly a great honor.
Furthermore, La Ricetta della Mamma was also very successful at other festivals such as the International Punto Di Vista Film Festival, Festivalul de la Cagliari (premio alla Miglior Regia per Dario Piana), Elba International Short Film Festival (Best Editing), Taormina Film Fest (proiecţie specială), Festivalul Videocorto Nettuno (Premio per il Miglior Soggetto)— only some of the victories that we are very proud of.
- What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?
I just graduated from my B. A in Film and Media Production from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles and will be starting my first year of work permission within the United States. Professional immigration into the United States has become increasingly harder during the past few years but I am lucky that every student is granted an OPT work permission for one year ‘probation’ after their studies. Hence, this year will be a very exciting time for me during which I will mainly focus on work within the film industry. I am currently considering if I may also want to do a masters program in the United States after the ‘work year’, as I have been offered a scholarship from Pepperdine University’s Business School and I am also very interested in the world’s very best film producing program at USC. So, I am considering all these potential options but it is still quite some time until then and things are changing more than ever right now.
On a personal level, I am truly seeking to constantly grow and find even more satisfaction and happiness in my life. Coming to LA, has also been quite an emotional journey for me as it allowed me to finally fully express myself here, make mistakes and grow free of judgement. Of course my professional success as both an actress and as a producer are very important to my personal fulfilment, however personally my private life also plays an immense part in my happiness.
I have a great relationship with my parents, with my mother in particular, I have a wonderful professional mentor, my acting coach Bernard Hiller, and I also have been so lucky to have very extraordinary friends that are like true family to me too. This offers me the support that I need to keep going every day.
On the other hand, I have been in a relationship for the past three years with Giulio Berruti (one of the actors mentioned above in context of La Ricetta della Mamma), with whom we have always lived between Rome and Los Angeles, who has been my ‘home’ since we are together, and with whom we have a Husky named Brownie. We share so much together until this day, however the pandemic and a few prior, distance-related issues have lead the relationship into a moment of chaos and pause until we can see each other again. From there we will see how things develop and, whatever the outcome, it is important to remember and honor the love and respect we still have for each other. During this corona-time, he got stuck in Italy while I was quarantined in Los Angeles and all the stress and the surreality of the situation definitely took a big toll on us too.
- Professionally, what projects are you involved in now?
I am currently working on a lot of new exiting projects. Beginning from two new brand endorsements for sports and self-care brands and a personal health and lifestyle brand I am in the process of launching, I also have two new film projects in development.
One of the projects is “Iceberg”, a film which I am ready to go into production with as soon as this crisis allows me. This will also be my directorial debut. At the same time, I will also star in the film as the female protagonist and produce the project. “Iceberg” is raising a question about the true nature of reality and deals with the way in which sometimes one’s own perspective of a situation may be very subjective. The film is told from a young female perspective, who is trying to come to terms with her own identity in life and within her relationship- a subject that is very close to my heart and that I wish to share with other young women.
Furthermore, I also finished my writing my first feature film under the working title of “Fragolino”, a romantic comedy based on my own quite unusual and extraordinary experiences at the beginning of my relationship.
In addition, I am also so happy to finally have more time again to focus on my acting, which I consider my primary passion.
- How have these last two months been for you, isolated here in the USA?
This pandemic very honestly probably brought me the most difficult time of my life. I am naturally a very social person and need the interaction with other people. For the world to basically stop from one day to the other was surreal.
I need you to imagine that you are in another country, alone in your apartment. Your boyfriend just left to Italy for work and your parents are also in Europe. You hear that so many people are dying in Italy now, you hear the rest of Europe is getting worse and suddenly you get an email from your University saying ‘don’t come anymore, we will do courses online for the rest of the semester’. It is also your last semester in University. You realize yesterday was the last day you were a student and a part of your life just finished like this. A normal uncertainty about the future is also always already big for every student graduating. You check the flights to Europe, there are no more direct flights anywhere and you would have to get quarantined anyways, risking to get sick there and bring it home. So, you now decide its the most responsible option to stay in LA. Being someone who is also very afraid of disease also does not help.
I am not usually an anxious or worried person but I must admit that the very beginning of the quarantine was a shock to me, I felt very low and it took me a few weeks to accept the new reality.
However, I, again, have to say I am incredibly lucky because I have the most wonderful friends who offered me to move in with them immediately when the city shut down. My friends have plenty of space in their house, did not let me be alone during this time and took me in like family. This helped me immensely to digest my feelings, allowed me to push through my final semester in university online (which made it harder) and find myself again post-shock.
Naturally, this ‘new world’ is still all very new to all of us, however the hardship of the quarantine and the uncertainty of the whole situation has completely changed my worldview in a very valuable way. I have learned that sometimes we think we need things that in reality we don’t really need and it this time has realised my priorities. We don’t need to go out to restaurants or parties to feel ‘connected’ to others, what matters most are the relationships you have with the people you love and the way in which you honor those, and a certitude about the future is a false illusion, as you never know what can happen, so it is a responsibility to ‘simply’ make the best of the present.