Writer–Director Carolina Cavalli ’13 Has a Message for Aspiring Filmmakers


Take yourself seriously – right from the beginning. Even if other people don’t.

Carolina Cavalli ’13

Carolina Cavalli ’13 is an Italian screenwriter, director and author whose first film, Amanda (2022), achieved acclaim at both the Venice and Toronto international film festivals and stars Benedetta Porcaroli in the title role. We caught up with Carolina to discuss filmmaking, her time in Paris, and why confidence is key when first starting out in cinema.

What drew you to AUP?

I was very curious about the American education system, and I’d lived in Paris for a couple of years as a child, so it felt like a natural choice! I’m someone who struggles if I don’t find a reason or mission – I find it can create a kind of emptiness or boredom – but I never had that problem at AUP because everything was new and different from my previous experiences. I majored in comparative literature and I’d never want to change that part of my life.

How did you transition from literature to film?

I’ve noticed that people in my industry often fell in love with cinema at a very young age, but, for me, it only started when I moved to Paris at 18. There are so many small cinemas hidden away in the city; you can watch practically any film at any time you want. I find it strange, but Paris was where I watched classic Italian cinema for the first time. I loved the cinemagoing experience – seeing these great movies right there in the theater. It made me realize I could combine my desire to write and my love of the screen.

You returned to Italy after graduation…

I would have loved to stay in Paris, but I needed to write in my mother tongue. When I returned to Italy, I was lucky enough to win the Italian screenwriting prize Premio Solinas. It kickstarted my screenwriting career, and I worked in writing rooms for five years before starting work on my script for Amanda. Initially, I thought the personalities of writer and director were very different. But when my producer asked me to direct it, I thought: Some opportunities only come once. I often think like that, and I make a lot of bad decisions! But directing was a good one for me. It gives you a lot of adrenaline and creates a kind of addiction. Now I can’t wait to direct the next one.

What inspired the idea for Amanda?

For me, writing is about character. I had this conception of Amanda – a woman who has always struggled to make friends, who returns from Paris to her Italian hometown – but she moved on her own, telling me what she needed at that moment in her life and creating the plot as she went. She meets someone whom she knew when she was a toddler, another woman named Rebecca whom she doesn’t quite remember, and she makes it her mission to convince Rebecca that they are somehow still best friends.

So, the film explores friendship as a theme…

I find friendship to be a very pure human sentiment – it’s not so influenced by stronger emotions like jealousy or passion. The idea of friendship also helps people cope with solitude. I think the desire to not be alone in the world is universal – not generational or associated with a specific period of your life. Amanda tries to adapt herself to reality, but in so doing instead adapts reality to herself. That’s something children do all the time – by creating imaginary friends, for example – but when you are a 25-year-old woman, it puts up a barrier between you and the world.

What advice would you offer AUP students looking to break into the film industry?

I would have loved to have the confidence to consider myself a writer even before I worked in the industry. If you think of yourself as a writer, you develop the authority you need to do well in the profession. Take yourself seriously – right from the beginning. Even if other people don’t. And I don’t just mean your attitude; you also need to take the commitment seriously. Send lots of email introductions! I was too shy – I didn’t want to bother people. But I soon realized other people aren’t bothered at all. Worst case: they won’t answer. That shyness is something lots of people have, but it’s not going to help your career.