Guiding Cupids' Arrows Toward Their Marks

Spiritual Cinema Circle

We spoke with Angelo Calarco, the director of our February short film Cupids.

Can you tell us a little about your background and film career?

My background is in the performing arts, particularly in live comedy. I worked for many years in Italy as a comedian with my solo show, won awards for comedy routines and participated on national TV shows such as Saturday Night Live from Milan (the Italian localization of the popular US-comedy series). I enter the world of film in 2009 when I wrote and co-directed my first short film, which was one of ten selected films, from over 160 submissions, for the prestigious Experimental Centre of Cinematography in Rome.

I moved to London the year after with the goal of developing my comedy style through filmmaking. I built up my experience on set by working as a Production Assistant, Assistant Director and other production roles, including in Marketing and Distribution. I then co-founded and ran a commercial video production company for a few years before moving back into fictional filming projects.

I now produce and direct under the name of Beware of The Dog Films and Cupids is the first of, hopefully many, film projects to come.

We loved Cupids and are so happy to have it lead off our Valentine’s month DVD. Please tell us about the origin of the script.

The script was written by Nick Grills, a talented comedy writer I met many years ago in London. The story, as Nick describes it, came from him spending lots of time in cafes and thinking about the people around him. Often there would be two strangers, who you might think would make a good match, but instead they sit silently ignoring each other, both in their closed off worlds. The image came to him of invisible, frustrated beings standing around the café too, with the job of matching these humans. The sheer frustration of that role, which should be beautiful and romantic, but instead could be like the worst office job. But Cupids is really about the fear we all seem to have of strangers, especially in big cities where everyone keeps their eyes down, their mouths shut and therefore misses out on so much.

How did you get involved in the project?

I met Nick at a monthly scriptwriter meeting many years ago in London. I remember reading his script of Cupids and loving it very much. I didn’t meet Nick again for several years but in 2014 I was looking for a comedy short to produce and direct. The story of Cupids came to my mind again and I found Nick’s website online. I emailed him (maybe a couple of times) to see if the film had been made already. He said no and agreed to start the production together with me. The rest is history.

Was it a hard film to make?

Production-wise the most difficult part was finding a location that would suit our purposes, particularly considering our tight budget -which came from a crowdfunding campaign. We managed to find a suitable cafe but had to shoot over the course of two nights as closing the cafeteria to film during the daytime would have been too expensive. Shooting at night was very challenging but I was really impressed by how the crew and cast managed to keep their passion and concentration really high, even after hours of sleep deprivation. I can never thank them enough for it.

How did you manage to maintain the comedic tone?

The script and acting set out the comedic tone, but the fantasy element of the story provided inspiration for yet another layer of comedy. Within the premise of the two worlds, the Cupids’ World and the Humans’ World, there was a chance to play with the visual style and find more comedy. Our first temptation was to portray the Cupids’ World as a beautiful fairy tale with angelic characters representing the stereotypical idea of the gods of love.
But with our film we wanted to demonstrate that love is, actually, hard work, so that choice wouldn’t communicate the frustration these cupids experience every day. That’s why we shot the Cupids’ World in a more “documentary” style, similar to TV shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation or Brooklyn Nine Nine. Instead we show the Human’s World as the beautiful fairy tale, because the story is told from the cupid’s point of view. And we humans are the cupids’ fairy tale creatures. I believe this contrast is what keeps the overall tone quite absurd and comedic.

The actors who played Arabella and Saraphel had great chemistry. Had they worked together before?

They had never worked together before; in fact they come from quite different backgrounds. Jenny Delisle, who plays Arabella, comes from a theatre and film acting background. Tiernan Douieb, who plays Saraphel, is a stand up comedian. I think the chemistry they were able to create came from their experience and professional approach to acting, and of course their incredible talent.

The scene of Saraphel’s dance was shot over the course of eight takes. For each take I prepared a different music track that I personally DJ’d on set. I asked Tiernan to try a different dance style for each of them.

The last take, the one with the sunglasses, had been shot as a reserve to push the boundaries of the scene to its limits. It ended up being the funniest one and made it onto the final cut of the film.

The film brilliantly captures the awkwardness of first meetings. How have audience reactions to Cupids been?

The audience reaction to Cupids has been very positive. People respond to the fresh perspective on what happens when you first meet a new person - by putting the attention outside of the two people involved and representing the whole operation from a third point of view (the cupids).
The “open happy ending” works well in keeping the interest of the audience even after the film finishes. The comment I’ve heard the most is “I want to see more!” Which is nice to hear, especially as we are working on adapting the film concept to a TV Series format.

Cupids is a very funny and entertaining comedy, but is there a deeper message here?

The deeper message is to break your barriers, don’t be afraid of the people around you and look out for new opportunities. When you take action, when you just say hello, amazing things can happen.

What are you working on now?

Nick Grills and I are working on adapting Cupids into a TV Series. I am also developing a feature documentary, which takes an unconventionally comedic tone obn the topic of religion. I’m also writing a few sketches and a new fantasy-comedy short film to go into production in 2018. Nick is writing a comedy feature film, Mum, about a 73 year old woman on a mission to find her gay son a wife, which will be complete in the next few months.

Is there a website you would like to refer our members to?

The official website of the film is and your members might like to watch the twelve minute documentary about the making of Cupids on the site. There is also information about the film such as cast, crew and backstage pictures. You can also find the story of our two crowdfunding campaigns #SaveTheCupids and #RaiseTheCupids, our blog, and can register to our monthly newsletter with news on the development of Cupids.