Since the infancy of filmmaking, romance has been idealized on screen.
Though such narratives of love often reveal happy endings, in reality, these conventional conclusions aren’t always the case.
For Fabian Farina, an Argentine native who grew up in South Philadelphia, these cookie-cutter accounts of boy-meets-girl have oversaturated Hollywood for far too long.
After watching one of these movies a couple of years ago, Farina, an Army veteran whose endeavors span from music to modeling, was struck with a counter concept.
Over the course of two weeks, a story fell out of Farina that would eventually become his first feature-length screenplay, “One Night.”
The movie, which falls somewhere on the spectrum between “The Notebook” and “The Sixth Sense,” is being filmed for 10 days in South Philadelphia, as Farina and his entire cast and crew brought the atypical romance back to its roots.
“I can predict everything that’s going to happen, and sure enough, as I’m watching this movie, it ended exactly how I thought it was going to end,” he said. “The idea occurred to me of what happens if it’s not the storybook ending.”
After finishing the script, Farina, who is now based in Bucks County, connected with his longtime friend and creative collaborator, Mariano Mattei, a South Philadelphia-based chef, musician, actor and IT management professional, as the two started crafting a vision to bring the screenplay to life.
The duo, who met as adolescents on the streets of South Philly, have been partnering in the arts for years, including writing and performing music in a band.
But, this pursuit felt different.
“Honestly, it struck home because the way that I describe the movie is that, ‘Yeah, it’s a love story, but in the end, you can call it a twist, but to me, it’s a life lesson,’ ” Mattei said. “It felt familiar. It felt profound. It felt professional. I think that that life lesson is something that you have to make your own.”
Though “One Night,” which is produced by regional independent film company Cerrito Productions, centers upon a romantic relationship over the span of three decades, the narrative also rests in a lifelong friendship between two men and business partners.
The friendship, Farina says, was inspired by his real-life relationship with Mattei.
“Growing up, the experience that I had in the tightness of that bond, particularly between the two male characters because they both grew up in the neighborhood,” Farina said. “They’re tight…It’s just different in South Philly. It’s hard to explain but anybody from South Philly will know exactly what I’m talking about. I needed to get back to my roots, and my roots and what I know is South Philly.”
As art further imitates life, Farina and Mattei are tackling these leading roles of Massimo and Gabriele.
The cast and crew say audiences will find themselves attached to the authenticity of the story, particularly the dynamics of these relationships
“I just think people will really like it, because it’s a beautiful story, and you really love the characters because they’re written so strong,” said South Jersey-based actress Jeanette Pacifico, who plays the lead role of Olivia. “A lot of people can connect to these characters. People will be able to relate, totally. It will be hard for someone to watch and not be affected.”
Getting the project off the ground, the pair connected with Mario Cerrito III of Cerrito Productions.
Cerrito, who was also born in South Philly and raised in South Jersey, started producing, writing and directing horror films seven years ago with his project “Deadly Gamble,” which he says was made on a $10,000 budget before being signed to a Los Angeles distributor.
The movie, which was distributed through various on-demand cable platforms and other streaming services, was followed by his next horror film, “The Listing,” in 2017, which Cerrito says was recognized by the Cannes Film Festival.
For Cerrito, “One Night” is his official transition from horror to romance genres, and considering the unorthodox nature of this love story, he was especially enamored with Farina’s script.
“Being a writer, when I write, I try to do something that’s totally different from anything that’s ever been done,” Cerrito said. “And to me, there’s no point in making a film if it’s been done 100,000 times anyway. Nothing separates you. You got to find separation when you do a film, because that’s what makes something stand out.”
Over the past few weeks, Cerrito’s crew transformed scattered South Philadelphia locations into film sets, including the office of Dr. Gerard Vernose at Broad and Mifflin streets, and the office of Angelo M. Mattei Real Estate at Broad and Tasker streets.
But, South Philadelphia serving as the backdrop of “One Night” spills beyond familiar street corners.
The gritty yet genuine essence of South Philly embodies the film’s themes.
“It almost has that Rocky feeling in the beginning,” Cerrito said. “That blue-collar, grinding, trying-to-make-it edge to it, and there’s no other better place than South Philly to give that landscape, because South Philadelphia is a section of the city that’s known for being tough. It has a good make-up for what we’re trying to establish in the film.”
The “realness” that makes up the fabric of South Philadelphia speaks to the realistic portrayal of romance that “One Night” works to convey.
“It kind of shows that not everything is so perfect,” said Delaware-based actress and singer Alissa Lee Lewis, who plays the role of Sophie. “And I think that Hollywood has a way of making us believe that love is perfect and the world is perfect and there’s all these great things. But, there are edgy producers and directors out there who like to push the boundaries and make a statement, and I think it’s important, especially for this.”
After shooting wraps, Cerrito will be editing the film over the next few months.
Farina says “One Night” is tentatively scheduled to have a theatrical release at a local theater next spring. From there, the team plans to submit the movie to various film festivals before, ideally, being distributed to various streaming platforms.
“I would hope that, especially people from South Philly, feel proud of stuff like this,” Farina said. “Not just this movie but anything that comes out of South Philly…There’s just so much talent in this very little contained area.”