Alessandro Maggia operates Starlight Video Productions out of Italy. An editor extraordinaire, Mr. Maggia infuses his passion for retro cinema into awe-inspiring music videos. His “Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies” trilogy showcases some of the best films from the era. It's one of the most incredible movie mashups ever assembled, generating raw emotion that'll leave you feeling there may be hope for humanity.
After watching "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies" repeatedly for several hours, I contacted Mr. Maggia for an interview. He graciously answered some questions for fans of '80s films and music. Take the journey with Alessandro, and venture to some unexpected places!
Please tell us what makes you love your favorite '80s movies.
I have always adored the Cinema of the 80s, both because being from 1977, I was fortunate enough to experience it from an early age, and because it’s a Cinema of the highest and rarest quality, first and foremost from the extraordinary scripts that were being written in that fabulous decade. The secret of those movies lies in the fact that first and foremost they are fairy tales (it is very difficult to find a movie from the 1980s that, for example, ends tragically, but on the contrary they practically all have positive messages and happy endings). And fairy tales are immortal. The characters in the movies were extraordinarily well written, as were their lines (think, for example, of the enormous amount of lines we still know by heart from those films, as opposed to the lines in today's films).
Moreover, the common denominator of virtually every movie of that decade is that anyone with effort can eventually make it. And the great thing is that this doesn't just apply to John McClane-like heroes or Superman-like superheroes, but also to ordinary guys like the Goonies or Daniel LaRusso. This is what the Cinema of the 80s teaches us in the first place: never stop chasing your dream (big or small), and with commitment and perseverance you will eventually succeed. After all, we were in the Reagan era, when everything really seemed possible, there was tremendous optimism in life, there was color (just think of the fashion of the time for example) and above all there were still very deep values in society. Values that nowadays are pretty much gone. In the 1980s people still believed in the spirit of family, the value of friendship and mutual respect.
And on top of everything (and this is the key ingredient of the Cinema and Music of the 80s) everything was completely imbued with romance! And I don't mean only the romance related strictly to love, but precisely also to the concept of a dream to be fulfilled, from being eternal Peter Pan to always believing in it.
What do you feel makes '80s and '90s movies special?
The movies of those decades had wonderful scripts at their base. And that is the main reason why they became long-lasting films without ever getting bored. If you think about it, it is much easier to see movies from the 1980s and 1990s on television than movies from earlier or later decades. Screenwriters in those years didn’t have their hands tied, for example, by the nonsensical ideological choices that are there nowadays. Without the infamous “politically correct” of today they could be free to write pretty much whatever they wanted. And this fact gave room for an unprecedented wave of creativity. And not only in Cinema. But also in all the other Arts starting with music.
But then "The Matrix" came out in 1999, and in my opinion that film marked the end of everything that had been Cinema up to that point, creating a huge watershed with all the rest of Cinema that would come from then on. After all, the world definitely changed with 9/11 and society lost almost all the values that had been there until then. Since, however, most people basically want to dream when they watch a movie, the best way to do that is to watch a movie from those years, rather than New Millennium movies that have very little that is romantic about them.
The viewer can watch “A Fantastic Journey Through the 80s Movies” trilogy several times, and still not register every movie clip. How many movies do you feature in this masterpiece? How long did it take to edit?
In "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies" I have included scenes from 179 movies from the 80s. In "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 2" there are 130 movies. In "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 3" there are 98 movies. Consider that normally to make a "Fantastic Journeys" takes at least 3 to 4 weeks up to even two and a half months as for example for "A Fantastic Journey Through The 90s Movies" or "A Fantastic Journey Through The 007 Movies."
(Watch for Alessandro, appearing as a Casino Royale extra, at the four minute mark!)
But actually in the case of the very first “Fantastic Journey” ("A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies," which is still my most famous video today) it took me about 10 days. And it was paradoxically the "easiest" Fantastic Journey to edit. There I very easily found the most famous scenes from the most classic 80s movies that I wanted to include. I just had a very hard time finding scenes for the guitar solo sequence. Surprisingly there are very few famous scenes with protagonists playing guitar in 80s Cinema. I tried to put all the ones I could think of, even from less famous movies such as the wonderful "Crossroads" with Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio.
Consider also that in the case of my first "Fantastic Journey," being the first in the series, I had carte blanche, and I could really fish out all the scenes I wanted from 80s movies. Already different, on the other hand, was the processing of "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 2" where you had to either put in movies that I didn’t put in the first one or put in different scenes from the same movies as in the first one, and so I had to analyze scene by scene almost each of the movies you see inserted in order to choose them. The processing time in this case extended to almost a month of editing. And things got even more complicated with "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 3." Again, I had to include scenes from movies that were not in the first two "Fantastic Journeys" or scenes that had never been included from movies already in the first two videos. The processing in this case was one month.
Surprisingly, your '80s trilogy uses mostly contemporary synthwave. How did you decide which music to use? Why did “St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)” get the spotlight as the only '80s song?
The making of each of my videos, not only of "Fantastic Journeys" always starts with the choice of the song. It often happens that while listening to a song I start "seeing" scenes from movies in my mind. This is the case, for example, with my fifth "Fantastic Journey," "A Fantastic Journey Through The Disney Movies." In that case it all started when, listening to the song from "Hercules," "Go The Distance" by Michael Bolton, I "saw" in my mind Mickey Mouse in Fantasia pointing his finger at the stars. From that image I got the idea then to make the whole “Fantastic Journey” dedicated to all the Disney Classics (which by the way is one of my favorite "Fantastic Journeys" ever).
Going back to my first 3 "Fantastic Journeys," the creation process there, too, started from listening to a song. It was Sunday morning, November 24, 2017, the day after my 40th birthday. For a few months a friend of mine had introduced me to Synthwave music. Consider that it is still little known here in Italy today, so go figure at the time. It was totally new to me as well. I had been on YouTube listening to some playlists from the "New Retro Wave" channel. At one point I accidentally came across "Sunset" by The Midnight! And it was love at first listen! As soon as I finished the song I immediately had a "vision" of 80s movie scenes to the notes of that masterpiece. So I started researching on YouTube to see if anyone else had had the same idea as me. I came across some videos, some edited right to "Sunset," which, however, in my opinion, did not enhance the nostalgic and romantic spirit of that song to its fullest. It needed a more thorough editing job in my opinion.
So I decided to put myself out there. Videos synchronized with music have always been my workhorse ever since I started as a videomaker in the 1990s. So I decided to get to work right away, completely inspired by "Sunset." As the first thing (as I do in almost every video I make) I worked on the song, re-editing it according to my creative needs. Also I wanted to give it a structure more faithful in my opinion to the classic structure of 80s songs, and so for example with a nice fading guitar solo at the end. In fact, if you compare my version of "Sunset" with the original you will hear that it has a different structure. Once the song was ready, I began the real work of editing by going note by note to associate the scenes from the films that in my opinion matched perfectly with the musical "movements" of each second of the song.
The music produces "movements": there are ascents, descents, moments of suspension, abrupt stops and so on. These movements I then associate with the scenes that I go for second by second. That's why making a "Fantastic Journey" is such a complex and long work. It's not just about editing a series of scenes in time to the music, but correctly associating each scene with those specific notes or those specific moments in the song. It's a gift I've always had. And in fact looking at my videos you would think that the songs were written specifically for that video.
I always try to elevate to the highest power the emotions that the song wants to give, making sure that it is the images I choose that serve that song. This requires meticulous frame-by-frame research and perfect note-by-note association. Then the successions of scenes with their colors and movements, for example, come into play. Often you will notice that what goes in time to the song is not only the cutaway itself between scenes, but also the movement of the actors or the shots down to the smallest detail. For example, there are many synchronizations even with the blinking of the actors' eyes. And then also there is all the "subtext" work that I go after. So I often create selections of scenes in pairs or with specific themes. Or I work a lot on irony and contrasts. That is, I juxtapose, for example, characters from different movies who perform the same action, or characters who are perhaps related in reality (such as the nod Emilio Estevez gives in "Young Guns" to Charlie Sheen in "Platoon"). Or I used to say I play ironically by "pairing" characters who maybe in some movies are antagonists. And so on and so forth.
In short, this is to explain that the beauty of each of the 15 videos that currently make up "The Fantastic Journeys" series is literally a total journey into a specific decade, a specific series, or even just one specific movie (such as "A Fantastic Journey Through The Goonies Movie" or "A Fantastic Journey Through The Dirty Dancing Movie"), and each of these journeys has so many levels of reading. What matters most of all, however, is being able to evoke the strongest possible emotions.
When it came time to choose the song for "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 2," I was very torn as to whether to edit it to "Running In The Night" by FM-84 (which at that time, along with "Sunset," was my favorite Synthwave song) or go all in on an actual 80s movie song, specifically John Parr's "St.Elmo's Fire." I eventually chose the latter song, to which I am particularly attached for several reasons. One among them is that it is the lead song from "St. Elmo's Fire," the first big movie hit by my favorite director of all time, Joel Schumacher. The only "problem" here was the equalization of the song, which sounded more "closed" in dynamics than the more crystal clear sound of Sunset. So I re-equalized it to make it closer to the sound of "Sunset." From there I then focused on editing, again going to maximize the full power of John Parr's song.
When "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 2" was ready, I sent it to John Parr himself. He liked my video so much that he shared it on his Facebook page (just as "The Midnight" had done with the first video in the series). Since then I have been in frequent contact with John Parr who has become a superfan of my videos.
The choice finally to then use for "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 3" the FM-84 synthwave song "Running In The Night" at that point became an obvious choice for me since I had already considered it for the second video in the series. I would then return to using synthwave songs with the fourth video in the series "The Best Of A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies Trilogy" (in which I used "Los Angeles" by The Midnight), with "The Best Of The Fantastic Journeys" (which I personally love so much) in which I used "Crystal Ships" by Michael Oakley and with "A Fantastic Journey Through The American Anthem Movie" in which I used "Without You" by Sebastian Gampl.
In my YouTube channel you will also find a series called "Summing Up The 80s Movies" in which I summarize beautiful but little-known 80s movies over wonderful Synthwave songs: for example, the first video in that series is devoted to "Lucas" from 1986 and is edited to the notes of "Lost Boy" by The Midnight.
“A Fantastic Journey Through The Back to the Future Movies” perfectly captures the spirit of the much-loved trilogy. What's your favorite Back to the Future and why?
My favorite movie of the "Back to the Future" trilogy is the second one. I love it because I absolutely love its narrative plot and the fact that it has so many different eras in the same film. Also, my favorite character in the trilogy has always been Biff (I even took a picture with Thomas Wilson at the Berlin Comic Con) and he is super starring in this movie. Then I absolutely love the fact that they showed from other points of view the events that happened in the first film. The special effects then are absolutely mind-blowing. I would never get tired of seeing it. And in fact in "A Fantastic Journey Through The Back To The Future Movies" there are so many scenes taken right out of "Back To The Future Part II."
“A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies” trilogy has a metric ton of heart, and each segment has a different vibe. Which installment are you most proud of? What feelings do you want your trilogy to impart on your audience?
The three videos in the trilogy tell the story of 1980s Cinema in three different ways. The first video serves to give a nice overview of what was the incredible and varied output of that decade. That is why in "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies" you will find all the most famous and important movies of the 80s. Moreover, the dominant feeling of the first video of the trilogy is that of nostalgia, related to an immense Cinema that unfortunately no longer exists. Going into more detail, my favorite part of the first video, is the central one with the romantic kissing sequence and the subsequent emotional explosion of the spectacular guitar solo. I also really like the moment when the song says "follow the wolves" and you can see the two main characters from "An American Werewolf In London" laughing it up.
As for "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 2," there I wanted to celebrate mainly the romantic comedies of the 80s (although of course they are not the only protagonists), and in fact out of all three it is the most romantic "Fantastic Journey" of the trilogy. All those kissing sequences in the video are really about the romance of 80s Cinema. In this case, my favorite sequence is the one right after the trumpet solo, in which the song rises in pitch. My absolute favorite moment is when all the emotion explodes in the gesture of the protagonist of "To Live And Die In L.A." raising his arm to the sky in victory as he races in his car. That gesture represents all the positivity of this second chapter of the trilogy.
Finally, with "A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies 3," I wanted to close out these first 3 "Fantastic Journeys" in a big way by dedicating the video almost entirely to the Fantastic Cinema of the 80s, which was the main genre of the whole decade. My favorite sequence here is the central part devoted to ghosts, and in particular the scene with the ghost flying over Ray in "Ghostbusters" and the supernatural encounter through the mirror between Dorothy and Ozma in "Return To Oz." In addition, this video is also a tribute to the eternal child in me and indeed children are very much present. And the spectacular closing of the entire trilogy is portrayed in my opinion to perfection with that liberating scream of the child in "The Last Starfighter” and to the melancholy look of Elliot watching the spaceship of "The Last Starfighter" drift away into space, as well as us bidding a final farewell with a melancholy look to the 1980s, the greatest decade in History.
“A Fantastic Journey Through The 80s Movies” trilogy features some lesser-known films, such as Tucker, Night of the Comet and The Wraith. What obscure '80s movies do you love, and why would you recommend people watch them? Why do you think these legitimately great movies haven't garnered more of a following?
I wanted to give great space also to the lesser-known films of the 1980s precisely in order to pay homage with the greatest possible respect to the extraordinary and gigantic film production of that decade that was able to give us so many movies that it would take at least another 10 years to discover them all.
And often among the less famous movies are hidden extraordinary and respectable gems, which, however, unfortunately did not have the same luck as their older brothers. After all, if there had not been perhaps television airings or the VHS market, many less famous movies of the 1980s would not have been discovered at all. Think, for example, of how many films have become cult hits only as a result of subsequent television broadcasts or home video distribution. One of the most famous cases is "Big Trouble In Little China," which upon its release in 1986 was almost a total flop (due to bad distribution and promotion) and instead then over the years became an absolute star of the decade (by the way, for me it’s John Carpenter's absolute masterpiece). Among my favorite lesser-known films are definitely "Something Wicked This Way Comes”, "Up The Creek", "Young Sherlock Holmes," "Three O’Clock High," and so many others. For that matter, it was an immense production. And to this day I still come across films that I have never even heard of before but that are absolutely must-see.
In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between '80s and '90s movies?
Between the cinema of the 1980s and 1990s there are many differences and some similarities. Let's start with the latter aspect. From a technical and qualitative point of view, the cinema of the 80s and 90s was a cinema that wanted to grow and continue to experiment (think, for example, of the tremendous evolution in the field of special effects, which in those years were still at the service of the story and not mere amazing gimmicks to be inserted just so as not to bore today's viewer).
For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, the inclusion in the story of a scene with some special effect was suspensefully constructed and became an important moment in the story. Especially if you think of all those movies in which the fantastic entered the ordinary world. As in “Gremlins” or “Jurassic Park” for example. Think of the arrival of the spaceships in “Independence Day” with how much emphasis and solemnity they are announced. Or, going back to the 1980s, think for example of "Young Sherlock Holmes" and the scene of the glass knight (the first CGI character in Cinema History) as it’s announced with those eerie sequences of the scenes on the stained glass window of the church that change shape before the knight breaks away from the window and advances menacingly toward the priest.
On the other hand, as far as the script-related aspect is concerned, there are so many differences between the 1980s and 1990s. Starting as early as 1990 there seems to be a clear division with the previous decade. The Cinema of the 90s, except for a few rare occasions, no longer seems to want to make us dream like the Cinema of the 80s, but on the contrary (even in Fantastic Cinema) wants to disillusion us at all costs. So here, for example, dramatic movies, especially dramatic love stories, begin to flourish from the very beginning and dominate the box office. Films such as "Ghost," "Dying Young," and even "The Crow" (which revolves around a tragic love story) become seminal films in the 1990s.
And also beginning to spread early on is the "fashion" in which the main character or one of the main characters has to die at the end of the film. And often his death, which is passed off as heroism, would actually be avoidable for plot purposes. But in the 1990s it is fashionable to see the main character or co-star die. And I'm not just talking about Jack in "Titanic" of course, but also e.g. Miryea in "Revenge," Terminator in "T2," "Thelma & Louise," John Coffey in "The Green Mile," Russell Case in "Independence Day," and endless other examples.
The Cinema of the 1990s then seemed to almost completely abandon the fantastic and supernatural, in favor instead of big action films, detective stories, and especially lots of dramatic love stories. The very rules of the game change, and a pessimism begins to arrive in Cinema that is of course a reflection of the society of the time.
Imagine that you can watch only one film from the '80s and one from the '90s. What would they be and why?
If I were forced to choose only one film from the 1980s and 1990s, I would probably choose, although the choice is virtually impossible, "Return Of The Jedi" which is my favorite movie in the Star Wars series as well as one of my favorite movies of the 1980s. As for the 90s, however, I would probably choose "A League Of Their Own," which I consider a total masterpiece of the decade and one of the most beautiful films ever made about nostalgia for the good old days.
Starlight Video Productions takes on commercial work. What are some of your most high-profile projects thus far?
Starlight Video Productions deals with videos for every need. I make videos of all kinds: from corporate videos to documentaries, journalistic videos to music videos, wedding videos to sports videos, and so on. But by far my specialty are emotional videos of events. Basically all the style you see in "Fantastic Journeys" can be found completely in my commissioned videos.
I have been a videomaker since 1997, and I have had the opportunity to do some very important and emotional work as well. For example, one of my most beautiful works is the documentary I made about Marco Confortola, a mountaineer who survived the terrible tragedy that struck 11 climbers during the 2008 K2 expedition. I worked for many years for Exxon Mobil and I made this documentary ("Marco Confortola: A Man And K2") because they invited Confortola to an event with Porsche. My video was then screened during that meeting. At the end of the screening everyone was moved. You can see this video both on my YouTube channel "Starlight Video Productions" and on my website (www.starlightvideo.it) along of course with all my best videos made so far over all these years.
Another exciting moment that I will never forget was when they screened "A Fantastic Journey Through The Disney Movies" at an official Disney artists convention. At the end they all even gave me a standing ovation. It was a really fabulous moment and my satisfaction was enormous.
What inspired you to do video production? What are its most rewarding and challenging aspects?
Since childhood I have always been fascinated by the world of Cinema. When I was a child I was given a toy camera with an episode of the “Smurfs” that could be operated by moving a crank and looking through the camera's viewfinder. I was so fascinated by how the images came alive frame by frame that from there a passion for Cinema sprang up in me. Then when my grandfather gave me my first video camera in 1992, I discovered the fascination of postproduction and became more and more passionate about the video editing stage. In 1995 I made, during a vacation in the mountains with friends, a video whose best moments I then edited synchronized to a song that had become a bit of a symbol of that vacation. The song was "Back For Good" by Take That, and so it became the first song on which I edited a video in time to music.
From there I perfected myself more and more, and “sync to music editing” became the trademark of all my videos and of Starlight Video Productions. The great thing about this job is that it allows you to have so many experiences while also learning about and delving into so many things that span so many fields: from sports to art, from technology to nature, and so on. Also I love creating emotions through my videos. And knowing that, for example, there are so many people who watch my videos to get emotional when maybe they are sad, it gratifies me so much.
Of course, the work is extremely complicated and difficult, but everything becomes a pleasure when I then set out to make my videos dedicated to the 80s. These days, for example, I started a new series ("What A Feeling!") in which I tell all the most incredible trivia about 80s movies and their spectacular soundtracks! In short, I never stop. For that matter, I still have so much to explore and tell about the wonderful and fantastic universe of the 80s !
Wow! Thank you so much, Alessandro, for your time and insight. It was a pleasure to speak with someone so knowledgeable about cinema.
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