As a narrative director, Bianca Poletti utilises her passion for dance, movement, and coming-of-age stories to explore the many different facets of the human psyche. Her films exist in dreamlike worlds full of ethereal lighting, color, and youthful Gen Z imagery. She brings her love of character-driven stories, fashion, and architecture to her work, always implementing pieces of the story into her vivid production design. She casts with an emphasis on personality and chemistry, choosing to work with people who effortlessly add depth to story and dialogue through their unique points of view.

Niccolò Montanari: Ultra Low is relatable on so many levels. Tell us about what inspired you to tell this story and how you made it yours.

Bianca Poletti: Allison and I were talking about a recent experience she had had making a short of hers, and how everything that could go wrong did, and it was so relatable. It brought me back to when I first started making shorts with friends, and how we’d have these huge ideas and dreams of what we wanted the film to be, and then when it came to the actual shoot, we’d forget important things, like mics, batteries for the camera, missing monitors, wardrobe changes for the characters, etc… and we’d be shooting in the middle of the desert because that’s where you shoot in LA when you have no budget and want to make films, so we’d be too far away to run to someone’s place to grab the correct batteries, etc., and it would just all fall apart but in such a SLOW and hilarious way.

From these conversations, we decided to put together Ultra Low. One, I wanted it to feel like an LA story, because that’s where my beginner filmmaking experiences happened, and two, because LA is where people move to make their film dreams come true. It’s a weird but charming city full of interesting souls all bold enough to try and make art their career and I just love that. Visually, for it to feel like LA, I wanted to play with a lot of retro pieces. California is full of vintage shops, vintage cars, and old diners and I’m drawn to that aesthetic, so I wanted to play with that visual element in this film.

NM: There’s a certain nostalgic feel to your work. You can address themes affecting us in the present, but you do so through a visual language that feels almost romantic. On a practical level, how do you always manage to stay authentic to your true self and vision?

BP: Thank you, that’s nice to read! I’m drawn to a specific visual world and it leans towards the past, but what I love about California is that so much of that still exists here today. I’m inspired by that and when building narrative worlds, really like to play with retro elements and textures that help tell the story in a visually beautiful world.

The choice of cast is a key element in the hilarious delivery of the lines. How did you go about finding the right people to work with and is there anything you specifically did as a director to ensure a certain level of chemistry between them?

Allison was part of the project from the start, so it was then about building the cast around her. John and I had worked together on several other projects and I just think he’s brilliant and he fit the world perfectly. Next came Kate. A friend of mine sent me her work, and I just thought her persona matched Chloe (the character she plays) SO perfectly and effortlessly. Visually I felt that she and Allison looked and felt like they would run in the same circles and be close. My best friends as far back as I can remember have always been my polar opposites, they’ve been super outgoing, a bit wild, and uncensored, and I think part of me wants to be that way, so I find that in people closest to me. I found that in the pairing of Allison and Kate. Allison has a wild side to her, but also a reserved, responsible side, and Kate’s exterior is free and fearless. I thought that the balance of chemistry would work so well for this.

NM: How did you tackle the visual storytelling to captivate the audience, especially considering the majority of Ultra Low unfolds within the confines of a car? Additionally, were there other challenges you encountered during the production?

BP: I really wanted this to feel like a fun buddy cop film, in a way a less intense, shorter version of The Hangover. It didn’t feel like a story where a bunch of cuts were needed, it felt like a story where we needed to lean into some of the WIDE awkward conversations and cut close when needed, but really not get too artsy with the shots inside of the car. I wanted to allow their performances to breathe naturally and unfold that way.

NM: With your extensive experience in the industry, how did you navigate the challenges of shooting Ultra Low on a tight budget and tight schedule?

BP: OOF, it’s always a challenge to shoot short films, especially this one being 24 pages and 85 percent of it taking place inside of a moving car. But I had a lot of help, thankfully. OPC, Zauberberg, and Bacon are always so supportive of my films and helped fund Ultra Low, and I put in a good chunk of funds as well. With that and the help of my amazing producer Shayna Gianelli—who is always telling me “We need more money, but let’s go for it”—somehow always makes everything come together seamlessly. I really have my entire team to thank for this and for every short I’ve brought to life. Cabin Edit, Nina Sacharow my incredible editor, who worked non-stop on this, Mikey Rossiter my amazing colorist, my DP Kayla Hoff, for making every single frame so beautiful and always being down to problem-solve, my really talented music supervisor Abbey Hendrix for bringing in the right tracks to help tell the story in a stylistic and impactful way. In short, I couldn’t have made this film without all of the help and support from everyone who hustled to make it come together.

NM: What are you working on next?

BP: I’m working on my first feature film with a very talented actress Nikki Lorenzo and an equally amazing actor John Hawkes, while also prepping for another short film, that I’m really excited about. It’s a coming-of-age film about a first-generation American girl finding her voice. It has a bit of a Little Miss Sunshine and Ladybird feel to it.