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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 20:05 GMT
Sergio makes it a family affair
By Fred Brenton
For BBC News Online Scotland

Sergio Casci
Sergio Casci's next film is due for release next month
Scottish screenwriter Sergio Casci has been nominated for a Bafta for his first feature film, American Cousin.

The tale of two very different trans-Atlantic arms of the same Italian family, it is loosely based upon the former BBC journalist's experiences growing up in Scotland.

BBC News Online Scotland spoke to Sergio to find out how he made it from the Glasgow newsroom to the big screen.

Italians have long been known for their family connections and when Sergio Casci created American Cousins he turned it into a typical family affair.

From start to finish the 39-year-old's first feature film has the Casci name stamped and written all over it.

Not only did he create and come up with the plot in the first place, but he even popped up as an extra and roped in most of his relatives along the way.

Closing credits

Sergio's story tells the tale of an American Mafiosi family forced to take refuge in Glasgow with their long-lost fish-frying relatives.

At first the Americans cousins find their Scottish cafe-owning counterparts to be faintly ridiculous but by the closing credits all this has changed.

Despite the presence of top-notch names such as Danny Nucci, of Titanic fame, and Vincent Pastore, who played Pussy in the world-wide hit The Sopranos, if you look hard enough there are more Cascis on show than A-list actors.

"I'm actually in the film," explained Sergio. "On the first day of filming were we up at Loch Lomond and they wanted a windsurfer so I ended up half-naked standing in the freezing cold up to my waist as an extra.

All I've got to do now is lose about a stone-and-a-half in weight and find myself a tuxedo for the awards and I'll be happy
"My wife Helen Fitzgerald is in the water beside me but she didn't have to take anything off.

"They described me in the credits as Ample Windsurfer and my wife is down as Svelte Windsurfer.

"So I've got another credit apart from being the screenwriter.

"Actually, the film is a bit of a family affair to be honest.

"My cousin Dante, who runs a chip shop called Dante's Inferno on Argyle Street in Glasgow, taught all the actors how to fry fish and chips properly and he's down as a chipologist.

"My mother and father, Angela and Paulo Casci, have got credits as well because we used a lot of the equipment from the cafe they used to run in the film as well.

Family ties

"They used to own a place called Cafe Del Rio on Bridge Street in Glasgow but sadly it's now been demolished.

"But I named the cafe in the film after it and we reproduced the old lettering from the front of it in tribute to the place.

"There's also a piece of cine-film used in the movie which has my sister as a young girl on it, my dad, aunt and uncle and granny and granddad.

"I won't need a photo album any more for my children because all my relatives are there in the film. I'll just show them that."

Dante Casci
Dante Casci was credited as a chipologist
And it is mainly from his family that Sergio received his inspiration for the film, which took about three years to make it to the silver screen.

"I worked in my dad's cafe when I was young and there is a lot of that in the film - but the Mafia side of the film is total fantasy.

"Anyway, I don't think my family has any dark suits or secrets in its past.

"I do have some relations in the States and I just hope when they see the film they don't end up suing over it.

"But Scottish-Italians are particularly proud of their background and try to keep their traditions alive.

I'm actually quite a lazy person, so the whole script-writing thing appealed to my natural laziness
"My grandfather Armando came over to Scotland from the Italian town of Barga in 1899 and my children still understand and speak some Italian all these years later.

"My mother and father have always kept their Italian connections and are very proud of the film and what it says about our Italian roots and background."

Sergio's opening effort has also been nominated for the Carl Foreman Award, which is given to a British director, producer or writer for their achievements in making their first feature film.

American Cousins managed to make the Bafta grade despite only being seen on seven cinema screens up and down the country since its release last November.

It will be up against Jenny Mayhew's To Kill A King, Peter Webber's Girl with a Pearl Earring and Emily Young's Kiss of Life.

Fabulous achievement

"I've just been completely overwhelmed by it because it's had tremendous reviews the critics have been really positive about it," said Sergio.

"If I went on to win the award then that would be just unbelievable but it's a fabulous achievement just to be nominated.

"All I've got to do now is lose about a stone-and-a-half in weight and find myself a tuxedo for the awards and I'll be happy."

Just over three years ago Sergio was still working for the BBC in Glasgow.

The winners will be announced next month
"I used to write Ceefax pages, but although I liked the work I could never get used to the shifts.

"In fact, since I left about three years ago I have actually woken up with nightmares about having to get up and go into the BBC in Glasgow and do one.

"But if you've done things like writing for Ceefax it does teach you how to write quickly and succinctly and you tend to know what makes a good quote.

"I used to write words to a lot of pictures as well and it all helps for the screenwriting.

"I must admit that I do miss working with human beings because most of the time I am just sat here on my own staring at the four walls of my office in Glasgow trying to write things

"But I've always wanted to be a writer of some sorts.

"And if you've ever looked at a screen script you notice there is an awful lot of white space and very few words so you haven't actually got to write a lot.

Next screenplay

"I'm actually quite a lazy person, so the whole script-writing thing appealed to my natural laziness."

For a man who professes to be a layabout, Sergio has more than enough to keep him busy at the moment.

His next screenplay will hit screens only days after the Bafta ceremony.

Man Dancin' stars Alex Ferns, best known for playing Trevor in EastEnders.

Unsurprisingly, Sergio has managed to keep his family far away from that one.

BBC Scotland's Pauline McLean
"Sergio's own relatives were happy to advise him on fish frying"

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