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Beneath a Scarlet Sky tells the tale of Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella, one of Italy’s forgotten WW2 heroes. Despite being unknown, he played such a pivotal role in driving the Germans from Italy and at such a personal cost, forever altering him. Mark Sullivan’s book allows Lella to step out of the shadows, telling his story and getting the recognition that he deserves.

This story focuses on the forgotten front that is Italy between June 1943 and May 1945. Despite being described as a work of historical fiction, the story behind the book is real. With so little available on WW2 Italy, Sullivan published it as what he describes as ‘a novel of biographical and historical fiction’ weaving together historical facts with an emotionally charged story of a 17-year-old caught up in a brutal war and along the way finds a love that stayed with him throughout his life. A tale kept in the shadows for the tragic reason that despite the good he did, Lella describes himself as a coward, not thinking himself worthy of the title hero.

The story starts with Lella at 17, living in Milan, not yet touched by the brutal reality of WW2 until he and his brother got caught in the bombing of the movie theatre. Making it back home relatively safely but changed, for the next couple of months Allied planes came for Milan, Lella stayed in Milan with his father until a bomb destroyed his home and his father sent him to Casa Alpina, a refuge in the Alps ran by Father Re.


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Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella papers aged 17

It is at Casa Alpina a hero is born, not content to be left on the sidelines Lella joins the underground railroad of the Catholic Church and the Italian resistance to save the lives of many Jews. Making a trek through the Italian Alps guiding Jews to the safety of the Switzerland border, first alone then he trains up other boys including his younger brother, Mimo. Risking his life and making many daring journeys until just before his 18th birthday he is summoned back to Milan by his parents. Fearing for his life, they convince him to enlist in German Army to avoid being conscripted and sent to the Russian frontlines; he reluctantly joins the Organisational Todt (OT).

“Nothing in life worth doing is easy,”

Not long after his enlistment he is injured and sent home. His story takes another turn here. We see him risking more and in a different way. Opportunity strikes when one of Hilter’s top men, General Hans Leyers, recruits him as his driver, eager to have a role in bringing down the Nazis’ he becomes a spy, operating under the codename ‘the observer’. Frequently risking his life to gather information to aid the end of the war, witnessing many atrocities, Lella makes many a daring feat to help those who are in need. He works his way into becoming Leyers’ right-hand man, translating information and bearing witness to meetings of influential figures within Italy at the time, such as Mussolini.

Throughout his time as a spy, the circle of people who know about his undercover status is small, until he reunites with Anna, who he met, briefly, at the start of the book but whose memory stays with him, giving him courage. With Anna, he has moments where he is just a young man falling in love for the first time. For someone who risks so much not just his life but his relationships with family and friends, he experiences so much pain and heartbreak. Throughout his risky mission, he keeps what Father Re told him close ‘Have faith in God’s plan for you.’


“Do what I sometimes do when I get scared: imagine you’re someone else, someone who’s far braver and smarter.”

The ending of Beneath a Scarlet Sky is bittersweet and the life led by Pino Lella during those last two years of the war is remarkable, he suffered and witnessed more than most in those short years than most do their entire life. The story here is truly inspiring, courageous yet heartbreaking story and it begs the question how many more people out there are like Pino Lella? WW2 heroes with untold stories, that possibly will remain untold.

Pictured: Mark Sullivan and Pino Lella with a copy of Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Pino Lella currently lives in Lesa, Italy.

The rights to Beneath a Scarlet Sky has been acquired by Pascal Pictures and is soon to become a major motion picture with Tom Holland leading as Pino Lella. 

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Tom Holland has been cast as Pino Lella.

Celine Ward is a 3rd year Communication Management with Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on on LinkedIn: and found on twitter @celinemward

Extra Extra

Extra Extra

Have you zero experience in the film industry? Do you have free time during the week?Have you ever wanted to be on TV and do you live in Belfast? If you answered yes to all of those then you would be perfect for a role on Game of Thrones, The Fall and The Line of Duty.

If you haven’t guessed already the role would be as an extra! What is an extra? It’s a non-speaking role in the background of a movie or television series and the purpose of an extra is to make specific scenes as real as possible. If you watch any of the shows you’ll understand why they would need extras but I might as well explain why to boost my word count.

‘Game of Thrones’ require a huge amount of extras because the show has massive battle scenes and so extras are essential, you could be anything from a Lannister soldier to a White Walker, if you watch ‘Game of Thrones’ you’ll get those references and if you don’t then you won’t find this blog very interesting, if you even did in the first place.’The Fall’ and ‘The Line of Duty’ are more simple, you would more than likely be playing a member of the general public as these shows are as close to reality as television could get.

The company that handle all of the extras in Northern Ireland is called ‘The Extras Department’. Here is a link to their website – The Extras Department

To sign up all you have to do is fill in some basic personal information along with your body measurements, it takes around 5 minutes to do and you can make up to £100 for a day of filming! You can even set your account up for late notice work , which means you will get a text the day before or even the day of shooting to work. Which if you’re like me and can’t commit to long term filming it’s the perfect set up.



The photos you see above this are screen-shots I took of the scene I was in from Game of Thrones season 6 episode 9 and I played a Lannister soldier (sorry, I didn’t get to choose my role). Now I know what you’re thinking, there is absolutely no way to prove that is me. Well it is me so back off, prove it isn’t me? That’s what I thought.

Anyway, this was filmed in October of 2016 and it was the last bit of extra work I’ve done! With my part-time job, university and placement right around the corner I soon lost any free time I had. The only reason I took the role was because it was a last minute text I got the day before and I was free.

The day involved me getting up at 3:30am and driving to a meet-up point where buses would then take us to the film set. We arrived to the set somewhere in Dromore at around 5am, then myself and about 100 other people were taken to get fitted for costumes for our specific roles. After that we were all welcome to breakfast and were left to wait for a producer to call us for filming. It was a constant back and forth all day of being called to film and going back to the waiting tent, but we did get fed all day and it wasn’t too hard to get a nap in between shoots! As a Lannister Soldier I was in plastic armour all day and most of the filming took place in a field that was made to look like a temporary base as the Lannister’s made there way north in the show. Filming went on for 12 hours that day (after 10 hours its time and a half) and I only got back to Belfast at around 8pm.

As a one off experience it was brilliant for a number of reasons; I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, I made £120 that day, I was at one point right beside Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) & Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and ultimately ended up on the show in the most minuscule way possible (still counts).

The one thing I would suggest is to sign up with a friend! My day would have been a lot better if I had a friend to chat with and share the experience with, instead of having to make small talk with strangers to pass the time! I would recommend to any of you reading this to give being an extra a chance, especially if you like Game of Thrones and earning decent money to mostly sit around all day.

Aaron is a final year student studying Public Relations and can be contacted on Twitter @aaronoreilly and – LinkedIn

Once upon a placement…

In June 2016 I began my placement in The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London as Regional Communications intern for Disney Channels.


Writing this now it is hard to believe that it has been four months since I have finished my year-long (AMAZING) placement with Disney and as this is my first ever blog post I thought that an insight into the best year and experience of my life would be a great place to start.

This was my first job in PR and in the beginning I had zero confidence and like most people beginning their placement journey I did doubt my ability and was hyper conscious of doing a good job and completing every task to the very best of my ability. I also had the added worry of moving to London, a city where I didn’t have a network of family or friends. Daunted about the prospect of tubes and the size of London when I first arrived I can honestly say it is an amazing city and living in London has made me more independent person. It is a city I am very glad to have called home for a year.

Looking back I am very proud of myself for taking the plunge as it was the best decision I have ever made.

My role was Regional Communication Intern for Disney Channels and I was across franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.


The Regional Communications team supports campaigns in Europe, Middle East and Africa. On a day-to-day basis I liaised with PR managers across EMEA – this involved ad hoc requests, distributing assets, setting up phone opportunities with talent, playing a key role in organising asset creation days and talent tours and EMEA coverage reporting.

I was extremely lucky to have such a wonderful team who encouraged me and gave me roles of responsibility throughout my time as an intern. In addition the strong network of interns enhanced the experience even more.


As the only Irish girl in my department there was a slight language barrier in the beginning and the spelling of my name confused 99.9% of the people I worked with, experiencing more variations on the pronunciation of my name than I can even remember! But my Irish brogue and slang did provide many entertaining moments and laughs I still look back on – explaining an appropriate response to “what’s the craic” being a highlight!

The PR department in Disney is very busy but it is best just to dive right in and learn as much as possible by absorbing all the information you hear and by taking advantage of every experience there is too offer.

My top five placement tips from my time with Disney:disney5

  • Communication

Obvious to start with I know, but good and continuous communication with your managers and supervisors is key to ensure that you complete every task to the best of your ability and to manage your work load.

It is also vital, especially in PR to make contacts and the best way to start that is through effective communication, taking note of who you are communicating with and what you want to achieve.

Throughout this experience I have relied strongly on the ability to communicate effectively whether it be through good interpersonal skills or clarity, focus and accuracy in my writing skills which are the foundations of effective communication in PR.

  • Organisation is key

Without sounding too like Monica in Friends, organisation is Vital. I had my trusty diary and my daily to do list by my side at all times to ensure that I kept up with deadlines and important dates and embargoes. By keeping a diary of key dates and events this ensures that you have a more informed view of what’s happening around you. A placement student that is highly organised with key information on hand stands out.

  • Participate

No idea is ever too small or too silly, as Walt Disney once said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.”disney3

In the beginning I was hesitant to put forward ideas especially in a group context but as the year progressed I began to understand that no idea is a silly idea and that your managers are eager to hear what we as placement students think. Don’t forget we are the social media generation: we are a useful tool to PR practitioners.

  • It is ok to make mistakes

The age old mantra “you learn from your mistakes”. I found this to be very true. Everyone makes mistakes as long as your correct your mistake and learn from it, as one wise person in Disney once said to me, “its PR not ER”.

  • Lots of tea and treats

My wonderful managers had a slight addiction to tea and throughout my year on placement I found that a cup of tea and a biscuit goes a long way especially on a busy day!

New experiences can be daunting and at times quite beastly but just remember, the beauty is that you get out what you put in.



Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95

Stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the placement year plunge

I spent a few days looking for inspiration and thinking of topics for my first ever blog post. I scrolled through Twitter and looked at articles in the news to find something interesting and current to write about, and something that people would want to read. But my mind kept floating back to my placement year. I figured it would be fitting for my first piece of writing as a final year PR student to provide a little bit of background information about me, the year that brought me here and provide some context to thoughts I’ll share in future posts. And as for addressing a specific audience… 2nd year PR students this one’s for you.


I arrived back in Belfast this summer after completing a year’s placement with the UK Publicity team at Warner Bros. Entertainment UK in London. My mum said to me recently that I “left Belfast a student and came back an adult”. After finishing my first two weeks of 4th year with drive and a determination to work hard and ‘hit the ground running’ I feel like she could be right (after all, mums always are).

I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t get the flight to London for my interview that day dreaming of getting the job. I’m a home bird and even moving to Dublin, nevermind London wasn’t really what I had in mind for the year. In fact, it scared the life out of me. I applied for the Warner Bros placement ‘for the experience’ and as practice for the many applications I planned to fill out for the Belfast placements that were due to be advertised in the following weeks. But nevertheless I found myself boarding the first of my many BFS-LDN flights for the assessment day and consequently saying “Yes please” when my soon-to-be boss called to offer me the position.

Moving away from Belfast was a huge deal for me and having never thought I’d even get the job, the prospect of packing up my life and moving to London was incredibly daunting. But I am a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’. I surprised myself and never looked back!

I am very lucky to have been given the amazing opportunities and experiences I had during my time at Warner Bros. I worked on the publicity campaigns for some of 2016 and 2017s’ biggest films, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemWonder Woman and Dunkirk, and learned from the most amazing people in the industry. I worked at premieres and events that many PR students would dream of being part of. It was a rollercoaster and probably the best year of my life (so far)! I never dreamed I’d be a part of such an amazing team or work on the incredible projects I did. But it is true what they say, you only get out of something what you put in and I worked harder than I have ever worked before.

The good times and captured highlights didn’t come without time, energy, late nights, early starts and a new reliance on caffeine (shout out to Café Nero at Holborn station). Photos on a red carpet were only the end product of what was usually weeks of hard work. But nothing worth having comes easy! I learnt more in those 13 months at Warner than I have in all my years of education combined. Hard work, commitment, resilience and initiative are things they can’t teach you at uni.

As for London life, I loved every bit of it (apart from the central line…avoid at all costs)! As one of Belfast’s biggest fans, it turns out that the best thing I ever did was to spend a year away from it. I embraced every opportunity London threw at me and made the most of everyday in what I believe to be one of the best places in the world!

I couldn’t imagine now not having done my placement at Warner, being the Publicity intern or moving to London. It was the scariest thing I have ever done but among the many things I learned along my placement year journey, is the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself and just going for it. You might think something is not for you, but you’ll never know until you try and you may just surprise yourself!


Paula McKay is a 4th year PR student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at, and on Twitter @paulamck55