My acting career began in the first grade with the play The Seven Silly Simons. Having watched my father and older sister perform numerous times, I was thrilled to have my first speaking role. It was a highly acclaimed production, I assure you, and it sparked my never-ending desire to entertain.
Throughout high school and college, where I minored in music, I played everything from the Ingénue to the sidekick to a Skid Row street urchin and 17th Century storyteller. After college I continued singing in choirs, storytelling in Salem, MA for Halloween, and spent a year in Florida performing in shows as my favorite Disney characters at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort. Well, all the characters that were five feet tall that is. Yes, yes…I was a number of dwarfs.
Upon returning home to Massachusetts, I took to the stage again in local community theatre productions and large chorales, and finally landed a coveted spot in the Worcester Foothills Children’s Theatre Troupe. I spent the next several years bringing to life some of the most beloved fairy tale characters, as well as a few originals from local playwrights. It’s where I got my first taste of playing the bad guy. How terrible is it that I loved scaring the kids?
As my own children grew, finding time for the stage became more and more difficult. I was beginning to think I would need to give it up completely. Then, one day after a meet and greet at Foothills, a little girl came up to me and exclaimed, “I’m your biggest fan!” Her mother told me she came to every one of my shows and was a budding actress and singer herself. After that, I knew, there was no way I was giving this up. Not completely. I began looking for ways to continue performing that would have less impact on my family. I found it in film.
I began auditioning for History Channel documentaries, commercials and corporate videos, finding quite the little niche in the “Business Woman” and “Soccer Mom” arenas. It was a perfect fit schedule wise. I auditioned for student and independent films to continue to hone the skills I learned in college and beyond: Films where I could stretch my physical and emotional limits. Like VISIONARY where I …oh…wait I can’t tell you. It hasn’t been released yet, and I’ve been told I can’t divulge details. Watch for it this fall!
Throughout all this time, I was also pouring myself into a singing career…and tight gowns…performing across New England as a Cabaret/Lounge singer. In 2013 I was nominated for “Sexiest Musician” for the Pulse Magazine Music Awards and dubbed the “Siren of Song” at Nick’s Cabaret. “Acting” the song as myself on stage, not a character someone else created, has been incredibly challenging and rewarding. My debut CD, Here to Stay, will be released later this summer and includes an eclectic array of music from musical theatre, jazz, folk and opera.
Singing, and the training that goes along with it, provided the tools I needed to delve into the world of voiceovers. I have become the stock female voice for a company that produces short corporate videos and my voice was heard across the country in a campaign for the Lysol No Touch Hand Soap system as well as for the New Balance Psyche Sports Bras.
Corporate narrations are my forte but I would love to one day be the voice you hear on an animated series or video game and I know ongoing training and perseverance is key.
Here in Boston, we are lucky enough to have a number of outstanding workshops and classes to help us actors develop our skills, and now that my kids are older…er…still very young as I am only 28…I am enjoying studying with the most passionate people I have ever met; teachers and students alike. Cheers, to the future of film in New England. It’s a very exciting time to be working here.
Jennifer Antkowiak can be reached at [email protected]. Visit jenantkowiak.com to learn more.
In 1997, I moved from my hometown of Toronto, Canada, to Boston to begin a Ph.D. at MIT. If someone had told me at that point in time that I would eventually become an actor, I would have laughed—that is, if I looked up from my textbooks long enough to respond.
I spent the next seven years of my life working on my doctoral thesis. With a commitment of such magnitude, it’s no wonder that halfway through my graduate student career, my mind began to wander. I started dabbling in various sports and artistic pursuits—tennis, basketball, flag football, photography, and sailing—but I eventually settled on acting.
It all started rather innocently with a couple of musicals at MIT, and then I branched out to student films and independent films. I pretty much tried to do whatever I could get my hands on, which was important at that stage to build my confidence, my experience, and my resume. I also started getting onto the radars of the local casting directors and would get called in regularly to audition.
My first breakthrough was getting cast in Disney’s UNDERDOG. That was soon followed by a role in the CW pilot “I’m Paige Wilson”.
At this point, I realized that I needed to take my budding acting career to the next level—but how? I was well aware that I wasn’t young (by Hollywood standards), nor was I beautiful (again, by Hollywood standards). I concluded that if I ever wanted an agent or a manager, I’d have to impress them with acting credits and training.
In 2007, I enrolled in the east coast branch of Carter Thor Studio, an LA-based studio founded by Cameron Thor and Alice Carter following their work with legendary coach Roy London. Unlike most (if not all) acting classes in the Boston area, this was an ongoing scene study class where the acting coach guided me based on who I am, where I was as an actor, and where I needed to go. For the next six years, I was in that class every week and also rehearsing outside of class several times a week with my scene partners. In that period of time, I literally worked on and performed hundreds of scenes.
In 2008, after being cast in GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST and Showtime’s Brotherhood, I felt I had sufficient credits and at least some training under my belt to branch out to New York. Unsolicited, I sent my headshot, resume, and demo reel to some carefully chosen managers and agents in New York.
I signed an exclusive agreement with the manager I felt demanded excellence, had great advice, could connect me with others in the industry, and (most importantly!) respected me. I also signed an exclusive agreement with an agent who was very enthusiastic about me, which opened the door to incredible audition opportunities, including ones for series regular roles.
Since then, I have had the privilege of working in both New England and New York, being cast by such directors as Spike Lee and Greg Mottola to act opposite Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Justin Long, Larry David, Cybill Shepherd and Mariska Hargitay. I’ve even worked on some of my favorite shows, such as 30 Rock and Law & Order SVU (twice!).
In 2011, I felt that I needed to work on my comedic chops, so I started working with Shari Shaw, an acting coach in LA who is brilliant at teaching comedy. Once I began to understand comedy, I became much more confident in comedic roles. I also became a better actor in general, because comedy demands the utmost honesty and truth from actors, which is also true for drama. As an actor, I am constantly learning and evolving.
But these days, being an actor isn’t enough. Technology has made it so easy for actors to become filmmakers, that there’s no excuse for actors to sit around waiting to be cast. In 2008, I wrote, directed, produced, and starred in my first film as a filmmaker, FATE SCORES, an experimental silent film which was recognized by the National Film Board of Canada. Casting was simple—I cast eight other actors from my ongoing scene study class. That is the beauty of being in an ongoing acting class: you meet like-minded artists who have made a similar commitment to excellence and hard work. I again starred in my follow-up film, THE COMMITMENT, which has screened at over 25 film festivals on four continents and won multiple awards, most notably edging out Oscar-nominated MOONRISE KINGDOM to win a 2013 NASW Media Award. I am now just completing my third film, DESCENDANTS OF THE PAST, ANCESTORS OF THE FUTURE, which stars myself and Golden Globe, Emmy, and Drama Desk nominee Tina Chen.
In 2013, the latest chapter of my career began. I founded Aspiral Acting Studio and began offering an ongoing acting class of my own. Every Sunday night, my students get together in Davis Square in Somerville to play, learn, and grow as actors through scene study and on-camera audition technique. In working with my students, I continue to learn and grow myself and have a blast doing it. So far, my career has taken me places I never would have anticipated. I eagerly look forward to seeing what other surprises my career holds in store for me!
We each became world-aware at a certain moment in pop-culture history when the prevailing tide of the times left it’s indelible mark on those of us who were curious enough and at liberty enough to have been watching. I lived in Northern MA in the mid/late 1970s, and, like so many of my peers, I basked when I could in the revelatory glow of the boob tube. Doing so was as much or more a part of our unfolding cultural initiation as was attending school, an area little league game or even accompanying Dad to the local packie store on Sundays (after 12pm, of course). We listened to WRKO in the mornings, heard the zany yet infectiously shrill vocal stylings of Dale Dorman over our precious Boston airwaves, saw how cool it was to get picked to appear on Community Auditions wtih Dave Maynard, religiously watched the Saturday afternoon “Creature Feature” on UHF channel 56 out of Boston, watched WGBH channel 2 and learned the “0-2- 1-3-4’ – send it to Zoom!” jingle by heart, we dug how indescribably cool Morgan Freeman was as the “Easy Reader” on “The Electric Company”, and had faith that WBZ was the center of the broadcast world – it had to be, right? The point? We 70s initiates saw, learned, and got hip to the notion that to be of consequence in a world keen on mass broadcasting meant that one had to have a special edge. That ‘thing’, that ‘spark’. That quality which made your friends and neighbors and their friends and neighbors want to tune-in and watch whatever it was that you decided to do next. This was the perceptural landscape, the cultural incubator within which Eric got to know his world, and concluded what kind of mark upon that world he wanted -and needed- to leave.
Grrrr. The motorists driving along Argilla Road in Andover, MA, (1976) don’t slow down sufficiently upon seeing the 11 year old boy by the side of the road when they go by emerging from behind streetside rocks, wearing his newest latex werewolf mask, hands raised in mock menace, in hopes of getting a rise out of the captive audience that he thought, by rights, they ought to be while they’re putting-by at 25mph in this provincial part of town. After all, surely they had time to observe how cool and scary he looked, right? After all, they owe it to him, the performer, to register a nice, juicy reaction. Some do oblige. Those reactions are a kind of nectar, a sustenence to the boy. Entertaining was something he did well… And it was something noone could take away. That same boy’s view of excitement, of virtue and his base definition of what really makes a guy something special remains rooted in a belief that flights of imagination are the inevitable route to greatness – they’re the basis of real meaning. They have to be. With it, endless possibilities can be excavated and explored if only you can arrest the intrigue and attention of others. From then ‘till now, not much has really changed for this boy. Truly.
As H.S and college unfolds (1978-’85), the “performing bug” remains a central motivation for Eric the born performer. Punk music and the mayhem that often goes with it becomes the medium within which the boy moves. Distinguishing himself as the bassist/vocalist for a bleeding-edge pop outfit at college in 1980 (NH seacoast), the young “rebel within a clue” lands a claim to fame when his group wins a battle of the bands and enjoys the spoils of their victory by being given a berth as the opening act for the next headline act that comes to campus. As it happens, it turns out to be the holy grail of punk – The Ramones. Bragging rights notwithstanding, the boy discovers the power of a rapt and syncophantic audience @ that gig – and never looks back.
A bit later, when the twisted ride that the rock ‘n roll caravan became subsides, the boy discovers the expressive oasis that is Community Theater. With it’s own strange and exciting challenges, it becomes a new sandbox in which to create and explore. It’s a place that gives a creative soul air to breathe, and a ready canvas upon which to paint (metaphor notwithstanding). With the right collaborative partners, local/regional theater can be a frugal and fruitful chance to grow as an actor and performer. So the boy did just that – for 15- ish years.
He worked hard, made good theater, worked with many Directors; some strong, some skilled, some inspired, some ridiculous, and some pathetically lame.. He learned from each and from all. Occasionally the boy developed a “performer’s tick” or two; an unhelpful or tedious thespianic onstage habit which generally needs to be quashed. He eventually got good at recognizing those inclinations, and making adjustments himself. He learned how to perform Shakespeare al fresco and did so with conviction for years. He became adept with musical theater, and learned to sing from the soul and from the diaphragm. He developed into a leading man, and became a skillfully versatile character actor as well. The man-boy found that he had learned to create spiritually and emotionally relevant moments for a big room full of eager audience members at will. He found that he couldn’t stop, even if he tried. This was a place of belonging. He realised that he had found his center. His calling.
Ten years ago, the opportunities of the bright lights and big city have called and the boy has answered. many plays and many films later, twenty five solid years of involvement in theater at the regional and semi-professional level have given way to a prolific pursuit of media production and the elusively tender craft of acting and directing for the camera. Cameras capture performances for big screens and little screens alike these days, and Eric has done ‘em all. Once upon a time, back when mullet haircuts were new, had the boy taken a more traditional and institutional route in his pursuit of this craft, perhaps he wouldn’t be finally writing this retrospective after an entire half century of life on earth. But he is writing it in 2014. For whatever reason, he bucked tradition. Guess he had to. Think of it this way: some fighters are expertly trained to do well in the ring. Specifically. That’s not our boy’s story (he loves stories). He is, comparatively, a streetfighter. He learned the long, slow and hard way how to be an asset in any theatrical production at any level, and he has painstakingly trained himself to be a valuable part of a media production project in front of or behind the camera. Thirty plus years in the making, he is an actor. God knows he ain’t gonna stop…
Union, non-union, big budget, lo-budget, nobudget, paid, unpaid, webisode, TV, VOD, straight to video or huge blockbuster.
Discovered for fame or doomed to obscurity – some folks care about such things. Alot. Good for them.
Why the history lesson?
Why have I not shared the ‘professional anecdotes’, or the ‘legitimate’ highlights, milestones and victories? (and there are some)
Why not list the titles in which I’ve appeared, provided links to videos, awards, film festival appearances, etc.? (there have been many)
Why not share my highest aspirations and goals in this precocious profession, this this multidimensional craft?
Simple – I already have.
That 11 year boy wearing the werewolf mask by the side of the road got to see himself up on the silver screen one day in Boston. And he fell desperately in love with the fact that his dream really could come true; that he could actually tell a real story.
A really really good story. He knew he had finally done what he was here to do.
That’s all the ‘professional accolades’ that matter – all he needs.
Now he just wants to go out there and keep doing it better.
The rest is gravy.
“There are those who want to act. There are those who “act out” while in the pursuit of decent acting. There are those who do in fact manage to act… and then there are those who, whether or not they are expected to act, simply ‘are’.
From the tranquil beaches of Cape Cod, comes fiery newcomer and gifted actor, Cailey Calisi. Although she hails as a native Cape Codder, Cailey has spent the past year acclimating to the Boston area and as a member of the Hollywood East Actor’s Group, she’s been privileged to meet and work with many of the great local talent that the area employs.
Cailey discovered her love of acting through theatre while on Cape Cod. Her first role as Ophelia/Laurie in Magic Time at Cape Cod Community College was like baptism by fire. It was her first opportunity to work in an ensemble cast of experienced actors that had great chemistry. “It was such a wonderful initiation and camaraderie that I continually seek that level of acting cohesion in each part I take.” The play received favorable reviews and Cailey’s performance was described as “the shining light of the show”. Following this, she quickly received roles in productions with the Wellfleet Actors Theatre as well as Cotuit Center for the Arts.
Her most challenging role was that of Desdemona in a same sex relationship casting of Othello. Taking the role a mere two weeks before opening, her performance won her rave reviews in the local theatre community and further fueled her acting desire.
Cailey describes her acting philosophy stemming from a deep spiritual belief best articulated by Leo Buscaglia “your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
She goes on to say, “I feel everything so intensely. It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply.” She draws strength for each role after having experienced her own bout of serious depression in adolescence. “My mother and I moved somewhere new every few years and I was always the new kid. My father didn’t have anything to do with me either, so that, combined with having experienced bullying while in high school, contributed to me feeling isolated and depressed“.
She attributes her acting as a form of therapy. “It gave me a passion for life after years of being depressed and alone. I used to constantly worry, but now I hold the belief, ‘why blend in, when you can stand out. My passion for acting shines from the inside out, and when I’m in that zone, I radiate!” Her ultimate goal is to be a pioneering feature film actress.
She wants to use her acting to spread the message, especially to underprivileged youth, that you can do and be anything you want. It takes courage, hard work, perseverance and faith but ultimately, you become what you believe and envision yourself to be.
One tremendous influence on Cailey was meeting Academy Award nominated actress Jessica Chastain. Cailey had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Chastain and briefly told her what her dreams and goals were, and how inspired she was by Jessica herself. Ms. Chastain told her she hoped to work together one day and that she was looking forward to seeing her on the silver screen. On departing, she told Cailey to never give up and looked forward to the day they could work together.
Cailey also had the wonderful opportunity to flex her acting muscles when she played a possessed woman in a book trailer directed by Rhode Island cinematographer, Rajah Samaroo and author, Tara Mantel. Working with independent filmmaker Norman Lang on his production of REVELATION was a recent triumph of Cailey’s . In REVELATION, she plays an eager reporter searching the scientific reasons for the meaning of life after death.
One of her proudest achievements was being cast in Seth Chitwood’s web series, In the Bedroom. In the Bedroom was a huge collaborative effort from a talented team of filmmakers from all over New England. In her episode, Cailey portrays a woman who may or may not, be a figment of imagination in another character’s mind.
Ultimately, Cailey will continue to hone her craft here in Boston and acknowledges she has a long way to go, especially since she plans to eventually relocate to LA. She states “What matters most is looking back and being proud of what you overcame and accomplished to get where you want to be.” She states, “wait and see, when I’m on the Oscar podium, it’s you I’ll be talking to…. all of Boston and New England….this is no dress rehearsal.”
The Roxbury International Film Festival (RIFF) – New England’s largest film festival celebrating people of color – begins its 16th year on Wednesday, June 25th with the Boston premiere of THE LIFE & CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE at the Museum of Fine Arts at 7:30 p.m. and runs over the course of four days through Sunday, June 29th.
This year marks the first time that the festival will screen entirely at the Museum of Fine Arts. “The MFA has been a great supporter of the festival and it provides an incredible opportunity for filmmakers to screen their work at a world class cultural institution” said Lisa Simmons, festival director.
THE LIFE & CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE is based on the real-life story of one of the world’s most notorious jewel thieves who managed to jet-set her way into any Cartier or Tiffany’s from Monte Carlo to Japan, and walk out with small fortunes. Directors Kirk Marcolin and Matthew Pond set out to uncover and tell the story of the now 83 year-old (and imprisoned) Doris Payne, and the nearly $2 million in jewels she’s stolen over a 60-year career.
Produced by The Color of Film Collaborative, RIFF will screen approximately thirty films, shorts and documentaries hailing from China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States. Of the festival’s 16th year, Simmons says that “we are proud to have been one of the few local film festivals that have been on the front lines of supporting homegrown and burgeoning filmmakers of color from around New England, while at the same time striving to showcase some of the undiscovered independent films and filmmakers from around the world.”
The Roxbury International Film Festival (RIFF) is produced by The Color of Film Collaborative, a non-profit organization that works to support media makers of color and others who have an interest in creating and developing new and diverse images of people of color in film, video and performing arts. The festival collaborates with many arts institutions and organizations whose mission it is to promote and support independent artists and contribute to the creative economy of the Commonwealth.
When you’re not watching a film at this year’s Nantucket Film Festival, you’ll need to eat and you should make some time to explore the island. Here are some suggestions for both.
Nantucket is a gastronomic paradise, but it seems to get better with each restaurant that pops up. Nautilus is a new tapas bar and restaurant serving Asian Fusion under Executive Chef Liam Mackey, formerly chef at The Pearl. Located downtown at 7 South Water Street, dishes include Oyster Tacos, Hawaiian Poke, Shortrib Tartar, and several noodle plates. It’s a lively scene throughout the evening with maybe a dozen tables, a dozen bar seats, and half a dozen high stools to watch the kitchen prepare your food, or turn around and watch everyone in the room – my favorite seat.
The Proprietors on India Street comes from the owners of American Seasons restaurant on Nantucket, in partnership with well known Boston chef Tom Berry. Located at 9 India Street and open for lunch and dinner, The Proprietors offers mostly half share plates – some of the best include Apalachicola Shrimp, Shaved “Pork-Umms” (a slider), Tuna Sunomono (cucumber salad), lobster roll, as well as some full-size entrées like Grass Fed Heart of Ribeye. There’s a lively and fluid bar scene all night long, always with interesting people.
B-ACK Yard BBQ wasn’t open when we went to press but will be ready for the NFF. They’re located at the bottom of Main Street, just across from the Stop and Shop, serving authentic barbecue with a Nantucket twist from former Brant Point Grill Executive Chef Fred Bisaillon. The menu will include BBQ styles from around the country, Kentucky bourbons, Tennessee whiskeys and craft beer – oh, and TV screens for sports enthusiasts. All food is available for take-out.
For a quieter spot with European ambiance, try Meursault, a wine and cheese and charcuterie cafe located at 18 Broad Street. From an article by Candy Bearman in Mahon About Town: “Meursault is meant to be an experience, quiet and intimate and designed for asking all those questions that float best on a whisper. Sunk beneath the bricks of Nantucket and emanating a warmth only the Earth herself can provide, it is beautiful and glowing. Small tea lights flicker in walled recesses and warm wooden alcoves invite handholding and sun kissed knees sliding together in cocoa butter trysts.” Get the picture?
Old Favorites Cisco Brewers is still considered an essential part of any trip to Nantucket, a flashback to the 70s: open air, dressed up and dressed down people who all know each other or feel that they do, with a smattering of local dogs and children and locally made beer, wine and spirits. Located on Bartlett Farm Road several miles out of town, there’s a shuttle in front of Visitor Services in town at 16 Broad Street with frequent pick-ups.
Some say you can’t leave the island without going to the Chicken Box nightclub on Dave Street, a five minute ride from town. When you imagine what Nantucket nightspots looked like back in the 70s, “The Box” comes close to what you’re thinking. The bands are usually great rock from Boston – last year during the film fest, it was Spookie Daly Pride, an island favorite you shouldn’t miss if they play again this year.
For a quick cup of coffee, try The Bean at 29 Centre Street, serving coffee from beans roasted here on the island, or The Hub at the corner of Main and Federal, with newspapers, bagels, or a smoothie.
Take some time away from the festival and walk in any direction out of town and you’ll find tended homes, gardens and window boxes, and the largest number of historically preserved 18th and 19th century homes in America. Take a tour (vans park at the bottom of Main Street), rent a bike (shops are centered around Steamboat Nantucket Wharf), or go on a fishing or sailing trip (docked on Straight Wharf).
Gene Mahon, Nantucket resident since 1970, is a photographer, writer, and publisher of the Mahon About Town Nantucket e-newsletter covering the arts and social life of the island. For photos from previous film festivals, go to MahonAboutTown. com where you can also subscribe to the free Nantucket e-newsletter.
The Second Annual Stowe Story Labs will be held in Stowe, Vermont at the Helen Day Arts Center on September 13, 14 and 15, 2014. The Labs are a three-day intensive retreat bringing emerging writers, filmmakers and creative producers together in the heart of Vermont to work with industry professionals. The Labs give participants the chance to work on their stories, learn from industry experts and build relationships in this collaborative art.
Returning as lead presenter is David Pope, a London filmmaker, educator, facilitator and mentor. David runs programs such as Story Labs throughout Europe, including facilitating the Rotterdam Film Festival’s “Producers Lab,” a premier event for emerging producers.
“I am thrilled to be building the Labs in Vermont,” said Pope. “Stowe Story Labs presents a precious space for filmmakers to firmly challenge their stories together in a supportive environment. The experience last fall was wonderful. I cannot wait for this September to roll in.”
Stowe Story Lab participants are selected through an application process, which is now open. “The fee to apply is $5,” said Rocchio, “which is designed to cover administrative costs only.”
The Labs are offering four competitive Fellowships to top candidates. The deadline to apply for a Fellowship is July 22, 2014. “We are excited to be collaborating with some outstanding organizations in offering fellowships this year,” said Rocchio.
The Fellowships are being offered in collaboration with PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, NewEnglandFilm.com and the Vermont International Film Foundation.
A Story Labs Fellowship will be offered to a quarterfinalist in the PAGE Awards this year. “The Stowe Story Labs weekend is a very special event, and this year’s Lab promises to be an extremely valuable experience for all the writers who attend,” said Jennifer Berg, Administrative Director of the PAGE contest. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this Fellowship to one of our talented Quarter- Finalists,” she said.
NewEnglandFilm.com will as well nominate a slate of applicants for a Story Labs Fellowship. According to Michele Meek, publisher and founder of NewEnglandFilm.com, “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Stowe Story Labs this year and look forward to supporting a local aspiring filmmaker through this fellowship.”
Finally, the Vermont International Film Festival is again nominating applicants for a Story Labs Fellowship. Orly Yardin, Executive Director of VTIFF said, “This is another wonderful opportunity for VTIFF to support Vermont filmmakers and ensure that the film community remains vibrant.”
The Labs are limited to no more than sixteen participants and if not awarded a Fellowship the fee to attend is $750. Admission to the intensive three-day program includes light breakfast and coffee each morning and receptions with light food each night. In addition to daily programming the Labs will bring participants and mentors together in informal settings for receptions, screenings and evening programming. Local businesses, inns and lodges are offering discounted rates for participants during the Labs.
Stowe Story Labs will begin reviewing applicants July 22nd. Admissions are rolling so it is wise to apply early. The Labs will announce Fellowship winners by August 12, 2014.
Stowe Story Labs is not-for-profit and is made possible in part through a grant from John M. Bissell Foundation, Inc., a Lamoille County Foundation with the mission to promote film production and exhibition in our community, and through the collaborative efforts of many people and groups, including the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation; the Helen Day Arts Center, of Stowe, Vermont; River Arts, of Morrisville, Vermont; VTIFF; NewEnglandFilm. com; the Stowe Reporter; the Bellwether Project; and Inns and Lodges throughout Stowe, including Auberge de Stowe, Ten Acres Lodge and Stowe Mountain Lodge.
As a youngster, I was heavily influenced by the legends of the Silver Screen, Bogart, Cagney, Robinson, Brando and DeNiro. After watching THE GODFATHER in 1977 as a teenager and awed and floored by Marlon Brando’s Oscar winning performance portraying Mafia Don Corleone, I found myself re-enacting scenes and dress rehearsing scenes from the movie. I would borrow my grandfather’s vintage tweed overcoat, his grey fedora hat, and leather driving gloves and stand in front of my mother’s bedroom bureau mirror and awkwardly recite lines and delegate family business from the movie. Never thinking that someday this could happen.
Hollywood movie-making seemed a world away. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island provided me with a stage of a mob movie. I witnessed a daily cast of characters straight out of Central Casting and daily happenings of the underworld. I witnessed the good, the bad, the ugly. To this very day on my acting resume under special skills I list street smarts as my area of expertise.
Fast forwarding to 2008 I make my leap into the world of acting, but first I face a medical crisis that forces me to re-examine my purpose in life. One day at a routine doctor’s appointment the doctor finds a large mass on the left side of my thyroid. He then proceeds to tell me all his tests point a very aggressive form of cancer. He needs to operate and not sure what my outcome may be.
Dumbfounded for days of the possibility I may have my life end, I sat evaluating, pleading and praying to give me a second chance at life and what I would do differently. Acting was one of the wants I promised myself. Luckily, following surgery, after a six agonizing week wait for results, the mass came back benign, my journey as an actor starts and I never looked back.
Later in the summer of 2008, I enroll in an Intro to Acting class at the Perishable Theater in Providence studying under Mark Peckham. Shortly after I then enroll into a beginners acting class at LDI Casting in Providence studying with casting director Anne Mullhall. I proceed to have headshots done and submit for a Showtime television series “Brotherhood” being filmed in the Ocean State. I receive my first acting casting call to work background and featured background for Season three and work in three episodes.
It was exciting to work with actors Jason Clark and Jason Isaac. After this experience I knew I was hooked. I registered myself with the Boston Casting Agency Pro Talent site, took courses with casting director Angela Peri and proceeded to take an advance course of being in front of the camera with casting director Carolyn Pickman of CP Casting for an intense six week course.
I’m on my way! Between working television pilots I get a call for ABC’s “Body of Proof” prime time drama starring Dana Delaney. It’s coming to Rhode Island. This is a medical crime drama, based in Philadelphia. I submit for a Philadelphia Police Officer. I work background and get featured background in eight episodes. Then one day I get called from Boston Casting to come in and audition for a speaking role on the show. I was excited. I went, I booked I lived it and it was a new chapter in my career. Day player! Loved hearing those words! You’re booked!
I also get booked to work on ‘Royal Pains’ on the USA Network for an episode. I then receive a call from Director Michael Corrente and Producer Chad Verdi. They’re filming the movie LOOSIE’S and need a heavy for a violent scene to beat and collect money from the star of the film Peter Facinelli, They explained the scene and what they needed, I replied I’m your man for the job! It was intense and they needed violence. So much so I almost broke the pretty boy Peter Facinelli’s nose on the second take. Another story for another day.
My career and name is starting to circulate in the business. Next up I get a notice for an open casting call for the movie THE FIGHTER starring Mark Walberg and Christian Bale. Little did I know my acting life would be changed forever.
I became Union on this film. A member of SAG – AFTRA! I also refine my career aspirations. I was cast as a Boston Policeman, while working a scene at Top Donut, in between takes I was looking for a seat to sitdown, I notice a chair open at a table where Director David O. Russell is sitting. I swing my leg over the back of the chair and say “what do you need me to do now boss?” He smiles and says, “wow your a big guy and your arms are huge.” Then he offers me a piece of fruit from his lunch and says, “what do you want to do?
I reply, “I want to act.”
He says, “you want to act in this crazy business? I told him I’m crazy and I want to act! He then calls over his assistant and questions him about a scene on Thursday and if so and so is going to make it for it. The assistant responds unsure. David then turn back to me, grabs my face, turns it left, then right. He says, “get your hair trimmed and tight, shave your goatee and go to wardrobe. I’ll see you Thursday – you are now an Actor!”
I felt like I was hit by lightning form the acting gods above. I did as he asked, not knowing what David had in store for me. I show up on set at Billerica State Prison. I’ m dressed in a prison guard uniform. We first shoot exterior prison yard scenes with Christian Bale. Then we move inside for interior scenes. I then hear my name being called and report to inside a small prison cell with a film crew.
David O. Russell, the other guy who was suppose to play the part, Christian Bale and me. My scene is I escort him into the cell and then proceed to tell him to start to strip for a search. Unreal! The scene never made it to the final cut in the movie but it did make it to the featured deleted scenes on the Blu Ray disc. Also I could be seen in the Top Donut scene playing a Lowell police officer. Playing two roles in one movie and one was with an Oscar winning actor in the movie he won his Oscar for!
Nothing is impossible at this point. My next project is I get cast to play a heavy underworld strong arm named Big V. My job is to enforce and control daily business on the streets of South Boston. This was written by Adriano Masciarelli and directed by Ben Proulx. In this film I get to kill for the first time on the screen. It was intense and took me two days to get out of character after the killing.
Next I get cast by CP Casting as a SWAT officer in the movie THE TOWN directed by Ben Affleck who also starred. This was a great thrill to work with Ben and to be directed by a great talent. This movie was a crime drama. I worked six scenes in this movie. I was featured and in one of them I work alongside Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver. I then get a call from a writer director Dana Howard. She’s writing an online web Mob series named “Fedoras.” She explains the outline and has a character that is tailored for me. Mafia Don Nino Ponticello. After review of the script I accept. This character brought me back to the days of being in full garb in my mother’s bedroom mirror giving orders to the mafia family I adopted. The series is set in the 1930’s and I’m the Mob boss of all bosses. Controlling and running the family business. Wow dreams do come true.
Next I get cast by CP Casting in the film GOD ONLY KNOWS written by Emilio Mauro , directed by James Mottern and Starring Harvey Keitel. I play a Mob Crime Boss, attending a swearing in of a new family member played by actor Ben Barnes.
I go undercover for my next film KILLING KHAN directed by JR Hepburn. I attend an open casting call in Boston. I audition for a role of a cab driver. I book the part. I was so intense that they offered me the role of Ivan a Russian spy. I’m treacherous in this role. I have a Russian accent and I am a cold hearted killer. It’s due out this Summer.
My career turns into a horror show. I receive a call from director/actor Tom DeNucci from WoodHaven Productions telling about a film their doing called SELF STORAGE starring Eric Roberts, Michael Berryman, Jonathan Silverman. He forwards me a script and the plot is my boss Jonathan Silverman buys body parts to sell on the secondary market. I would play a character named Mumbo. He’s the enforcer and heavy of the operation. This project goes VOD to 1,000,000 homes, Netflix, and DVD sales. I received great publicity and marketing on this project.
I follow this up with another WoodHaven Production named ARMY OF THE DAMNED, starring horror icon Tony Todd, and Michael Berryman, Joey Fatone and Sully Erna. I play SWAT officer Beefcakes turned Zombie. I act throughout the whole second half of the movie with Tony Todd. With this project I didn’t have a boat load of lines but I had an incredible amount of action. I die three times and each time I come back stronger and crazier than ever. This was a great challenge. Worldwide distribution with VOD, and DVD sales. It’s great seeing your work on store shelves!
I worked on AMERICAN HUSTLE directed again by David O. Russell and starring Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. I was cast as a featured FBI Security Guard. I shoot the scene with Amy Adams where I escort her down the hall to a padded cell throw her in and she runs back to try to get out. I close the door on her. When the film comes out it shows the back of me throwing her in the cell and my hand closing the door. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. Great fun to work this project with great talent.
Right after this film I was cast by Boston Casting as a featured Electric & Power worker in the film THE EQUALIZER starring Denzel Washington. It was a small scene with four of us Denzel, Chloe Grace, a counter worker and me. Great to see a legend at work. He’s a real pro.
2014 is going to be a great year. I’ve just been cast in my second lead role in the film BLUE SUEDE to be directed by JR Hepburn for Vendetta Motion Pictures. My role is Mafia Don Franco Pizzano. I’m avenging my fathers slaying by the Chinese Mob and daily trials and tribulations of them trying to take over my family’s territory in Chinatown. No War! No Peace! This film and my performance will be epic! Shooting begins in Boston late July 2014 I also was just cast a Mafia Don in a Wes Williams film DISTRICT C-11.
Stay tuned because I just finished auditioning for a movie THE WHOLE TRUTH starring Rene Zellwinger. I’ve been called back twice. I also just auditioned for CP Casting by Carolyn Pickman for a role in BLACK MASS, the Whitey Bulger story, directed by Scott Cooper starring Johnny Depp. I have a lot to bring to this film , living and knowing the chain of events and the first hand experiences are priceless to add to the realism of this film. Then I’m waiting for auditions for Chad Verdi’s passion piece BLEED FOR THIS. It’s the Vinny Paz story that is being produced by Verdi and Martin Scorsese. Vinny is my cousin. In this film I have a great advantage. I lived the whole story first hand.
The best is yet to come my friends and I want to take a moment to thank Carol Patton and Imagine Magazine for their undying efforts and energies for introducing and fighting for the film tax credit legislation and incentives. The efforts they put forward on our behalf have assisted and assured us the continuing progress of movie making being made here in Boston. I personally thank you Carol and IMAGINE Magazine for keeping me and so many others dream of acting alive here in Boston. All dreams come true, the difference is how bad you want them! Just Imagine!