An interview with artists extraordinaire, Julian Curi and Rocco Ambrosio, co-directors.
What’s your story, gents? How did you get into theater and film production?
Performance and storytelling have been the DNA of my life as long as I can remember. It’s the framework in which I understand the world, and communicate within it. Outside of storytelling, I’m very confused, insecure and aimless. But when I have the chance to translate life into story with character arcs, good plot, redemption, adventure, or love, life suddenly makes more sense to me.
This can be through acting in a play or film (taking on the perspective of someone who isn’t me), or writing and directing (constructing a world in which the characters can make sense of what an audience might not).
From a young age I was performing for my parents and family. I always knew I wanted to be a director.
I have a very specific memory of one of my Aunts during Christmas asking me what I wanted to be when grew up. I said, “a director,” which seemed perfectly clear to me, but she didn’t understand. Her response was, “what type of director…like a museum director?” To me there was only one type of director…a film director. And that was that.
It wasn’t until college when I understood, or figured out, the “why.” I read John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” and realized that all artists have a responsibility to society and humanity. Art impacts culture in such a powerful way, that we all have a responsibility to use our artistic gifts for the improvement of society.
Tell me about your current project.
Shock Value is a feature film currently crowd-funding on Kickstarter. It tells the story of Bonnie Mason, an actress new to Los Angeles, desperate to matter. While wrestling with her purpose, she is employed by a company that helps its clients find purpose by taking them dangerously close to the moment of death. It’s a quarter-life crisis tale about life, its purpose, and who to hire to find yours.
You had mentioned that you originally wrote the main character as being a male. Tell me how you came to rewrite the part for a female character.
While casting for the lead role, we struggled to find a male we liked on every level. Several guys gave great reads, but had separate strengths. At the same time we were having some women read for a different role. After one of these women read, we asked her to read for this other character, telling her to ignore the fact that it was written for a male.
Something about her personality was so dynamic and fresh, it gave new life to the story. She got the character on multiple levels. Suddenly, we had a strong female lead who didn’t have to fall in love with her male counterpart, could demonstrate power, nuance, and intelligence without picking up a gun or beating guys up, and could play out the complexities all persons share.
What does a normal day look like for you? What is your creative process?
I spend most of my day studying the work of people more skilled than myself, becoming jealous of them, pouting, then doing something about it with the little time I have left.
For me, at this stage in life and career a “normal day” does not exist. Part of me wishes I had the luxury to have a set schedule in order to be creative. But as it is now I carve out time between side job and other responsibilities to create. I make sure I find the time…but it’s usually not a consistent schedule. Though I will say that I’m always more productive late at night. I’m get my second (or 3rd or 5th) wind around 11pm and sometimes that can carry me until 2 or 3am, especially if I am working on something. Which is great…unless I have an early morning at work the next day…
What do you believe that theater and film can uniquely add to the life of a person?
Dramatic storytelling can give an audience the perspective of a life fully lived, consequences, victories, follies and all. It’s hard getting the “big picture” in everyday life. Frequently, the moment governs our mood rather than the promise and perspective of the rest of our life. A good story is like a useful map. It can warn about danger, draw paths and their destinations, and show the places other people have been that you may or may not go someday. That can be more effective than most life-aids on sale today.
Theatre and film engages the audience in a different way than any other art form. Both have the potential to hold up a mirror to the audience and get them to examine themselves. I feel that these two art forms can help people deal with the chaos of life, offer them consolation, and let them see their own lives from a different perspective.
Who are your influences?
Charlie Chaplin. Shakespeare. Alain de Botton (a living Philosopher dedicated to integrating the pursuit of wisdom into practical, everyday living). Victor Frankl (a holocaust survivor who’s psychology and philosophy are rooted in the pursuit of meaning). And my cat Maximillian (who offers levity and silliness when I am all but devoid of it).
People who influence me most are those who take the time to mentor based on their own experience. These are people who have invested in me. First and foremost my parents. Then a range of teachers and professors…from grade school to college. These people didn’t necessarily influence me artistically as much as influenced me to be a well rounded and hard working individual, which had certainly shaped me as an artist. Another major influence was a boss I had when I was working during high school and college – Ryan Shepherd taught me a lot about leadership.
Where do you get inspiration? Do you ever hit a creative “block”?
I carry a notebook with me in which I write anything that comes to my mind that could someday be useful. It’s a mess. There are ideas for half a dozen stories mixed around in there. Bits of dialogue, a plot point, a doodle, a song…anything that will help color a world I eventually devote time to later on. It’s my ammunition against writers block. By the time I get to a blank screen, 90% of the work’s been done, so writer’s block doesn’t stand a chance. I like it that way. Because a keyboard is more forgiving of bad writing. A pen and pad is not. The act of drawing every up and down of letters in a word and sentence is the most brutally honest editor. It takes time. And ink. And space in your book.
For me, the computer is for commas, spelling, format, and cutting. And more cutting. But the pen should do the heavy lifting.
One of things I draw from are the relationships that mean the most to me. I have a very strong relationship with my brother, and as a result the brotherhood theme in art touches me deeply and has the most impact on me. These themes also creep into my own creative work. I mean, it’s not limited to brotherhood, but the more impact a relationship has on my personally the more likely it is to come out in my work.
But yes…creative blocks happen (sometimes it seems too often) and usually that means it’s time to push through. If I let myself stop working every time I came to a block I don’t know if I would get anything done. I need to lock myself in problem solve mode and come up with solutions. After I have some solutions I’ll work a little longer then let things sit for a bit before coming back to it to rework.
Top 5 favorite films?
A Single Man, Magnolia, The Fountain, Bright Star, The Prestige.
“Return of the Jedi,” “Indian Jones and the Last Crusade,” “The Godfather,” “Fight Club,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
What other art forms do you admire?
Anything visual. I think in pictures. Even writing is a means to an end for me to draw a picture. And music, because I can’t play any instruments, so it still has a very pure effect on me.
I really admire (and envy) musicians because I’m so musically challenged. But music has such a phenomenal emotional impact on people.
After a productive day, what is your go-to food?
Authentic Mexican from down the street, with a nice cold beer (the beer depending on the day-job’s income that week).
A good craft beer…which one exactly depends on the mood and the weather…
These artists have until November 2nd to raise enough money to make this film a reality! To check out and support their film, Shock Value, visit http://kck.st/1mYdhrl.
Joseph is a featured Humane Pursuits columnist. He works as a marketer in West Chester, PA, and writes music, articles, and the occasional short story.