Anthony Marinelli

Anthony Marinelli

Anthony Marinelli


What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
If by “professionally directed” work you mean work that I have been paid for, the answer would be never. I am always seeking opportunities to direct, so I make those opportunities for myself, whether it be a spec spot or a short film or a play, but the money usually flows out, not in. I’m hoping to change all that, and I am so grateful for this opportunity, of being a part of the New Directors Showcase, because, although I do consider myself a professional, it is having the acknowledgment of one’s peers, recognizing my work and the value that I can bring to a production, that is the greatest reward I can imagine.

How did you get into directing?
I think I’ve always been a director, from when I was a kid. At 16, I would gather all my friends to shoot a story on Super 8 film and, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was also editing in camera, because I had to. What was on the role, is what came out as the final film, including opening and closing credits. But even before that, I would create “radio plays” using two radio tape recorders, one for music (I would tune to a classical music station and find something dramatic to play along with “the actors”) and the other to record with. I was the kind of kid that would not only watch a movie or a play, but point to it and say, “I have to do that.” I was never a passive observer. I had to find a way to actually do it, and learn about every aspect of it, from working with actors to technical details. The first short films I directed were my film school and the first play I directed (which fell into my lap from a friend of a friend) set me off on a lifelong love of directing theatre. It’s the best way to learn how to work with actors. And the learning process never stops.

What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is a short film called Why I Had To Kill You While You Slept, which was accepted into the Chelsea Film Festival and premiered on October 15. The idea came to me from my niece, Lisa Riva, while we were eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant and she told me that she and her best friend, Bradley, had always wanted to write a book called “Why I Had To Kill You While You Slept” (I wish I could take credit for the title, but I can’t!) about all the terrible things their husbands do that make them want to kill them. I said, “Wait, that’s a movie. Tell me more.” So, here we are. I embellished a lot, but there are vignettes in the film that actually happened. They would tell me stories and I’d say, “Wait, I gotta put that in.”
It was a lot of fun to write and direct.

What is the best part of being a director?
The best part of being a director is building something from the ground up with a group of people who want the same thing. Whether it’s the cast or the crew or the post production team, everyone is working towards the same goal, and helping you accomplish your vision. That’s the most galvanizing thing – everyone on the same page creatively. I am always open to suggestions and am never threatened by an idea that’s better than mine. I have no room for ego, I just want the end result to be the best it can be.

What is the worst part of being a director?
The worst part of being a director is neglecting real life. When I’m directing a film, I tend to be wholly immersed in the process, from script analysis to storyboarding and planning the shots, that I tend to neglect some of the things my family might need from me. But I always promise to return, and I do. I can say that the worst part of being a director is the demands that are placed on you, but for me, that is part of the joy. It’s the challenge of having to make a decision about every detail. I don’t know why you would do it otherwise. There’s a great scene in Francois Truffaut’s film Day For Night where he’s playing a director who is besieged by questions like “what color should the car be?” I love that, it forces you to come up with answers on the spot, and you can change your mind, but it’s like creative gymnastics, it keeps you on your toes. I get obsessed with having the right colors in a scene, from wardrobe to sets to props. It’s a visceral thing for the audience, but it’s a conscious decision for the director.

What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
My current career focus is on commercials, although that has expanded over the past few years to branded content, longer form. I’ve been editing commercials for many years but I’ve also worked on documentaries like the one with Alicia Keys, Alicia in Africa, and Finding Sandler, which I also co-wrote and co-produced. I definitely have an affinity and love for comedy so, if I were to specialize, I might choose that. But I have such a deep affection for actors that I would also focus on drama, or lifestyle. I find myself very malleable, like I can mold myself to fit the project. It all comes down to the story you’re telling and how you connect with it. I do have a feature film I would love direct. It’s called Life Sucks about a 100-year-old vampire who falls in love with a guy who is about to commit suicide and gives him the one thing he was most desperately trying to avoid: eternal life. It’s sort of a gothic/romance/comedy. At least I think it’s funny (I have a warped sense of humor). The screenplay (which I wrote) won an award in the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival (Best Original Screenplay), so at least I know somebody likes it!

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I think everyone I’ve ever worked with is my mentor. I started my career at DDB Needham as an assistant in the production department, getting coffee, fielding phone calls for producers, and learning everything I could about the process of producing commercials. Every producer I worked with, every creative director (some of whom are close friends to this day), every director or editor, is always with me. Their voices in my head telling me “you can’t make that cut” or “is that really the best take?” DDB was like school. It was the best training ground I could ever imagine and am forever grateful to have had that experience. I wish everyone could have that experience. I grew up there. One of the things I learned was, time doesn’t matter. You can always get things done. I remember working on a new business pitch and thinking we were done at about 3:00 in the morning, but the creative directors walked in with a new idea, and off we went, working until they were satisfied. Tomorrow’s still gonna come, so you can complain about it, or know that you’ve filled your time creating something that might win you business (and frequently did!) Then you can take your family on vacation and make up for not being home!

Who is your favorite director and why?
My favorite director is Mike Nichols. He started out his career as part of an improv/comedy team (Nichols and May) and realized during the course of their run that he was observing their acts and, in a subtle way, directing. So he knew that’s what he had to do. That’s how I’ve always felt. I think it’s something I’ve always done and, despite an incredible career as an editor, have kept coming back to creating my own opportunities in film and theatre. I do it because I have to. Nichols also was extremely successful on both stage and screen and was considered “an actor’s director.” That’s how I see myself. I like to believe that every actor that works with me has a fulfilling experience, that they grow and maybe learn something about themselves, and want to keep getting better at what they do. Nichols was also a self-described “prick.” That’s where we part company. I can’t imagine myself ever being that way. I’m too grateful for having the opportunities I’ve been given and have too much respect for the craft to be, for lack of a better word, mean.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
My favorite movie is Manhattan. And I know it’s not popular to talk about Woody Allen anymore, but it’s difficult to ignore the impact his films have had on my sensibility. Until all of his personal problems emerged, he was considered one of our finest filmmakers. Actors adored him and clamored to work with him and his creativity was boundless. I’m a big fan of many of his films (Stardust Memories is the one that got me interested in filmmaking in the first place) but Manhattan is a crowning achievement for many reasons. Gordon Willis’s sumptuous black and white cinematography, the Gershwin music that we have come to identify with New York City, and the excoriation of New York intellectuals who believe they are above reproach but are ultimately bested by, of all people, a 17 year old high school student who turns out to be more mature than any of them. Again, I’ll probably get some backlash by highlighting this, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t cite this as my favorite. Mike Nichols’ The Graduate is a close second, by the way. And Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show is also in my top three. I love stories that focus on relationships with a sense of humor but also have a definitive style and a touch of sadness.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. My dad was a NYC police officer and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. We lived in a four-room apartment in Bensonhurst and I shared a bedroom with my two brothers. It was down the block from the high school I would eventually go to, New Utrecht, which is the school that you see in the opening credits of the TV show, Welcome Back, Kotter. There were aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who lived blocks away and kids were always playing outside after school and on the weekends. I did watch a lot of TV growing up, but I was also an avid reader and movie buff. My first job in advertising was in the mail room at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample but my goal was always to land a job in the production department. However, there was a catch-22 because I needed work experience. But I said, “how can I get work experience if no one will give me a job?” So I started my own company shooting and editing wedding videos and bar mitzvahs so, by the time I got to DDB, I had the work experience I needed to transition from an assistant in the production department to editing in the A/V department (which I helped grow into one of the first in-house editing facilities in the industry). I was there 11 years.

11) Have you had occasion to bring your storytelling/directorial talent to bear in the Metaverse, tapping into the potential of AR, VR, AI, NFTs and/or experiential fare? If so, tell us about that work and what lessons you have taken away from the experience?
I have never had the experience of the Metaverse or tapping into AR, VR or AI. I think AI has a lot of potential as a creative tool, but it’s also very dangerous, as we all know. My fear is that it will become akin to spell-check in our reliance on it, so I try to avoid it as much as possible, but also see the benefits of it as a tool, so my official position is to handle with care.