Arts + Culture

Culture Watch: Naples Director Vito Trupiano Ready to Hit the Big Time

Can a 23-year-old’s first feature film take off nationally? Yes, says a movie veteran about the story that follows the jacket through a day in Miami.

BY April 20, 2016

As a veteran of 250 films, television movies and miniseries—many from my 10-year stint at Hallmark Entertainment—I have been on a ton of film sets, and I have the battle scars and celebrity anecdotes to show for it. (I sang with Meryl Streep, was embraced by Carol Channing, insulted by Nick Nolte and almost knocked over by an inebriated Peter O’Toole.) 

Having moved to Naples in 2012, I am now setting up shop in this paradisiacal, though not particularly film-savvy, corner of the world. Some Neapolitans know I spent a year successfully financing a feature film to be shot down here called A Dream Last Night, based on a story by my uncle, Budd Schulberg, Oscar-winning screenwriter of On the Waterfront. (I come from a long line of filmmakers.) Unfortunately, due to irreconcilable differences with my director/co-writer, I have put that project into mothballs. And, adhering to my best practice (albeit unorthodox) principles of producing, I have returned all monies raised and held in escrow for that movie to my investors.  

But always on the lookout for exceptional talents and interesting properties, I settled on a local boy (about to be) made good, named Vito Trupiano. Trupiano, born and raised in Naples, had made three award-winning short films and a feature doc called The Storm that won the Audience Award at the Naples Film Festival in 2013. When Trupiano and I met a year and a half ago, he wanted to tackle his first feature film. What impressed me about this young man was a rare blend of big-dream talent and technical prowess. Lots of young directors have lofty aspirations.  Few hold themselves accountable for covering the technical bases as thoroughly as Trupiano. Here is a 6-foot-4, football-playing nerd, who will talk your ear off about the variances between the focal depth of a Zeiss Superspeed Mark.1 50 mm lens versus the Cooke mini 54.1. At the same time, his ideas run on par with the top creative talents of his generation. And, ala Bogdanovich, Tarantino and Scorsese, he is an avid student of the legion of masters who have gone before. So, I made it my business to encourage this young talent to plunge in, and we spent time honing his very original storyline before shooting got started. The movie, called Waste Case (shot entirely in Naples and Miami), is now almost finished.   

Image from Waste Case

The film is about a jacket. (So, we figure we have a leg up on Seinfeld, the show about nothing.) At first blush, it’s a simply humorous, refreshing flight through one night in Miami’s South Beach district, following three individuals who happen to be successively wearing the same red satin jacket. But cinephiles and film critics may delve deeper into this whimsical tale to grasp a metaphor for three stages of maturity in the life of a man as portrayed, first, by a naïve simpleton, second, by a jocular street-wise con man and, finally, by an embittered conspiracy-riddled Rasta. Film aficionados should also “feel” a changing tone as the cinematic shooting style progresses from handheld shaky cam for the first character, to Steadicam and dolly shots for the second, to tripod rotational pans and stationary filming for the third. This will help underpin the story by conveying a visceral yet subliminal emotional evolution from fluidity to stasis.

Here are some notes from Trupiano’s shooting “manifesto” for the movie. He had a method pretty well charted out as we began: “The film follows a Red Satin Jacket. This literally restricts the world to only the Jacket’s point of view. When someone is wearing the Jacket, the viewpoint becomes subjective to the wearer of the Jacket. Each character wearing the Red Satin Jacket has a different aesthetic and feel, thematically and technically. However, there will be no color tints or post-processing enhancement between characters. For ‘Gordon’ I use a wide-angle lens to let in a lot of background and distractions. The camera movement will reflect this as well. Gordon’s eyes will direct the camera’s aim, always glancing about his environment. For ‘Alan’ we move to a 25-35 mm lens that slightly narrows the field of view and blurs the background. ‘Gonzo’ is shot with 50 mm and telephoto lenses, and his camera is never off tripod. I shot the movie on the Red Epic Dragon, whose 6K resolution provides latitude for dynamic real-world lighting and allows us to pick up every small nuance of an ‘on location’ shoot.”

The Red Epic Dragon camera used to shoot the film is currently the camera of choice for many mega-budget Hollywood studio films, including The Revenant; The Martian; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; Jurassic World; and upcoming Avatar films (2, 3 and 4), so the image quality of this debut feature will match that of some very high-profile studio fare.

Employing a collective filmmaking style favored by indie filmmakers, Trupiano engaged a small cadre of unknown actors who have all worked on his previous films. Though the themes, objectives and needs of each character were predefined, Trupiano gave his actors wide improvisational latitude to keep the dialogue fresh, surprising and innovative. It seems to have been effective. All who have viewed short advance sequences of Waste Case have been thunderstruck by the fresh funny playfulness of the ultra-natural dialogue, while being stirred by the movie’s thought-provoking through line. And I am overjoyed that one of the investors from my prior movie (whose funds were returned) has, after seeing scenes and meeting Trupiano, elected to redirect a portion of the money to the completion and marketing of Waste Case.

Like all films casting their hats into the fiercely competitive ring of indie movie stardom, the going is all but easy, but I would say prospects are good for both the film and Trupiano’s career. Trupiano, who uses the “nom de plume” of “Vito Angelo,” is really just getting started but has already generated a respectable filmography, with three shorts and a feature doc that have all won multiple awards, and now his first full-blown feature film. What is perhaps most surprising is that this litany of accomplishment comes to a young man who is just 23 years old.

Watch for big things from this young local talent.


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