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Meet Riccardo Iacovelli

Today we’d like to introduce you to Riccardo Iacovelli.

Riccardo, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started taking pictures in Campobasso, small, calm, probably too calm, 45k-people town in the South of Italy.

As soon as I had a chance, I went away to see new realities, possibly more vibrant! So, when I was 19 years old I moved to Turin, North of Italy, to study “Cinema and Media Engineering.” The Polytechnic Institute of Turin is a demanding university, but it gives its students opportunities that are hard to find somewhere in Italy. So I tried to take the most out of those years: I planned video and media projects and been involved in some sets thanks to my professors. Although I had some set experience, it was really modest, so, once I got my degree and started applying for jobs, I received no responses or terrible offers. After a month of deep depression, I decided that I wanted to shift completely to the creative side of making content, so I told myself “let’s go for a greater adventure!”

I moved to San Francisco, were I improved my English. It was a great experience! SF was my first step in the US and I loved the city: it’s neighborhoods so different from each other (what do the modern SF Downtown and the hippy Haight Ashbury have in common? And I still think China Town is in a different continent than America!), the food and the picturesque nightlife in Castro.

Anyway, I realized pretty soon that there is no room for anything else than apps and software in the Bay, so I decided to apply for film schools in the capital of the film industry, Los Angeles.

I was scared. The university/college system in the US is really different from the European one and the long application process was simply something I didn’t know and it scared the s**t out me. The chance to be accepted…terrorized me even more! Being enrolled in an American university/college is a great achievement for an international student like me, but it means a lot of efforts to our families. In fact, we’re not legally allowed to work with our F1 Visas (the visa all the most of the international students have), so we rely completely on our families back home.

Did I want to ask my parents to do those efforts for the three years a Master in Fine Arts takes? I wasn’t sure. So, when I found the only one year-long “Directing Certificate Program” at UCLA Extension, I had no doubts and applied! After nine months of being enrolled in a program, international students can applied for a working permit in their field of studies, so did I.

I’ve been working on sets for a year now and it was a great journey that I’m glad I started. At the moment, I have an office job too in a sales and distribution film company and I’m learning precious insights about how to evaluate the marketability of a script/film. At the same time, I’m able to continue my freelancer career and I was lucky enough to meet a great guy who introduced me to the glittering world of fashion. So, it has been some months that I’ve been working as a videographer for a couture fashion brand based in NY.

Looking to future, I see myself busy on set and dealing with sales agent rather than the other way around and I know it is possible: I’m in the right place, in the right time, with the right hardworking attitude.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The language is a barrier. Good knowledge of English is not enough in the entertainment industry, you have to be able to speak like a mother tongue. Something I’m still working on!

Then there are the problems related to the visa. You can’t legally work if you’re studying; once you finish studying you can work only in the field of your major; you can’t be unemployed for more than three months. Besides all of that, you always have the giant ticking clock of your visa’s expiration date, one year. This leads to another problem: no employers will hire you for a long time, because you don’t have the green-card and you will eventually leave the country.

The only things you can rely on are your contacts. What and how you’ll do really depends on them. This creates great connections between people and an “international supportive mood” that I don’t see among my American friends.

One special challenge I had to face was the making of my thesis film for UCLA Extension. In order to get our certificate, Directing Certificate Program students have to direct a short film. We have only three months to write the script, organize the production (locations, actors, permits, equipment, among many other things) and shoot. My short film, “Luanna’s Box,” talks about an ex-prostitute who faces old acquaintances, who want her back on the street, for a last showdown. It was a great experience, which made me understand who is reliable among the people I consider my friends and which made me meet incredible talented actors (special mention for my astonishing lead actress Dayana V. Espinoza) and fellow filmmakers.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a freelancer on sets. When I don’t direct, I’m usually the 1AD (first assistant director). But “adaptation” is the key in the entertainment business, so I have experience as a producer, Script Supervisor and 1AC (first assistant camera). I’m sure my signature is how detailed I am during planning a video! I maniacally draw the floor plans where we can see the location, the actors moving and the camera positions, so if we have a problem on set, I can fix it immediately looking at my drawings.

Moreover, I shoot and edit videos for a couture fashion brand’s social platforms. I work with a team made by a makeup artist, a hairstylist, a photographer a producer and two production assistants (plus the model, of course, who changes every time) and we take pictures and videos of 12 outfits in a day. Then we deliver the media content in the following days. I think we are known for our fast pace and the happy mood that characterizes our sets: every model always points out how easy is working with us.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?

I came to America alone, with no contacts, so I couldn’t rely on any “friends.” I think my hard working attitude helped me achieving my goals (that are modest, but it’s a lot compared to where I was just one year ago) and led me to meet some people that appreciated my work so gave me better opportunities to show my skills.

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