Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaun Piccinino.
Hi Shaun, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I grew up in a small town, Chico California. My father, Barry Piccinino was a drama professor at the community college where he directed two plays a year. I grew up on and behind the stage beginning at age five. When I was 16 years old, I started writing, directing, acting & editing tv commercials for the local mom & pop shops where I made nearly 30 commercials in and around Chico. Another passion of mine that would later help me in my movie career was martial arts. I earned a black belt in Okinawan Karate while in high school and went on to earn a fourth-degree black belt in Chinese Kung Fu.
At 20 years old, I moved to Southern California to pursue the dream of becoming a filmmaker. At that time, I didn’t even know what that meant exactly. Once I was living in and around Los Angeles, I began making independent short films, music videos and, at 22 years old, my first feature film. Although the film was reminiscent of a student-based project, it was where I learned the most about the foundations of film-making. It was just me and a group of friends using our credit cards to make a silly vampire movie. I think we spent around $10,000 all in. Together we knew we would make a lot of mistakes but also learn a lot from the experience. Amazingly, we signed a distribution deal and the movie was seen and sold globally. We didn’t realize just how lucky we were at the time. The lessons I learned making my first film lead to working on several tv shows including assistant editing and visual effects on Seth Green’s stop motion animated series, Robot Chicken.
Eager to get back on set in a more active role, I parlayed my martial arts background into stunts. Where I spent time as a stunt coordinator and as a motion capture performer in video games. Acting as a stunt performer led me back behind the camera as a 2nd unit director of action on the Spike TV show, The Deadliest Warrior. With the relationships, I built on TV and with the stunt community, I directed my 2nd feature film, The Lackey. The Lackey is a throwback action film paying homage to the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. It went on to win a dozen awards in the film festival circuit.
Over the next several years, I’ve had the privilege of directing several tv series and eight feature films to date. A California Christmas being the surprise Netflix Originals holiday hit of 2020. The film claimed the number 1 spot worldwide for several weeks in a row. I am currently in post-production on two additional Netflix Originals films slated to come out late 2021 and early 2022.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Of course, this is a very tough business and yes, the road has had plenty of bumps along the way. In my experience is the people who make it in this industry aren’t just the ones with talent but the ones who have the drive and fortitude to stick it out for the long haul. Every overnight success is at least ten years in the making…
I’ve personally had the dreaded “dry spell” in-between getting gigs plenty of times and that’s always such a scary thing. Not knowing when the next paycheck will come in. I had to learn to adapt and take the advice of a friend early in my career that urged me to diversify my skills and not turn down any job that got me on set. I took that to heart and in turn have done just about every job there is in this business to stay busy and continue to earn a living. Just look at my IMDB to see what I mean, lol.
I’ve also always had the outlook that any and all of these jobs or gigs big and small would be an education to lead to my ultimate goals of being a complete filmmaker.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I showed up to Los Angeles with absolutely no money and zero connections to the industry. Just determination and my passion for telling stories. I was lucky enough to befriend several mentors along the way who imparted useful knowledge to help me gain footing in this business. With my diversify or die attitude, I was able to keep myself busy and build quite the colorful resume over the years.
I’d like to think I’m known to be a well-versed filmmaker who works closely with Actors on the craft and also specializes in Action, Motion Capture & Visual Effects. Oh yeah, I also have a reputation as kind of a camera/lens & tech geek. I love mixing old and new tech to make things work that aren’t supposed to work together (that parts fun for me). Adapting Vintage lens to work on the latest and greatest cameras as one example.
Working closely with actors goes back to my childhood growing up in the theater with my father and watching him help classically train thespians. My action background started with my martial arts disciplines which I started at the ripe age of 11. Which later transitioned me into doing stunts for film, television and even video games. My visual effects experience stemmed from my desire to learn all aspects of the filmmaking process and the lack of funds to pay someone to do it! So I was self-taught in the beginning and then learned from some amazing artists when I later worked as a VFX artist on several network tv shows.
This combination of experience has proven very useful on several projects and even helping me land some of the bigger jobs.
Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Okay, that’s a tough one haha, so many to choose from! I know I’m very lucky and blessed to have such a lovely and supportive family. I understand not everyone gets that experience.
One fond childhood memory is going to the drive-in movie theaters with my parents down in San Diego and watching the movie, Gremlins. I always loved going to see a movie in at the drive-in with my family, it was the whole experience of it that excited me. We had just gotten a brand new car and it had all sorts of new gadgets and features, very fancy for 1984, and we didn’t even know how to use all of them yet.
Right after the movie finished, which I was a bit scared of being as young I was, my dad must have hit some button in the car that triggered all sorts of beeping and lights turning on and off. We didn’t know what was going on and without skipping a beat my mom turned to us and said, “It must be the Gremlin’s!” Of course, my eyes went wide and a sheer look of terror must have washed over my face because she then launched into a tickle attack and assured me there is no such thing as Gremlins. At the end of the night, I knew I’d remember that night forever and fondly…
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.direct.me/directorshaun
- Instagram: @directorshaunpiccinino
- Twitter: @shaunpiccinino
Sean Gunn, Myself, Brad Rushing, Gloria El-Achkar and Victoria Kait