Hollywood Insider Interview with Award-winning Director Mike Cicchetti

Mike Cicchetti is the Co-Director, Co-Producer, and Editor of “Innocence” as well as the Founder of Cicchetti Multi-Media, Inc. Mike Cicchetti won “Best Short Film” for “Innocence” at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York, held at Kaufman Astoria Studios, May 25-29, 2018.

His career in filmmaking started with a screenwriting class in high school and has excelled through his time at Hofstra University, where he was awarded for his filmmaking techniques and creative drive, gaining recognition as early as his Sophomore year and amassing over 15 film credits before graduation. He continues his passions as a professional freelancer, shooting and producing various projects from conception to post-production through his business, working on feature films and transforming CMM into a production powerhouse.

It was during the filming of his senior thesis “Half Way” where Mike and Miranda Jean Larson worked together for the first time as Director and Actress. It was due to their work on that film that led Miranda to approach Mike in working together on “Innocence”, this time working side-by-side through planning and funding for the film as well as its execution.

Mike’s future prospects include prepping his senior thesis for a film festival run, producing video content with the company Moverz, and currently shooting a music documentary as his next passion project. www.cicchettimultimedia.com

Hollywood Insider Interview with Director and Producer Mike Cicchetti

Hollywood World: First of all, congratulations to the “Innocence” team for receiving the IFFNY Grand Jury Prize “Best Short Film” Award in New York. How did you feel at the time when you found out?

Mike Cicchetti: It was a shock. We didn’t even know if we were nominated or not. SO to be sitting in the crowd during the award ceremony and to see a vignette for our film under the nominees was a welcomed surprise.

Hollywood World: What was the most significant decision in shooting your current film?

Mike Cicchetti: I think the most significant choice had to do with the voice of the film. Miranda Jean Larson and I were Co-Directors and Co-Producers, so we both had an equally weighed foot on the production of the film. That being said, I always made sure I got Miranda’s final word on whatever we had to do to move forward. This was her story, she wrote it before we met, and I saw it as my mission to help her bring it through fruition without sacrificing the voice within the screenplay.

Hollywood World: What part of the script/story best stood out for you and why?

Mike Cicchetti: The ending has a perpetual hold on me, the way that sequence plays out strongly conveys the intentions of the film as a whole and makes it whole. In terms of the production itself, I really enjoyed our time up in New Hampshire at the cabin. Working with all of our cast and crew for one full day up there was a blast.

Hollywood World: Without giving it away, tell us a little bit more about the characters and the lead actors.

Mike Cicchetti: The characters all represent the processes of overcoming trauma. Mikayla’s character represents pure innocence, almost a naiveté to the incident itself. Chris is the catalyst of the traumatic assault and Miranda is that aftermath, that question of “now what?”

Hollywood World: How do you bring this story to life while staying true to your vision as director?

Mike Cicchetti: Miranda’s screenplay was an excellent blueprint to work off of. Working with heavy thematic material is something I’m privy to, so being able to make the creative decisions wasn’t too hard to figure out. I think the toughest obstacle we had in terms of making this film was simple logistics like location and scheduling. But I had an excellent team behind me, from our DP Anthony Zaccone to our Assistant Director Jon Bewley. We’ve worked together on other films before and knew our roles, so there was no  questioning in whether or not either of us were lost. This team was razor sharp and I’m very privileged to have had them play a part in this project.

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Miranda Jean Larson and Mike Cicchetti with the IFFNY Jury during the Awards Gala (In the photo: Kendrick Merdani, Jotti Ejlli, Margherita Peluso, Miranda Jean Larson, Mike Cicchetti and John Blenn – Photo by Ilir Rizaj)

Hollywood World: What excites you about this project?

Mike Cicchetti: The reception to it. Since this is such heavy subject material, you never know how a crowd is going to react to it until it’s there. Our goal was to try to be as honest as possible when it came to the situation of sexual assault, and so far every comment and reaction we’ve received has been in line with what we aimed to achieve. That’s how I know we nailed it.

Hollywood World: What other works are you most proud of?

Mike Cicchetti: To be honest, I’m proud of every film I’ve had the chance to make simply because I was able to make it. I’ve filmed in basements and mocked them up to be interrogation rooms, I’ve filmed in the snow and in hurricane aftermaths, at times on little to no budget and even no crew. Every film I have worked on, for better or worse, brought me here. I can’t not acknowledge that.

Hollywood World: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Mike Cicchetti: I owe a lot to Steve McQueen’s “Shame”. There have been a lot of films that have inspired me, but seeing that gave me a sense of how I wanted to direct. And I have to look to Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” as well. Those directors and their respective films hold fast to a brutal and beautiful truth within them. I can only hope I can climb the same ladder as either of them someday.

Hollywood World: What do you do to enhance the collaborative process when working with actors, screenwriters, producers and others creative members?

Mike Cicchetti: I have to trust them. I give them the freedom to voice their creativity in whichever makes sense to them and hope that it meshes well. Anytime I decide that I want to work with someone, I take them out for coffee or to lunch and talk with them as if we’re old childhood buddies catching up for the first time in years. After I can talk with someone outside of work mode and get a better sense of them as a person, then I can trust them with my project.

Hollywood World: What experiences have you learned from in life? How did that change you and your creative process and the way you go about making films?

Mike Cicchetti: Not every favor is repaid and you need to take care of yourself. It’s very easy to have bridges burned in this industry and to let the work wear you down physically and mentally. I always try to approach any project with a clear mind and a backup  tactic for whatever could go wrong. And I try to be as decent of a person as I can be on and off set. Usually, if you treat your collaborators well, they’ll always want to work with you and vice versa.

Mike Cicchetti - Co-Director, Producer, Editor of Innocence
Mike Cicchetti – Co-Director, Producer, Editor of Innocence

Hollywood World: How do you see your role as a filmmaker?

Mike Cicchetti: I’m a storyteller. Anytime I direct or produce a project I always make sure that what I’m putting to screen feels honest. I don’t like to do films that feel false or phony. Audiences are smart and if you treat them as such, they’ll treat your projects just as seriously.

Hollywood World: Which film festivals that you have been part of would you recommend to other filmmakers looking to screen his/her films?

Mike Cicchetti: IFFNY is highly recommended. The programming, the films, the people involved in the festival, it’s all been so splendid and enjoyable. It was a real pleasure to premiere our film under this festival.

Hollywood World: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? What message do you want to convey with your films?

Mike Cicchetti: Absolutely. Anytime someone decides to tell a story, it becomes a reflection of the time in which it’s developed. Social issues, political ideas, personal beliefs, they all bleed into the stories we tell. If your film comes from a place of humane truth, your audience will be receptive. Attempt to lie in their face and they will snuff you out, quick. Again, it all comes down to the conviction of the ones telling the story to know when they’re leading their audience son the right path or leading them astray.

Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have?

Mike Cicchetti: I always have a camera in my hands, so when I’m not filming I’m photographing people and concerts. On the off days where I can stay at home, I play guitar till I lose track of time.

Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today?

Mike Cicchetti: I’ve learned that the interpersonal valuables (friends, families, relationships) matter more than material successes. Whether I’m remembered or not is irrelevant. I just want to know that, at the end of everything, I lived the best life I could.

Hollywood World: What are your top five principles of success?

Mike Cicchetti: Be a nice person, don’t lie, and pay your credit card on time.  That’s about it.

Hollywood World: What’s next?

Mike Cicchetti: I’m working on 2 music documentaries at the moment, as well as finishing post production for another short film that’s been in the works for a while.

 

*Cover Photo Credit by Innovation Media New York, Ivan Morales (In the Photo Mike Cicchetti and Jean Larson on the IFFNY Red Carpet, at Kaufman Astoria Studios) 

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