Don Fizzinoglia is a multi-hyphenate who has worked with stars such as Oliver Stone, Woody Harrelson, Carrie Fisher, Kirsten Dunst, and Lauren Bacall. He is currently Chair the Communication and Media Production department (formerly Communication Arts) in Old Westbury and teaches television and film production as well as cinema studies. He’s creator/organizer of NYIT-Old Westbury’s free Wednesday evening film series. Then there’s Don’s
surreal life, during which he spends time writing, producing, directing, and editing documentaries, educational programs, and music videos at his award-winning production company.
How has technology affected the way in which you teach and the way in which students are learning the craft?
The Internet and social media have significantly reshaped the way in which works are produced and distributed (e.g., YouTube and all the social media sites). The cost of equipment used to be prohibitive, but now students can make a film of some professional level with relatively little money. [pull quote] With our new degrees, students are working on digital films and being trained in a new kind of journalism, with stories being delivered via Globesville, our student-run live and interactive channel on the web. Our students use everything from professional video equipment to Hi Def cell phones to gather and consume news – and then interact using social media! It’s a type of journalism that mirrors the ways in which today’s tech-savvy students communicate.
What is your favorite film genre? Who were some of your early influences and who do you consider to be the leading contemporary filmmaker(s)?
My favorite genre is surrealism, and I’ve always loved the films of Luis Buñuel and David Lynch. I admire the work of popular directors such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ingmar Bergman. Filmmakers such as David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Christopher Nolan (Memento) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) are certainly ones to watch.
Your production company, Surreal Life Productions, has tackled subjects as diverse as AIDS, hippie communes, the history of U.S. railroads, college sports, and film censorship. What are some of your current and upcoming projects?
I’m seeking financing for a documentary I’ve been working on for years, entitled Dreams: The Stuff That Films Are Made Of, which describes the relationship between dreams and the movies. I am also in the process of developing a web comedy series with global appeal titled Occidentally On Purpose—but it’s still a secret! I’ve got a couple of other secret projects that involve music and psychedelics—but hey, maybe not!
Most memorable “Hollywood” moment?
In 1997, I attended a black-tie gala in Los Angeles for the launch of Carly Simon's Film Noir CD and the black-and-white film my business partner and I produced about the making of Carly’s CD. I sat at a table with Dennis Hopper, Rod Steiger, Diane Lane, and Darryl Hannah. What an interesting cast of (film and real-life) characters!
What is your dream project?
To produce a global event in which audiences in venues such as New York City, Paris, and Beijing, would simultaneously screen a classic (for example, Casablanca or Citizen Kane, or The Good Earth) and then discuss, live on Globesville, how the film has affected perceptions of the United States. I think it’s important to keep classic movies in the pop consciousness for this and future generations because of their value not only as art but as history, sociology, psychology, and anthropology. You’d be surprised how many of our young students have never seen The Graduate!