by Nathan Lerner
After a one-year hiatus, Philadelphia CineFest is back this year with a roster of 65 films from over 17 countries that will be screened from April 7 to 14, mostly at Ritz Theaters in center city. The festival will afford audiences an opportunity to see “Good Day for It,” one of the 65 films and the latest from former Lafayette Hill resident, Nick Gerard Stagliano. The multi-talented auteur, 52, is the co-screenwriter, director and producer of the film.
(Stagliano has also produced, edited and/or directed five other movies: “The 24th Day”(2004), “Secretary” (2002), “The Florentine” (1999), “Home of Angels” (1994) and “Scared Stiff” (1987). None has received widespread distribution.)
Stagliano, in his mid-40s, was born and raised in Conshohocken, where he graduated from the long-gone Archbishop Kennedy High School. He recounted, “I forged many great friendships there which still last today. My father was a big fan of the movies, and I inherited that love from him. I remember how, as far back as when I was eight years old, he let me stay up late on Oscar night to see all the winners. I would go to school the next day and tell my friends. Of course, they had no idea what I was talking about.
“Growing up in Philly suburbia, I was strictly a mainstream Hollywood John Wayne film lover. While I have obviously expanded my tastes to include world and more experimental and edgy cinema, I still remain simply a fan of the movies.”
Stagliano’s family eventually moved from Conshohocken to Lafayette Hill after his high school graduation, prompted by “the accomplishment of the American Dream by my father and mother.” They lived there for 17 years, on Thomas Road directly across from Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
“Our view out the front window was nothing but grass and trees … and golfers. I remember those years fondly — the bigger sky and fresher air and the easier access into the city through the beautiful shopping and bars and restaurants of Chestnut Hill.”
Stagliano matriculated at Villanova University, which was “a great experience for me. As an English/Communications major, it gave me the freedom to explore all sorts of literary and storytelling models. I was thinking of becoming some sort of writer, the cliché of the Great American Novelist or a sports writer, as I was a three-sport man in high school and a power-lifter in college.”
But Stagliano had an unexpected epiphany when he took a class in Super 8 cinematography at Villanova. “To most students a throwaway class, but I enjoyed it immensely. The professor advised me to pursue my filmmaking further in graduate school. Without his prompting, I might not be here today. My parents were completely supportive, and my dad was really excited.”
Attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts came next for Stagliano. “It was great for a lot of reasons, but not what I had expected. At the time I went there, it was situated in the East Village along with the Graduate Acting and Dance Department and off on its own from the main campus on Washington Square.
“That was quite an eye-opener for a kid from the suburbs just off Chestnut Hill to be thrown into the fast world of New York City. Coming from a bucolic campus like Villanova and knowing the world-class reputation that Tisch had, I was completely shocked to see that the building and classrooms were decidedly not high-end.
“That was an education in itself. It is not really about the tools or the toys, but the people who make the difference. In that respect, it was a tremendous experience. Under the banner of being a student, I had nothing else to do except watch films, volunteer to work on films, talk to other artists in the school —writers, actors, teachers.
“Originally, I wanted to be a director with thoughts of writing as well, but when I got to NYU Film Grad School, I realized how difficult writing good screenplays really is. It was a long road before I decided to add the writer/director combo to my work.
Over the years, I worked on anything I could in New York — commercials, industrials, films, student films — in every position, from production assistant to grip/electric, assistant director, assistant editor, editor and ultimately director. Each of those experiences advanced my education as a producer since that job basically encompasses all of the others, and more.”
Stagliano is thrilled about having his latest film shown at the festival. “’Good Day for It’ is my fourth film shot in Pennsylvania, with two shot in Philly. I still consider myself a local. We shot the film in the Poconos, and many of the crew are from Philly. Screening here is like a home viewing, and I could not be more excited. ”
Stagliano praised the event organizers. “The team at this year’s Cinefest is very energetic and committed to making this a great festival. I am confident that both the ‘Good Day for It’ screening and the whole festival will do the city proud. The core audience that comes to festival screenings are the true patrons of the arts and specifically of independent, non-studio films. There is a great need for these alternate films to move people and challenge them. There are only so many teenage vampire movies that we can handle!”
“Good Day for It” will be shown on Thursday, April 14, 7 p.m., at the Ritz East. For more information on Philadelphia CineFest, call 267-765-9800 x 701 or visit www.phillycinefest.org and click on “schedule” and then “Good Day For It, tickets.”.
Nathan Lerner, director of Davenport Communications, sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.