Actor Joe Pantoliano to visit Darien Arts Center for film screening
DARIEN — Joseph Pantoliano has a face people know.
It’s a face that, since the 1980s, has graced the silver screen with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, in some of the industry’s biggest movies, including “Risky Business,” “Midnight Run,” “The Fugitive,” “The Matrix,” “Memento,” and in the HBO TV series the “Sopranos.”
Over the course of a career so varied and prolific, Pantoliano, a Wilton resident, picked up more than a few lessons on the business of filmmaking and the life of a working actor, many of which he now dispenses as a faculty member at the Manhattan Film Institute, which offers an intensive two-week summer program for aspiring actors and directors in North Fork, Long Island.
“It’s all about experience. MFI gives its students the hands-on experience that you can’t teach. There’s no better way of learning how to tell a story than just doing it,” Pantoliano, 65, said. “Or getting to a set location and finding it’s been moved, or you can’t get to it. These aren’t booby traps we’ve set up, this is just how life is.”
Co-founded six years ago by director and screenwriter Tony Spiridakis, MFI’s curriculum requires that each of the 25 students accepted every summer create two short films in a two-week period, and allows actors to work closely with directors. The program also brings together students with people who have extensive experience working in and around movies, including actor, screenwriter, producer Chazz Palminteri, and Tony Goldwyn, who stars as President Fitzgerald Grant III on ABC’s Emmy Award-winning “Scandal,” and movie and television producer Shannon Goldman.
Pantoliano, Spiridakis and Goldman will present roughly 30 minutes of clips of student-made films on Sunday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Darien Art Center, followed by a question-and-answer session.
According to Spiridakis, he created MFI six years ago after teaching classes at film school and finding a disconnect between directors and actors that he found prohibitive to creating good films. The desire to bring that gap, coupled with an impressive list of friends and collaborators — like Pantoliano and Palminteri — willing to volunteer their time, led to the creation of MFI, an environment he refers to metaphorically as an “artistic firehouse.”
“It’s about creating that family, that firehouse, where you’re with family,” Spiridakis said. “You can eat together, sleep in the same place, put the world aside and focus on who is the person next to you, and feel safe enough to express yourself and make mistakes in front of them. And at the end of the day you can say, ‘We put out that fire.’ ”
MFI Short Film Festival
Actor Joe Pantoliano, along with founders of the Manhattan Film Institute will be part of a special event at the Darien Arts Center on Sunday, March 12 from 4 to 5 p.m. The DAC is screening students’ short films created under professional supervision at Manhattan Film Institute. The screening is free of charge and open to the public. The event features a Q&A after the screening with Pantoliano and MFI founders. For more information call 203-655-8683.
For Pantoliano, the two weeks are not just a way for him to share his knowledge with young filmmakers. It’s also an opportunity for him to decompress and be around people passionate about their burgeoning art.
“What MFI does for me is it reminds me of the simplicity of wanting to be in the creative arts,” Pantoliano said. “It kind of allows me to break away from the callousness and the hustle and struggle, the highs and lows, of show business.”