Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Alex Lamburini the Next Spielberg?

Photo by Alex Lamburini

The short film, Meeting Mr. Williams, by 16-year-old filmmaker Alex Lamburini was just accepted into the Burbank International Film festival to be held sometime this summer. Alex, a junior at Molloy High School in New York City, looks to have a promising future ahead of him.

The film tells the story of a young girl who finds a solitary wilted flower in a playground and learns a valuable lesson about fitting in. It was inspired by Alex's own emotions as an alienated teenager. He was able to get across a message in less than four minutes that most high school students can’t figure out in four years.

Like most filmmakers just starting out Alex sites Steven Spielberg as his biggest influence. But the allure is not the big name and pop culture status of the E.T. and Jaws director or his $3 billion net worth. Instead, Lamubrini says, "So much of Spielberg’s work deals with alienated characters, seeking placement in their environment. And that niche is something that I see in my films and something that really inspired me when I was starting to make films." Smart kid.

Meeting Mr. Williams has been selected for seven film festivals to date. Watch the short movie on And remember his name—Alex Lamburini. He may just be the next Spielberg.

Read our interview with Alex in its entirety after the jump.

PASSIONISTAS: Please tell us your full name, age, and where you are from?

ALEX: My name is Alex Lamburini, I’m 16 years old and I’m from New York City.

PASSIONISTAS: Are you still in high school? Where do you go?

ALEX: Yes, I’m currently a junior at Molloy High School in New York.

PASSIONISTAS: When did you start making films?

ALEX: I started making “films” if you could even call them that when I was 14 or 15 years old. Prior to this I had an extensive background in photography. In a sense, I was used to telling small stories using just one image. I remember thinking to myself, if I could do that, then I could tell a story with a lot of images.

PASSIONISTAS: Why did you start making films?

ALEX: I started making films because I simply loved it, but I think the real reason I started making films was because I had a story that I wanted to tell. I wrote my first short film, Meeting Mr. Williams, without ever intending for it to become a film. It wasn’t until a few months later, that creating a short film would be an incredible way to bring this story and the message it carries to life. I started making films because, for me they’re the best way to communicate social messages. I found that with my first short film, Meeting Mr. Williams, I was communicating this really powerful message and I loved it. The fact that I could use something I really love to entertain and convey specific ideas was the true reason I started making films. It was a release for me, and it’s my best form of emotional communication.

PASSIONISTAS: Who are your biggest filmmaking influences?

ALEX: I think my biggest filmmaking influence to date, is Steven Spielberg, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a huge name in the industry. So much of Spielberg’s work deals with alienated characters, seeking placement in their environment. And that niche is something that I see in my films and something that really inspired me when I was starting to make films.

PASSIONISTAS: Tell us what Meeting Mr. Williams is about?

ALEX: Meeting Mr. Williams tells the story of a young girl on the cusp of adolescence who revisits an urban playground her mother used to take her to as a child. While revisiting the playground, the girl takes a special interest in a small, wilted, and out of place flower she finds on the ground. The girl’s small discovery helps her to find acceptance through her meeting with a new friend, Mr. Williams.

PASSIONISTAS: What was the inspiration for Meeting Mr. Williams?

ALEX: The inspiration that sparked me to write Meeting Mr. Williams came while sitting in the back of my high school history class. There’s a large park across the street from my school and I remember looking out the window and seeing an empty playground, with an elderly man sitting on one of the park benches. I remember trying to imagine what that man must have felt, sitting in a place usually reserved for youth.

The emotional inspiration for Meeting Mr. Williams primarily came from my own personal experiences and feelings. At the time when I wrote the story for my first short, I was feeling particularly alienated and out of place in my environment and I was grasping to find my niche and to find acceptance, but I couldn’t figure out how. In the film, both characters come to find acceptance through a symbolic object that touches them greatly. So in a sense, my inspiration for this film can be pulled directly from my own life and my feelings towards whatever I’m going through.

PASSIONISTAS: What kind of camera did you use to shoot Meeting Mr. Williams?

ALEX: To be completely honest, I have no idea what camera I used to shoot Meeting Mr. Williams with. All I know is that it was nothing memorable. From what I can remember, it was a small consumer camcorder that recorded with DV tapes that my Uncle lent to me so I could shoot the film. It was nothing special, but I didn’t let that hold me back from telling my story.

PASSIONISTAS: How many film festivals has Meeting Mr. Williams been selected for to date?

ALEX: Meeting Mr. Williams has been selected for seven different film festivals nationwide.

PASSIONISTAS: Describe how you felt when you got into your first film festival.

ALEX: Getting into my first festival was an incredible feeling. It legitimized Meeting Mr. Williams in my eyes and confirmed that it was a film that was worth it to put out there. It gave me the will to push forward and submit to other festivals.

PASSIONISTAS: Is there anything special to you about The Burbank International Film Festival?

ALEX: There’s nothing special about the Burbank International Film Festival for me personally, but I love submitting to festivals on the west coast, so when I get in it gives me a good reason to head out to my favorite state, California!

PASSIONISTAS: Are you planning on attending The Burbank International Film Festival? If so, what  do you hope to get out of it?

ALEX: It looks like an incredible festival, and I’m trying my best to get out to California for it, but as of right now I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.

PASSIONISTAS: Do you plan on studying film in college? Where do you hope to go?

ALEX: Yes, I definitely plan on studying film in college. Currently I’m hoping to go to NYU’s film school here on the east coast but I’ll also be applying to several film schools in California as well, such as USC and Chapman.

PASSIONISTAS: You've also made a few music videos. Which do you prefer music video or film?

ALEX: I’ve directed two music videos to date and honestly, I love both films and music videos equally, just in very different ways. Films require a lot more discipline and with a film, as a director you’re not as free to do “whatever.” You have to stick to a certain mold, for shots, sequences, and cuts. There are rules, but at the same time a film can be so much more gratifying to complete than a music video.

Videos on the other hand, are shot quickly and are fun to work on because of the creative freedom they allow. For example, on my last video, I got to manage and direct a cast of about 35 actors to serve as a large crowd for the band’s performance. The only reason we had the freedom to incorporate such a crazy idea was because of the music video platform we were working on. With a video, you’re free to do so much more than you can with a film. If you want to move the camera in a crazy way, during the performance you’re free to do so. The crazier you are the more people will like the video. So in a sense, I love music videos because there’s so much more freedom involved but directing a film will always be a more substantial product for me as an artist.

PASSIONISTAS: The New York Daily News called you a "16-year-old movie-making phenomenon." How did that make you feel and do you think it's true?

ALEX: It was incredible to see that write up on me in the Daily News, and it of course it made me feel great! I don’t want to agree or disagree with that statement, because it’s not for me to decide. I don’t want to be defined by my goals and achievements even though they are awesome to be recognized for. I want to let my work do that for me. As a director, it’s all about my work, and what the audience thinks of it.

PASSIONISTAS: What's up next?

ALEX: Currently I’m getting set to release the first music video I directed for The Given Motion, “It’s So Clear,” across the web. I’m also working on finishing up the second music video I directed for Sweet Hollow Drive and getting ready to direct a new music video over the summer months.

This summer I’ll also be going into production for a ten-minute short film I wrote, and will be directing with a professional cast and crew. It’s my first time running through the casting process, and working with a legitimate film crew so I’m definitely excited to work on this film, both in a management sense and a creative sense. The story deals with new concepts and ideas that I’m anxious to explore when we start pre-production in July.

Other than that, I’m going to be finishing a first draft of my feature script, and hopefully gain the necessary funds to go into production for that as well. I also have a few new huge music video opportunities in the works and I’m also developing new projects where I’ll hopefully be working with some larger names in the industry.

As for me, I’m looking to take my work to a new level, and create better and more entertaining films for audiences and critics, prior to reaching film school. Ultimately I’m looking to direct professionally for television, music videos and film to bring my work directing to a larger platform. Having the opportunity to do what I love every day would be the ultimate utopia for me.

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