Cisco Live in Milan, Italy

So this year, Cisco Live Europe is in Milan. 1Hr from where I was born and raised.

Duomo di Milano

If you’re coming to Milan you definitely need to have nice dinners :-) I know you’re gonna be in meeting all day long (or on the show floor – like me :-)))) but remember that at night you can have a great experience having dinner. In Italy usually a dinner is not something you HAVE to do but it’s something you WANT to do. People sit at the table for hours, enjoying food from different cities and different regions which can be (believe it or not) really different. Italy had been dominated throughout centuries by different countries, different cultures which influenced the language but also the food.

In US usually if you go to an Italian Restaurant you know what it’s going to be in the menu. Usually Penne Alfredo (by the way WHO IS ALFREDO?), Spaghetti with Meatballs (I had my first Meatballs in NYC!!!) or Chicken Marsala…

In Italy it depends. Milan is in the North Italy so forget about Meatballs :)

Look for “Risotto alla Milanese” (risotto with yellow saffron), “Lingua in Verde” (you don’t want to know what it is :)) or “Coniglio con Polenta” (yes I know-in Italy we EAT Rabbit!!).

And if you don’t know where to go here’s some places you’ll enjoy

Antica Trattoria della Pesa
viale Pasubio 10
20154 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39 02 6555741

Via Fauche’ Giovanni Battista 11
20100 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39 02 3310 5753


Ribot

via Cremosano 41
20148 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39 02 33001646

Cracco
Via Victor Hugo 4
20123 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39  02 876774

Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone

Via Santo Spirito, 10/Via Gesù, 5
20123 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39 02 7600 1123

Trattoria del Nuovo Macello
via C. Lombroso 20
20137 Milano (MI)
Tel. +39 02 59902122

 

…and for the first time, even if my English is NOT the best I’m not the foreigner here.

Ping me if you are in Milan I’m sure you need a guide ;-)

Ciao e buon divertimento
Lu!

PS: and for your Vacation Trips talk with my friend Pietro, your A-List Entrance to Italy ;)

 

Grand Ole Lady “Hollywood” Turns 89

It’s not every day you get the opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Seven years ago when I was working as a reporter for the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, I was invited for a first-hand look at the nine letters that make up the ubiquitous Hollywood sign. The letters may look small from afar, but keep in mind each is about as tall as a five-story building!

Up close and personal with the Hollywood sign.

Maintenance is one of the biggest issues for the sign. With L.A. being the land of eternal youth, this most important symbol of Tinseltown was in dire need of a face-lift. And that’s what we were invited to see.

Since 1978, the steel letters -which replaced the original wooden ones from 1923- have taken a pounding from the intense Southern California sun which cracks and peels whatever kind of paint is used. Repainting got very expensive. So in came the latest technology from outer space. In 2005, the letters were covered with paint very similar to the kind used on the Space Shuttle. The rubbery, plastic-like coating protects each steel letter, and now requires little to no up-keep.

The kind of access we were given to shoot our news report was unique. Not only is the sign copyrighted, you also can’t walk up to it. Hiking too close carries a minimum fine of over $100, and possible jail time. The best view can be had on this website http://www.hollywoodsign.com/247.html  which gives you a live signal, 24 hours a day from the cameras propped atop the letters. There are also instructions on the best locations to see it, and where to take the best photos.

On July 13th, the Hollywood sign will celebrate its 89th birthday. As a film buff, I’m happy to be one of the few who’ve been able to touch the only remaining portion of the original letters from the 1920s when the sign used to advertise real estate.

Here’s a toast to that H, the O, the double L, the Y, the W, the double O and the D! And may those nine letters continue to inspire the dreams of future film makers for many more years to come.

The Future of Law Enforcement

From time to time Amerigo Film will host some of my firsthand stories from Hollywood. I often attend QnA sessions throughout the year and what you are about to read is the report of one of those glamour nights.

RoboCop is still relevant to this day. The themes of what it means to be human, corruption, military, government, media, capitalism; these issues still and will continue. The film this year is having its 25th anniversary and since most of the cast and crew are UCLA alumni (Peter Weller got a Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, focusing on the Italian Renaissance) it was only fair that the reunion would happen at the James Bridges Theater on campus. The event, put on with great attention to details by Melnitz Movies Director Samuel B. Prime, the FT Dean Emeritus, Bob Rosen and with the help of producer Jon Davison, who provided an original 35mm print from his private collection, filled the theatre to capacity. Almost everybody from cast and crew attended, while only 6 people were on the panel for a post screening QnA, everybody else sat in the audience, including Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Paul McCrane, Ray Wise, Angie Bolling, Del Zamora. Even the general public waiting outside to fill the remaining available seats got an early treat by the appearance of a guy in an authentic replica costume, who moved and talked like the character and gladly took pictures with everybody who asked.

RoboCop

But it was the live discussion in the end that got everybody excited. On stage were director Paul Verhoeven, star Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, visual effects designer Phil Tippett, screenwriters Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner. Weller started it off by giving a shout out to the crew sitting in the audience and jokingly called out on Ray Wise: “Why everybody here on stage has aged and Ray Wise managed to look exactly like 25 years ago!”

Interesting insight stories came up during the QnA like the fact that Verhoeven at first refused to direct it: “When I first read the script I thought it was terrible. But I was living in Europe where things are different and I perceived it differently. My wife convinced me to give it another reading. Barbara Boyle convinced me eventually to do it. At the beginning I didn’t really get what the movie was about. What finally did it, for me, was the scene where Robocop walks in the empty house and he has flashes, memories; at that point I understood it and decided I wanted to do it”.

The never-ending argument about the extreme violence in the movie came up but it was early dismissed by Ed Neumeier: “I was lucky meeting with Paul, we both have an esthetic for violence”. Putting on the prosthetics face took actor Weller six and half hours, a process that wasn’t always comfortable but everybody on set agreed that the final product should only be seen by the audience step by step. Verhoeven: “The idea came from Rob Bottin, you can’t show it like ED-209. It’s not gonna work, people would not relate to it. You see it through the glass first and then another bit by bit. The forehead on the unmasked Robocop is already fake. Because the back sits lower than the head, in order to do that we created a fake forehead, the head would then become taller and the mechanic part would sit in the back of Peter’s head”.

Peter Weller, Actor: RoboCopThe film is loaded with social history, satire and political comments. Peter Weller: “The movie starts off with a last-bastion holdout of apartheid against black South Africa. And the film is filled with that stuff. I recently saw it again in Dallas and for the first time I got past seeing myself. I could distance myself and finally see it as a film and I was genuinely proud to be a part of it”. Nancy Allen, mostly quiet at that point was brought into the conversation to express what attracted her to the project: “I was raised in New York, my father was a cop; I looked into it in terms of partnership”. Verhoeven: “I thought they should have an affair, Murphy and Lewis, it was an European thing. Then I understood here we are in America where this is wrong. I had the screenwriter write an additional draft with the affair and then I realized it was garbage and asked them to go back to the second draft. In fact I asked Nancy to cut her hair short, be as masculine as possible”. Neumeier: “This is a testament to the greatness of Verhoeven, most directors would have just fired the screenwriters and never admitted to be wrong”.

Weller: “Ultimately, it’s a story about resurrection. I’ve been doing and directing a lot of TV lately, and on TV they want you to do all the consequences physically. In Robocop he has dreams first and then Nancy comes up to him and says ‘what’s your name? Murphy?’ And then he wanders in the empty house. On TV she would have called him Murphy first, he would have seen the house first and then he would have had flashes of memories. And I had this discussion back then with Paul, and we agreed that’s because there’s a little left of his soul in him. Stuff like that today couldn’t be said”.

A question was posed by the audience to the writers on how they felt about not being involved with the sequel. Neumeier: “We pitched an idea for a sequel where Robocop gets freezed like Han Solo in the second Star Wars and then he wakes up 25 years later but at the studio they didn’t want to go that way. I remember asking Nancy if she would have been ok with being aged 25 years and she said, I would not like that”. Verhoeven jumped in: “I didn’t want to do the sequel and I’ve been blessed enough to have the luxury to always say no to sequels no matter how much money they were offering”. A remake of Robocop is already in the works and this year will see also the release of another remake of a Verhoeven’s movie, Total Recall; neither Weller nor the director appeared too happy about it, “I think it’s depressing” quipped the director.

RoboCopRobocop was made in a time when there wasn’t so much paranoia and the political correctness had yet to plague society. Michael Miner: “In today’s action movies the narration is different, post 9/11 they are all influenced by the Bush’s doctrine. While back then we could have law enforcement that turns against who governs them, today we have The Avengers which is cartoonish. Back then we could load the movie with political issues. We also had rules, John Wayne rules I call them, for Robocop: he can’t kiss the girl, can’t talk on the phone and he can’t fly. And he did all three on number 3”; a funny final comment that claims there can be only one Robocop, the original model of 1987.

The Montana Mafia

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just arrived in Los Angeles and was standing in front of my new room. It had a very generous floor space of 3×3 and a closet that wasn’t really a closet but more just a hole in the wall. (I am kidding of course, the floor space was at least 3.5×3.5). My father who had taken the trip with me, was already on a flight back home. The last traces of my flesh and blood, now gone back to the safety and familiarity of Montana. I was now alone. Except of course, I had the Montana Mafia.

MSU graduating class of 2010

MSU graduating class of 2010

Now, before you conjure up images of The Godfather, Joe Pesci, and large Italian men repeatedly saying “Fahget about it!”, I should clarify. I attended college at Montana State University. The film school there, isn’t like a film school here. Of the around 150 freshmen that attend, only 48 will make it to their sophomore year after a selection process based on GPA and a portfolio of work. Some might say this is harsh but there is a positive side. You know for certain the student sitting next to you in class has worked extremely hard to get there and is eager to learn. Because there are only 48 students every year, strong bonds, friendships, and working relationships are forged quickly. This bond holds well after graduation and into the working world and is known as the Montana Mafia.

A fellow MSU grad I was working with told it to me like this; if one MSU grad is working on a shoot, soon there will be three, then seven, then eleven, then fourteen… you think I am joking? I’m not. It is safe to say that all of the jobs I have had since moving to Los Angeles have come either directly or indirectly from this network of the Montana Mafia.

A good example would be how I came to be in my current position at Amerigo Film.

A few weeks after graduation I was convinced by some classmates to move down to Los Angeles with them. The day before the big drive to California, I was sitting in a Bar and Grill with my parents eating lunch. Perhaps more of a Last Supper, judging by my mother’s emotional uncertainty of her youngest son moving so far away. As we were finishing our meal, I noticed one of my professors sitting across the room with some colleagues and students. Having not had a chance to say goodbye and thank him for his teaching and advice over the years I approached him.

A few members of the Montana Mafia (with a Skype cameo by a New York member)

A few members of the Montana Mafia (with a Skype cameo by a New York member)

“Dennis, I just wanted to say thank you and goodbye.” Where are you going?” “I have decided to move to Los Angeles.” “You’re moving to L.A.?! Here, call this number, he will give you an internship.”

He then proceeded to scribble something hastily onto a napkin and handed it to me. It read “Call Chris, 310-555-5555″(And no, contrary to what you see in movies, Hollywood does not have a 555 prefix), my very first Montana Mafia contact. The internship just happened to be for a major Hollywood producer and I began learning the ins and outs of the Hollywood film industry. After a year of interning, Chris introduced me to Luca who was coincidentally looking for someone to join the Amerigo Film Team. He is also coincidentally Italian, but I will save that for another post entirely :-) I interviewed with Luca, was offered the position, and moved up (literally four floors up!!!) to where you find me today: in the office of Amerigo Film.

While I have since moved out of that closet of a bedroom, I still see and work with my old classmates daily. Even Amerigo Film’s latest Cisco commercial, Emergency Meeting, ended up with five MSU grads on the crew. And every year, I look forward to meeting and working with the latest graduates of Montana State University and the newest members of the Montana Mafia… so let’s “fahget about it.”

 

The Memorial

We were both half-asleep, driving as the sun rose on Highway 219 near Somerset, PA. We’d spent the previous day flying in from the West Coast to Pittsburgh, then driving several hours through the Pennsylvania night – stopping at a Chick-Fil-A for a 10pm dinner because Josh, from Georgia, suggested I try one of their sandwiches. There would more driving tomorrow, with video equipment, to a “Customer Success Story” shoot at NA Hoganas, a Cisco customer. Such is life on the road.

We got into the hotel around midnight (9pm Pacific time) and tried forcing ourselves to sleep a few hours before the wake-up call at 5:30 (2:30am by our body-clocks). Since a headache kept me up, I took a walk down the hill to an all-night convenient store called “Turkey Hill.” Nothing says “midnight headache remedy” quite like the name Turkey Hill.

The next morning, J & I piled the gear in the back of the rented Ford SUV and headed further into southwest Central Pennsylvania. (No kidding: that’s what they called it.) After complaining about the snowy-cold weather, we found ourselves cranking the heat while trying to find a comedy station on XM to get the blood pumping. We’d soon be meeting cheery clients accustomed to being up this early at the other end of this short ride. We’d have to up the energy a little and act like professionals.

We were now heading north toward Hoganas’ headquarters in Johnstown, maybe 45 minutes away, on Highway 219. I was thinking what I ALWAYS think on shoot days like these: “Lord, just get me through to lunch time without screwing this thing up.” And then, “I’d rather be a sleeping unemployed guy than a corporate video director right now.”

It was an almost desolate stretch of highway, brown and grey from several months of winter weather. The hills were nondescript, the trees more brown and lifeless than green like in CA. Not a barren place, but just very sleepy, like us.

Then we saw the sign: “United 93 Memorial Park.”

A few miles to the east, on Highway 30, near Shanksville Township was the site of the 9/11 plane crash, where the passengers rushed the hijackers and forced the plane to the ground “in a field in Western Pennsylvania.” It’s November 2011, just past the 10 year anniversary of the crash.

I’m awake now.

The whole day, that entire shoot, seeing it was all I could think about. I felt a little guilty for making fun of the whole “Turkey Hill” thing, taking for granted that I was fortunate to travel and meet new people, doing something I love to do: working with video, with someone as talented and easy-going as Josh. All I could think about was trying to complete the shoot on time. Maybe we’d have a few hours to see the site, before another airport restaurant dinner and heading back to Pittsburgh for the last flight back to the West Coast.

As always, the shoot was interesting and educational. The people of Hoganas were great; they took us to lunch at their favorite haunt. The day was memorable enough on those alone. Still, heading back meant going by the sign and answering some strange questions: Would we have time? How will it feel? Will I want to get on a plane home after seeing it?

We determined we had an hour to get there and back on the road. So we went for it.

Driving up, there was nothing special again: more brown and grey and nondescript countryside. It was a small parking lot, and the memorial up ahead was far from ornate. As we walked up, we were met by a docent who walked with me and answered my questions.

Memorial Site

Memorial Site

The low, grey-black wall leading up to the memorial and crash-site (Pic. 1) is meant to resemble an airplane wing. The white wall that intersects is the flight path, just prior to impact. Picture two is the impact zone; only family members are allowed there.

The docent walked me up to the memorial itself, which is similar to the Vietnam Memorial wall. He told me about what happened on the flight, how few passengers there were – that hijackers supposedly knew this, figuring it was easier to control fewer people – and how it came that they “took over” the plane and forced it earthward. I was very moved.

Impact Zone

Impact Zone

 

After a few minutes, time was up. I reconnected with J before we headed home. There was no interest in comedy on XM during the drive, but no problem getting onto the plane either. Just a lot of gratitude for a day like this one: doing something you enjoy and that people seem to appreciate coupled with a good dose of perspective. We should all be so lucky.

See you On the Road.

Here we are

"Emergency Meeting" shooting

Welcome,

my name is Luca Costa and I’m the founder of Amerigo Film production company located in Los Angeles which has the name of my grandpa Amerigo Gubernati (1904-1980).

As you can see from our revamped website, we intend to create a channel between the High-Tech companies and Film/Media Productions and through the blogs we will try share our experiences in the film industry, one of the most interesting industry in the world.

This is where members of the Amerigo Film team discuss topics of interest, comment on trends and industry news, and share tips based on our many years of film experience.

So let’s not waste more time and …

… sound? Speed.
… camera? Rolling.
Mark it.

and … ACTION !