3…2…1… Lift Off: Inside the Mind of Peter Rosati
Written by Alli Rock | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Cardboard spaceships with light-up knobs. 9-foot-tall creatures made of “fur, horns, & magic.” Filmmaker Peter Rosati lives in a world of adventure, fantasy, and a magical realism so unreal that it is able to shed light on some very universal truths, from friendship to loss to “protecting the things you love.”
For this Emerson College film student, no challenge is too big to tackle if it can help enhance the world of his fantastical short films. Even if it’s a functioning, 9-foot-tall creature costume, which he built for his current film, The Whistler, an Emerson College Capstone Project that involves over 40 fellow Emerson students. Peter is a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to go the distance to bring his stories to life. He shares his vision and his experiences in storytelling with us today.
Alli Rock: Firstly, what is your background? What got you into making films?
Peter Rosati: My background is in storytelling. I used to make outrageous movies with my mom’s VHS camera. My brother and I would direct our friends and cousins to ‘jump off the fridge!’ ‘tip-toe through the woods!’ or whatever else. Secret agents and alien attacks were common occurrences. In high school my interest turned to writing stories, plays, and poetry. I started at Emerson College as a creative writing major, with an interest in writing and illustrating children’s books. As much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite satisfy my storytelling desire.
The summer after my freshman year, my super talented dear friend Dominic took me on board to Co-Write, Co-Direct, and Produce a short film called Bad Kids. We spent a week in the woods with 3 DSLRs telling the story of 7 boys and a ferret leaving home for an unknown destination. It was a wild and weird film, and I don’t think we could of had more fun making it. After Bad Kids, I knew filmmaking was the most exciting way for me to take on storytelling.
AR: Tell me a little bit about your film, Le Blue Stella, that’s currently online as part of the BSFF. What inspired you to create that piece?
Rosati: Le Blue Stella is the story of a special bond two boys share aboard their handcrafted spaceship. It’s a 16-minute short film shot in Pittsburgh, PA. My friend Kyle and I spent a month of the summer building a spaceship in my garage and filling it with screens, buttons, and more. There were also spacesuits to sew, miniatures to paper mache, and moon dust to mix.
With Le Blue, I wanted to tell the story of a vital moment in a boy’s life through an imaginative experience. Captain Eric Summers and Ambassador Alex Tucker-Greene draw the audience in with their playful adventure. Once drawn in, the film slowly drops the curtain and eases the audience into the real world roots of the film. Mainly, I aimed to cover a full emotional arc in a short period of time, without cramming it full of emotion.
AR: What has it been like for you working with child actors in principle roles? How do you bring out the best in them, especially in films like Le Blue Stella that are both fun and deeply serious?
Rosati: I love working with young actors. I can’t pretend to have any big secret to getting the best out of young actors. I just try to treat all my actors with respect, whether young or old. More than anything, the energy I have in set and rehearsals directly effects the performances and focus the kids have. One of the keys to their performance is also in the writing. If the dialogue is true to the age and characters, it’ll play true on screen. I’m certainly very into physical warm-ups for young actors. We’ll do shake outs, sing songs, yell, whisper, and harness our energy into what the scene needs. Above all, enjoy it. I let the actors know we’re making something awesome, and they are a key part to it.
A second vital aspect is in casting. I’ve been very fortunate and selective with the young actors I’ve working with. In both Le Blue Stella and Bad Kids, I worked with my younger brother (Sheb) and another young actor (Anthany Rach). Both boys have an excellent focus and energy that really comes through in the touching and serious moments of the film, when the entire scene hinges on one simple facial expression. I want to give the actors a solid thought/objective. The hidden hero is Nicole Nelson-Campos, whose charming and funny voicing of the on board computer system really tied everything together. I can’t help but laugh every time she yells, ‘Gentlemen! Your sandwich is ready.’
In The Whistler (which we just finished shooting), the lead role of Shelly Prince is played by Janet Egbe. In casting, we were honored with a high volume of interest in the role, over 150 young actors. Janet was the perfect match for the part. From the moment she read with the other actors, everyone in the room knew she’d kill the role. I’ve been lucky to work with wonderfully talented and mature young actors.
AR: You’ve called some of your films ‘magically real.’ What draws you to telling stories in such a fantastical way?
Rosati: In high school I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude. From the moment I closed the last page of that book, I was like, ‘This is where it’s at.’ I like to blur the line between adventure and danger. There is a scene in Bad Kids, when the boys break out into a wild ‘fruit fight,’ launching cantaloupe sized pudding filled fruits at each other. It’s wild and exciting, but always with the edge of reality. The audience should always know there are consequences to the characters’ actions.
I think the works of Roald Dahl do it best. Yea, Matilda has ‘magical powers,’ but when the girl on the playground is thrown hundreds of feet by her ponytail, it’s terrifying! It’s fantastical, but Roald Dahl is telling us it’s 100% true. The danger is real. Just think of Where The Wild Things Are, the book or the movie. It’s a thrilling adventure and your breath catches in your chest. It’s an impossible story, but when you’re watching, it’s entirely true. The Whistler is probably my most magically real film. It’s an adventure story about protecting the things you love.
Magical Realism is a genre that certainly lends itself to youth. Moviemaking is magic. It’s an unlimited media. I want to tell thrilling stories that are larger than life, but honest to living. And it’s just straight up exciting!
AR: Many of your projects involve very complex production design — from a spaceship to a 9-foot creature. What makes you interested in these kinds of projects?
Rosati: I don’t know really. I guess it’s just something I’m drawn too. I’ve always enjoyed building, painting, etc. With film I can tell a story in a visually imagined world. It’s a challenge I really enjoy taking on. I make movies because I love doing it and I want people to love watching them. The elaborate production design excites me! I want to make films that push my imagination to the limits. There’s no way an audience will enjoy watching a film the cast & crew didn’t enjoy making. I just make the work I like to make.
Of course, the kinds of films I am making lend themselves to heavy design aspects. A film about discovery and adventure is meant to have a magical creature. I’ve been fortunate with The Whistler to work with exceptionally talented designers and artists.
AR: How has your experience been working with Kickstarter to get your films funded?
Rosati: Kickstarter (and more importantly the many wonderful people who donate on Kickstarter) are what have make my past two films possible. It never ceases to amaze me how many original projects (film and nonfilm) are put up on Kickstarter and how the creators’ passion and enthusiasm attracts a crowd. The site has been growing in popularity and I hope it doesn’t lose momentum. The site is an excellent source for artists of all kinds. I’ve discovered some really cool stuff through Kickstarter.
AR: How is your latest project, The Whistler, going, and what should we expect to see from you in the future?
Rosati: I have been ecstatic about The Whistler. I’ve never worked harder on any project. It’s been my full time job for the past year. By my side, working tirelessly have been Suja Ono (production designer), Tyler Weinberger (director of photography), Nicole Nelson-Campos (Co-Producer), and the rest of the cast and crew. If the film is successful it’ll be because of the hard work of over 40 people. I’ve learned a lot from working on this film, always taking mental notes, experimenting, and growing as a filmmaker.
We’re currently in the editing stages and everything is coming together really well. I always look forward to when music and sound design come in. I swear they are what make everything tie together and not to brag, but I’ve got the best team around. Chris Battaglia (sound design) and Jacob Rosati (my brother and composer of all my films) are crazy good and dedicated.
What’s next? Over the summer I’ll be running the second year of my Summer Film Camp cleverly titled Peter’s Film Camp. It’s a Pittsburgh based camp for kids grades 6-11. We had a blast making films with the kids last year and I’m excited to do it again. ( petersfilmcamp.com). Also, I will be acting in Dominic Rodriguez’s upcoming feature We Are Monsters.
Other than that, I’ll be spending my next semester at Emerson’s Los Angeles Campus and then graduating in December. From there, I hope to be able to continue working with such wonderfully talented people to create films that excite and move their viewers.
Check out Le Blue Stella online at the Boston Student Film Festival here and visit Peter's vimeo and imdb to learn more about his work.