Say hello to Dominic Panico, Our newest Filmpunch Featured Member! We pick a new member from the community every so often and get all up in their stuff in order to gain a little insight on who they are and what they are up to.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My Name is Dominic Panico. I am a Filmmaker and Photographer from Madison, Wisconsin. I am slowly building a movie soundtrack record collection and enjoy a good ole country buffet…
What got you started in filmmaking?
There were Three key events that pulled me into filmmaking.
1. I grew up spending a good chunk of time watching films with my brother. We repeatedly watched Alien and a lot of Mel Brooks films. I was really intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes. Overtime what was casual watching turned more into studying scenes and memorizing movie lines.
2. All throughout High School I made random short videos for class projects. (reenacting the destruction of the printer scene from Office Space at a local park for Social Studies class. I can’t imagine what people thought driving by.)
3. I didn’t actually consider filmmaking as a career until I was sitting at my computer scrolling through degree choices while enrolling for college. I went from accounting to medical feeling really uneasy about each one till I landed on the film degree. Film is a passion for me, and that sounded better than trying to simply find a degree to land me a job and make money. It was pretty much like someone hit the switch and it was obvious what I wanted to pursue.
Do you think it’s necessary to attend film school to have a successful film career?
School was never something I vibed well with, I have had some bad experiences with film professors. Ones that either didn’t care enough to actually teach, or ones that ran with the motto, “I am always right and you’re always wrong.”
I spent probably 2 years at film school, and for me, what I really learned was my love for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”, and my mad crush on Grace Kelly.
But to answer your question, no, I don’t think it’s necessary. I think what it all comes down to, like anything else in this world, is how driven you are, and who you know. Many famous people involved in film either dropped out or didn’t even bother. They found their own path based on how much they wanted it.
Personally, I feel that you can learn more from making a film with your friends in a backyard than you can sitting in a lecture hall. Even if the film is junk and you delete it from the face of the Earth; you still take something away from it that will assist you next time.
Aside from all my negativity towards film school, I do still see how it has its place for some people. While I was there, it allowed me to be around peers who share the same interest. Having people who are working towards the same goals, naturally, you begin to learn from each other. To make a film, it usually helps to have a crew, and if you’re not a super social person like me, It can be difficult pulling that crew together when you’re not in school.
What do you find inspires you the most?
2 things have a lot of effect over me. Movies and Music (Generally movie soundtracks)
Movies are more my time to learn how a pro does it best. I usually find myself saying:
“I have to try that… and even if I fail, I’ll learn a way of how not to do it.”
Music is all imaginative to me. When I have my headphones in, it is like working with a blank canvas and I can build stories off of the music. I am not very good at pulling ideas from my brain, but when music is playing its like everything is less cluttered and really shows how powerful the imagination is.
Does anyone else find themselves driving while listening to music and thinking, “This song would be great for a car chase scene?”
What, in your mind, makes a good story?
I am really into the thriller, crime genre (American Psycho, Memento, Pulp Fiction).
Christopher Nolan never disappoints me when telling a story, and I am fascinated on how he goes about taking a basic concept and evolving it into something that comes off as complex. I love being on the edge of my seat always guessing what will happen next. Being able to tell a story that swallows the audience where they pay less time trying to find plot holes and more time on a character’s journey is a brilliant example of the story and pace guiding the audience.
I am also really into Adventure and Fantasy, such as “Life of Pi” or “The Fountain”. These type of movies impact me in a way where I will be left thinking about all the symbolism and messages days later. In my mind, a good story has me experiencing all my emotions – Love, Hate, Fear, Happiness, etc. So when I am done with a film I feel like it was not just a movie but something I connected with.
If you could be a part of any production/movie, past or present, what would it be and why?
Peter Jackson’s, The Lord of the Rings! It would just be amazing to watch the entire process of this trilogy from pre production to post. The sets in New Zealand are insane, and all the crazy detail that went into creating every prop and separate piece of armor is creativity pushed to its limits.
Plus hanging with that cast would be great too.
You are currently working as an editor and floor staff at a local NBC broadcast station. Tell us a little bit about that.
It is definitely a different environment working with news anchors than on a independent film.
Half of my day is spent in an edit bay and the other half in the studio. There are 4 shows in one day. Before each show I edit the stories both nationally and locally (Some pretty crazy stories in this world). I then send them over to the director who applies graphics and codes them to each show.
During the show I floor direct, which entails me setting up the studio, and operating three cameras on heavy duty tripods while being queued by the director in the master control room.
I was pretty fortunate to get my foot in the door. I moved to a new city, jobless, which brought a lot of stress for the first couple months. I knew when I moved that I wanted to find a job more in my field than retail or a restaurant. So I built a portfolio and resume and threw it around places.
Working in broadcasting was another area of filmmaking I was interested in, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to experience it while doing my own filmmaking and photography on the side.
I must say that independent filmmaking is on a whole another level of commitment. Bringing a cast and crew together to create something from pure imagination with people who are willing to work for free is amazing. It really is more about doing something you enjoy and a story you believe in telling than trying to earn some cash.
What has been your most memorable moment so far in your journey to becoming a filmmaker?
My most memorable moment was kind of of a train wreck. It was a collaborative filmmaking class where all the students chipped in cash for a budget to make one short film.
That was all fine and dandy till nobody could agree on anything and we spent over half the semester just trying to get the plot of the story down. (ended up being a terrible plot)
Once we finally moved on to costumes, props, hiring actors, and location scouting It proceeded to get worse. Costumes were horrible, props didn’t make sense, and the actors we hired never showed up. People involved just started not caring. Once the project crashed, I had to be the main actor just so we could pass the class and believe me, I am no Daniel Day-Lewis.
That being said, I learned a lot from that experience. It really showed how horrible a process can be when your not fully committed to it. A lot of, what not to do lessons were learned, and it was very rewarding in its own twisted way.
But more of a positive moment: Every time I get to hit the final export and upload button is a feeling that is rewarding every time.
What would be a piece of advice that you wished you would have gotten when you first started your filmmaking journey?
For me learning is all about experiencing it. Advice can only go so far in my head until I try it myself. I understood all the handwork that went into creating a film but it was not until I actually had to do it myself that I truly understood, and even now I am still trying to grasp it, and then understanding that it will always be evolving.
Advice I wish I had received was the importance of networking. You simply cannot do everything alone. Having multiple brains on a project is a huge part of learning and building. The people you network with are the ones who may become your best friends or even the ones who help assist you on landing your dream job. I think creating strong relationships on projects are some of the most rewarding experiences that I wish I would have recognized earlier…they should not be taken for granted!
Check out Dominic’s media page on facebook.