Plenty of people dream of careers in the film industry, but Nick Venuti is hustling to frame his shot.
After earning his associate degree through SUNY Broome’s Communications and Media Arts program in 2017, he transferred to the New York Film Academy to pursue his studies in film, video and photographic arts. Film school was an intensive experience, with the first year in New York City and the second in Los Angeles.
“You wake up at 9 in the morning and go until 10 at night. On weekends, you shoot film. It’s nonstop,” he said. “You do it back to back and don’t get a break — and you get three days to move to LA. They only give you recommendations for nearby apartments and let you figure it out, and at the same time you’re finishing up your first-year project. You multi-task.”
It was hectic, hard – and good training for an industry that doesn’t operate on a 9 to 5 schedule.
These days, he’s doing freelance work in the Big Apple – everything from grip and lighting work, to shooting on set and editing online. The aspiring writer and director also continues to work on his own projects, including two feature films that he plans to shop around at film festivals, including Tribeca.
His inspirations include Ari Aster, the young filmmaker behind Hereditary and Midsommar, as well as Damien Chazelle, the filmmaker behind Whiplash and La La Land. Venuti’s own work tends to lean toward comedy and thrillers, often with a hint of surrealism.
He first explored film during his senior year at Chenango Valley High School, when he participated in a stop-motion animation project for class. He ended up taking over the project for his team and spent all his spare time on it – even when the teacher said he didn’t need to do so much work.
“It was the most exciting thing I had ever done,” he said.
Still, film didn’t make the initial cut when it came to career plans. Nick originally intended to go to St. John Fisher College to study marketing, but didn’t get in. SUNY Broome was a Plan B, and a chance to regroup.
“I came here to figure out what I should do and to get my grades up,” he said. “I figured I would try a few film classes and I really fell in love with it.”
The college’s Communications and Media Arts program provided a turning point, and helped him focus on his future career.
“It teaches you what you need to know, and they throw you right into the projects. I already had three small projects done in the first two months,” he said. “It was surprisingly hands-on. In the news-casting class, we were actually producing our own show and making it live in the studio.”
Just a few months in, the magic hour arrived: Instructor Ed Evans asked Nick and classmate AJ Bush to film the 2016 Ecology of the Everglades course. Nick wasn’t sure he was up to the task, but decided to rise to the challenge.
“I had some training with WSKG, but I barely knew how to turn on the camera,” he said.
The two Hornets ended up bringing five cases of gear and seven cameras to the Florida Everglades, including a Go Pro for underwater shots and night-vision technology for filming in darkness. They compiled a massive amount of footage, and continued to edit the film during the remainder of their time at SUNY Broome.
The project continued even after Nick transferred to film school. Once a month, he spent a few hours on edits, slowly piecing together the final cut. After graduating from film school, he looked at it again – and was disappointed.
“So I decided to recut the whole thing,” he said.
It took four more months to finish “Experiencing the Everglades,” which found a larger audience when it was aired on WSKG on New Year’s Day in 2020. And the release isn’t quite done yet; the film will make the rounds at festivals in the New York City area.
Professors who made an impact on the young filmmaker include Ed Evans, Tim Skinner and Chris Keaty in the CMA program, as well as Visual Communication Arts Professor Hall Groat, who taught Nick’s graphic design class. And even though he graduated several years ago, SUNY Broome remains an important part of Nick Venuti’s life. He stays in contact with professors for feedback in his projects, and even shot his film school thesis film on campus.
“It made me realize they really did care about my success, even after I graduated. I even got commercial jobs through teachers that wanted to help,” he said.