In this fascinating discussion, Cinevo speaks with producer and director Ralph Lucchese. He talks about how his military experience affected his cinematic career, his time on SWAT, 9-1-1, Star Trek: Picard, and his fantastic spec feature, The Mat.
Cinevo Host: Welcome once again to a fantastic Cinevo conversations coming first time ever on our Discord Channel and Clubhouse and coming soon to our YouTube channel as well. Today we are gonna have a great guest in Ralphie.
Before we get going with that though I want to make sure that everyone is aware of the Cinevo grant contest. It’s a really great program really focused on our engagement with the independent filmmaker community and with the student filmmaker community. We’ve had a lot of A-list, ace-caliber clients to name a few: NBC, Universal BBC Mattel, many many others. But one thing we really pride ourselves on here is our engagement with the next generation of creators and our commitment to doing our part to helping those creators find a path. So with that in mind, this year in 2023, Cinevo is going to be doing a grant contest. We’re going to be awarding $20,000 in rental grants over five projects. We’re going to have an $8,000 grand prize uh that it’s open to everyone students and professionals we have two $3,000 grants specifically for students that are currently enrolled – one for fiction, one for non-fiction – and then the same two $3,000 grants for professionals non-students, one fiction, one non-fiction. Make sure to visit our website cinevo.com. Check out our link regarding that contest. Email us at [email protected] if you have any questions about it. We would love to field a project from you, our listener, or from somebody in your filmmaking community. It’s something that we’re really proud of. There’s no entry fee required or anything like that; we just want to see what you create.
Ah now, let’s see, do we have our guest yet? Well he will be joining us very shortly scheduled to get going right around three o’clock today.
Ralph Luccese: Hey, can you hear me boss?
Cinevo Host: Ralph! What’s going on? Good to see uh I can see your picture and it’s great to hear your voice. Where are you? Where are you joining us from? You’re on the East Coast somewhere today is that right?
Ralph Lucchese: Yes, I’m over in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.
Cinevo Host: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Uh, home operation of the Ralph Lucchese podcasting project which we will definitely be touching base on here in a little bit. We’ve got so so much to talk about today. I hope we can and can pack it all in. So Ralphie, you know you’re joining us from a pretty unique perspective in your career having had a pretty unique background. I mean, why don’t you go ahead and fill us in you know the early years pre-pre-production and you know what got you into the path where you are now. Tell us a little bit about your background and your military experience.
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah, absolutely! I was going to say do you want to wait for it to actually kick off at six o’clock? I know we’re gonna do a quick sound check. I don’t mind kicking it off early.
Cinevo Host: Yeah, let’s go ahead and get rocking and rolling man, why not.
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah, absolutely, 100%. So um wow military experience bringing it on to the film industry. You’d be shocked how uh how similar the processes are um if we’re being quite frank and honest with each other. Um so kind of quick background on myself – grew up on the East Coast um in the back hills of the Poconos. If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’ve actually realized that there was a parent killer named Brian Kohlberger that comes from this area. They’re very unfortunate um so that’s that’s the kind of publicity and notoriety we get here apparently so um…but no, grew up in, I was I’m a Staten Island kid. New York kid. I had moved to Pennsylvania, I finished my schooling there uh failed out of two colleges before joining the military um so uh and that was more of my own choosing right. College just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the direction so I went to the military, military EOD explosive ordinance disposal. Um dismantled bombs for a little bit and then had the opportunity to cross train to aircraft fuel systems mechanic, a more safe or secure job. So I ended up taking that on, got to work on a lot of incredible aircraft.
And then what kind of, where films always kind of just been on the picture. It’s always been something I wanted to do be a part of, just never really had like the an idea of how to go about it, right? Like it’s always kind of like guessing and checking, not really sure of a direction of what to do or where to go. So I got out of the military in April 2016. I got into a bad car accident and kind of had no direction. I wasn’t really sure about what I was going to do or what I wanted to do but I always knew film something film related at that time, you know.
I broke up with my girlfriend of five years. Well, she broke up with me, excuse me, I’ll give her that credit. I was kind of like well what am I gonna do? Like what am I going to move back home and just you know start from scratch back at home or like am I really gonna take a chance and do it?
So I ended up um flying out at the time I was playing poker professionally on the pro circuit a little bit so I was doing that and I flew out for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas with my buddy, Tim and we ended up driving to LA um on a couple of the days. Where we were, I wasn’t really playing cards as much and went there, visited the Los Angeles Film School and kind of walked down the campus and was kind of like you know what if I’m going to do it? I’m going to do it. And within that time frame, I got a tour of the campus and I put in my application that day to get accepted and I got in so I was like great.
Cinevo Host: Kind of like love at first sight I guess.
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah it was different right? If you go up in the East Coast, it’s a it’s a vastly different mentality. It’s a different type of um it’s a different process out here right. Out here is very aggressive. If you ever came across anybody from the East Coast, there’s this uh there’s this aggression that I think people have here compared to California where it’s vice versa where it’s like people are easy going right. They want to get stuff done but um it’s very calm, cool, collective.
So it was a very, it was something that intrigued me and I was like you know what, if I’m gonna do it now, I’m young enough. I’ll do it. I’ll make it happen, and that’s what ultimately led me to California and the Los Angeles Film School and and what kind of kicked off my filmmaking career.
Cinevo Host: And so, from LAFS, you had described you know there’s a lot of similarities in the in the regimented style of you know military activity and you know the field that we’re in. It’s both collaborative industries, both are industries that require a lot of technical knowledge and attention to detail and things like that. Did you right out of the gate like right at the beginning of your time at LAFS, did you start to kind of see those parallels and and start trying to did you intentionally start working towards you know some of these military-esque type projects or is it something that you just kind of found your way into or did others around you kind of encourage it? I’m not sure exactly on the timeline here help me to understand you did some projects with SWAT. Was that the earliest thing or was it the Air Force documentary that you are which which one of those came first?
Ralph Lucchese: SWAT, so that was one of the first um films uh not films, TV shows, that I’ve had the opportunity to work on. To kind of go back to it in regards to what you were saying um military-esque wise right? So I think the idea of like just do what you know right, be comfortable with what you know, um I think that kind of held precedence right. When first starting at Los Angeles Film School, I met Alex um who you work with. Alex Casella and he also has a military background as well. So um it’s actually a fun story. Him and I kind of hated each other at first because it was always I don’t know if it was a mutual competition which which never really came to like the to the decision of what it actually was but it turns out that we both just had the same type of mindset. And I don’t know if it was bestowed through the military right – there’s military core values that kind of get trained um and like embedded into you and it’s um integrity first service and for itself and excellence and all that we do right. And that’s kind of something that I subconsciously I guess implemented into my my life right. Doing the right thing when nobody’s watching you know. Doing a job and getting the job done you know no matter what it takes and then ultimately doing it like at a performance that’s that’s beyond excellent right. There’s no room for failure. So that type of style and interaction and just that way of life has always intrigued me right. Just doing things until it’s done um that kind of it carries over into my film, The Mat, that we’re going to get to a little bit later, but that idea of just you know you don’t stop when the job’s finished – you stop when it’s done. So it never it’s a never-ending cycle of you know you’re constantly pursuing and moving forward so that kind of translated over to getting on to SWAT and the process I had to do to get onto there because it wasn’t really necessarily an easy process. And anybody that’s that’s attempted to get onto a film set while you’re in film school knows how difficult the process can actually be.
Cinevo Host: Yes.
Ralph Lucchese: They don’t really teach you that stuff in film school right so that’s like the caveat behind it. Like you learn how to make a movie, you learn how to you know everything from start to finish, what makes a good story. You learn all that but what they don’t really teach you is how important the relationships are and and the connections that you build from the beginning to actually get you through you know onto a set of a caliber like SWAT or 9-1-1 or things of that nature. So um you know I know I’m babbling on a little bit here but you know that’s what that mentality is. So like and that’s kind of like it plays into that where you know you don’t stop when you’re finished, you stop when you’re done and the story I always relate to is so just to get on a film set like their goal is what are you gonna do to get on a film set right? Like I’m not going to walk into Warner Brothers and kick down the gate and say what’s up guys just graduated film school and uh you know give me 200 million dollars. I’m gonna go ahead and make your movie. Like clearly that’s just not the process right. You find out that people believe that that’s the process but it really isn’t the process. But the first things first is all right well what do I have to do to at least showcase that you know my name is Ralph. I’m here to stay. I want to do this. This is a passion and this is something that I’m going to turn into you know a long time career of mine so what do I got to do. So it kind of goes with the basics.
It kind of relates back to the military you know at the beginning you come in with an E1 then you go to an E2, E3, so on and so forth all the way up to E9. I chose to take it that way where it was like okay what’s the bottom, what’s the first rank to get on a film set and it was a production assistant. And I was like okay well what entails you know what what’s the job description of the production assistant and for those that don’t know or that aren’t familiar with it you don’t really need to have an incredible resume to be a production assistant right. You really don’t. You know how to just you gotta know how to you know get coffee and help people out on set and just kind of be like a kind person around. Be reliable, be accountable. You got to be sharp, you got to be focused. So that was where that was like phase one. Like all right what do I got to do to be a PA and then the second step was all right well what do I got to do to you know…who are the ones that hires PAs right because it’s all well and good. Like anybody could pour a cup of coffee, anybody can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For the cash, anybody can take people from point A to point B or lock up a corner, things like that. But who are the people that are hiring these people? So you start doing research and you find out things like that so I was like okay well there’s got to be a way to find this. There’s got to be a way to make it happen.
How do I do it – to make a very long and gruesome story short – um I came across the list, a master list, of every single person that has ever registered with the DGA, the Directors Guild of America, and was like all right well what am I going to do here? And so I developed a system and um which entails of every three days waking up and sending emails all through the A’s and then all for the B’s and all through the C’s so on and so forth of just like hi I’m Ralph I want to do this. What can I do to earn a position on your team? Something like that right. So the story goes 7,300 emails, got four. No responses right. and I got one yes and the one yes was the reason why I was able to then network my way not only through SWAT but then through 9-1-1 and then Star Trek: Picard and just navigate my way around into fully encompass what a set was and to really like learn the ins and outs of like what it goes into actually filming a movie outside of the film school aspect.
Cinevo Host: Amazing. No matter what role you want to take in this industry – writer, actor, director, grip, anything – you have to get used to the idea of putting yourself out there a lot and getting rejected a lot at every level. I don’t care if you’re Tom Hanks. I’m sure he gets turned down from stuff for stuff from time to time and developing a thick skin and understanding that. That is part of the process. To build out a network is definitely very critical and I like what you say about hearkening back to that that military philosophy of you know working until the job is done not just until you’re off the clock. Because as we all know, you know anybody can call themselves a DP and point a camera somewhere. but realistically in a lot of cases, if you’re on the set, there maybe nobody going to make those attention to detail suggestions to you that day and you can maybe get through the day doing a you know, pardon the language, a half-assed attempt, or you know a subpar execution but the results are gonna eventually reveal themselves and it’s going to have an effect on your ability in the future. But if you go in on on the day with that philosophy of I’m going to execute this to the best possible form that it can be rather than just I’m going to complete the job that really is the difference between you know one one time on set and and being at the top of somebody’s Rolodex, would you agree?
Ralph Lucchese: Oh absolutely and like you made a great point that you know the industry does a very good job of weeding out the people that don’t really give a shit, and excuse my direct and like aggressive approach, but right? Like there’s people that want to work and there’s people that are willing to do what it what they have to to to advance their careers right so and it’s kind of like this like unwritten thing. It’s like a feeling like I don’t even know how to really describe it but like you could just tell when you’re on a set like all right well this person’s in it to win it and this person’s clearly just here to collect a paycheck which is perfectly fine right. Like absolutely, like do do your work get paid – it is what it is. But there’s a certain tribe that like that you just see on a set of like okay well clearly this person’s here for a purpose it’s not just here for that paycheck.
Cinevo Host: Or because they want to be star struck for a little while. I’ve seen that a few times but yeah you have to maintain a focus.
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah, exactly. Maintain the focus right and then like for those listening to this right you think the star-struck aspect is there and come to find out they’re just regular old people that get paid a lot of money to be on stream right like not to doubt their skill that you know there’s a lot of incredible people have the opportunity to work with but like okay at the end of the day they’re normal people. They you know it’s sometimes some consider it a job other people like they treat it as a privilege um it just goes to show that like we realistically are all kind of equals but the titles that you get on set is where that military aspect comes back into play which is why I feel the similarities there are are so there. Right? Like if we were going to build out a ranking structure which I’m pretty sure some some crazy person has done in the past of like, what rank of producer would be, what rank a director would be, what rank the camera crews would be, so on and so forth – you see where I’m going with it. But that idea and the similarities of that kind of lead into how business in general is ran so there’s just a lot to learn when you start kind of breaking down the process of a film and what actually goes into it and the people involve so on and so forth.
Cinevo Host: Absolutely, and the the more scaled out of production gets those things can actually become pretty critical if you’re a PA or a grip or somebody you know that needs to report – you need to know who to report to you need to. You need to know who’s responsible for what because we’re always under a time limit it’s not we we don’t always get the luxury of staying until we’ve done the absolute best job we can possibly do. Sometimes the sun goes down and you know we’re paying ten thousand dollars a day to have everybody out there it’s not always an option to do an extra day right?
Ralph Lucchese: Absolutely.
Cinevo Host: Now, so SWAT, 9-1-1, Picard, you know obviously you developed a little bit of this trajectory into military asgore or you know types of of productions or you know uniforms and badges I guess to a degree but there’s one thing that you have worked on that is just really really interesting to me and I definitely want to do a deep dive into this – the Air Force para rescue men. It’s a three-day long course to replicate pararescue training with enlisted men that are looking towards two-year excursions into some pretty serious conditioning and environmental situations so yeah can can you tell us a little bit about how you got into this project in the first place, what your experiences with it were like, and when we’ll talk about Sergeant Thomas in a second here because he’s a great character, but how did you get involved in this in the first?
Ralph Lucchese: Perfect so, during our conversation, I know we spoke in the past, but you’re going to hear me bring up Alex a lot um Alex Casella so I mean…
Cinevo Host: Who is listening in right now by the way!
Ralph Lucchese: *laughs* yeah so and the reason why I say that like the kid like he’s my partner in crime right and I call him the kid like I’m not meaning that in a derogatory.
Cinevo Host: So sorry we are just getting a little technical difficulty, Ralph. Give me just a second here.
Ralph Lucchese: In our apartment like you’re like what the hell are we gonna do man? Like we’re bored like you know. You can only play so many video games, you can only do you know you can only eat so much food until you’re like what are we really gonna do? And he was like dude like remember that old TV show about power rescue men and like combat rescue where they followed like all these you know hardcore series around. And I was like yeah, I totally get it. He was like what if we did that I was like well that sounds like a lot of fun but what would it entail, right? So he started doing his own due diligence and started researching. I didn’t think he was being serious about that, being quite frank. And I was like all right well whatever, it’ll happen if it happens if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. I’m focusing on you know at the time I was planning my own feature documentary and things like that. So he hits me up and he’s like hey so there’s this guy, Brian Silva, who does this program down in Texas um and it’s a pararescue men program and I was like what are you talking about, right? So and we kind of broke it down and it turns out that he during the time Brian takes civilians that are looking to join pararescue men and go through the training. He takes him through a three-day course of like what it’s going to look like of like hey if you could survive three days um and I say that with a grain of salt like if you can survive the three days, this is what two years of your life is essentially going to be looking like. So let’s give you a taste and if you think that you have what it takes to do it then by all means do it but if not back out because this shit’s no joke and that kind of that’s how it came about. Like Alex kicked it off and was like dude I need somebody there to help me with this – we’ve got to find a way to raise money. We have to find a way to film this thing like what camera do we want to shoot on like so we built this from scratch and built this incredible relationship with Brian. And it didn’t really hit me until we were actually waiting at the airport and I was like yo like we just did this. Like and it was only like a six week, seven week turnaround, give or take. Like it wasn’t like we had like four, five, six months to plan for it. It was kind of like the inception was there, what are we gonna do to do this? And we met with Brian, we met with his team and was like Hey like we’re gonna come out and we’re gonna film this and he was like cool. And he almost had that mentality of like I’ll believe it when I see it right? And then that’s what happened. We kind of showed up and it was like yo like you guys are here, like the real deal. Like you guys are actually here to do this. And we’re like absolutely, we’re here to do this like this is our goal like we’re we’re filmmakers we’re gonna make this shit happen and we want to make it happen. So we followed these people around for three days and it was it was definitely one of the most extensive film shoot that I was a part of right because even like when you work on SWAT, like it’s a set schedule like you just know like if you get your call sheet you know. I’m showing up at 4:30, she’s probably gonna run till six in the afternoon whatever and then we’ll go home. Because of the nature of this training course, it was like we had a quote-unquote set schedule. But as a gorilla documentary style filmmaker, you know the schedule is there just to kind of be on paper things change you need to adapt. So we were up at two in the morning we were filming following these guys go through crazy you know whether it be 10 mile runs at 3:00 A.M. to them then going into the pool at 5:00 A.M. It was just this long right like we were going through our own training experience going through this. It was just that intense. And it’s always cool seeing people of another industry for like the military like the peak in right because at one point I was that from the military. I was looking in from a film side like I wonder what actually gets involved in film like what is the purpose of it. Like is it really as simple as picking up a camera and you know pointing it at somebody and shooting it? Like what really goes in there? And I had bring up the Sergeant Thomas incident because so he was one of those people right? Guys tough as nails. Like pretty sure he ate nails for breakfast and he’s one of those guys that like he did not tolerate bullshit. He just doesn’t. Like yeah his and his career and his job as a pararescue man if you fuck around, you die. Like it’s that extreme right so I would guess that he just lives in this this fight or flight mentality constantly. So you know when you see people running around with the camera and like me running around the pool like oh Alex run over here like we have to get this. Like jump in the pool, get the shot right? You know it could come off cumbersome. It’s kind of like oh like what the hell are these kids doing so at the beginning of the film shoot. It’s interesting seeing all the cadres and the trainers like yeah I don’t want to be on camera right. Besides Brian, everybody’s like yeah I don’t want to be on camera. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be on camera. So you’re like okay fine like we’ll respect your decision, like it is what it is. You don’t have to be on camera but as like the hours go on, and they start seeing how involved the crew is right, like they start seeing like, damn like Alex is in the pool swimming with these people that are drowning to get a shot. Like they’re mentally like what the hell is film right? Like and they had that realization and so I caught on to that very early on. Like I noticed that Sergeant would promise Alex and I would sit down like at night and be like all right like what do we got to do? And I was like dude, we’re gonna get this guy on camera, like we are. There’s no doubt about it. And the second day we’re going through filming, I see him. He’s looking at us and every time like we would get a shot I just noticed he would peep over and look at the monitor he was always looking at the monitor to see what we were filming but then like when you would look at him he would kind of like turn away and not pay attention. So like finally there was like a very intense scene right, so the guys are laying on the pool, I think there’s 50 or 60 of them they’re laying on the pool. They’re doing butterfly kicks, they can’t even breathe. They’re soaking wet. They have a hose being sprayed in their face and there’s this awesome shot in the documentary where Sergeant Thomas is just walking on there and like looking at them like a hawk’s eyes like he’s just grilling these people down. And it’s a great transition because Brian is the main focus at the beginning and then out of nowhere it’s almost like Sergeant Thomas takes the reins and just starts fucking these people up, excuse my language. And that happens. And at the end of that, I went to Sergeant Thomas and was like you want to see something cool? And he was like sure. And we showed him and because we made him look like an absolute badass now, the rest of the whole time is like dude get me doing this and come over here and catch me doing that. But it was that. It was that sort of like camaraderie that you build right. Like everybody, and I do think it’s a military thing like hey man like at first I’m gonna become extremely standoffish because I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but we’re kind of thrown in this weird situation that we that we’re forced to enjoy together. But then there’s a moment where that breaks where you realize that you both have everybody’s intentions like the right intentions in mind and that’s when the fun truly begins. So that kind of kicks off the the connection of military squad all the way up to the pararorecumin story and how we went on to film to win a couple of film awards in that category.
Cinevo Host: Now one thing that oh we had this conversation just recently with Lindsay Taylor Jackson. She was working in and around the Denali National Park area which is you know a national park and you’re obviously doing this project in at a very serious training facility that has a lot of classification associated with it so you had to you know you can’t have cameras inside that training facility I assume. So there’s probably a lot of focus on exterior shots – how much of a challenge was that for you to still build out a great narrative but having that restriction? How do you navigate a lot of those other types of you know situations when you’re doing something that involves engagement with a government operation?
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah great question, so they’re right and like not to kind of like put this on the spectrum of like yo like we were this badass like it is what it is right. There’s a lot of things that the government, the US government, doesn’t want you to be a part of and a lot of the training that these people go through some of the stuff is secret or quite frankly, they just don’t want you in their house right. Like that’s just it. Like they just it’s their place of business it’s their place. It’s their Zen. They don’t want anybody that’s not supposed to be there to be there. So there’s just like there’s just again it’s a mutual understanding of like listen I’m not going to make you guys look bad. Here’s the parameters of what we’re trying to do and what we’re going to accomplish if we can do it within the realm that you have, great. But if not, let us know and and we’ll find a way to navigate around it. So it was good. Like when we went to the house, we went to the the clubhouse. Like about the more on clubhouse um and I’m probably even using the wrong terminology in this case but when we’re actually on the base, it was actually nostalgic because San Antonio was where you go to basic training right. So pretty cool to kind of drive around San Antonio again and like see where you were getting screwed up and like spit on and things – like that going through basic training. And then you’re like well I’m here to actually film a different aspect of this and I’m going to like one of the most badass training facilities across the board right. Like Navy Seals get this huge title of like yeah you know like the the Frog Man and they have this and again, like what they do is incredible. No one’s taking that away from them but pararescue men in their own aspect. Or like who do you call when Navy Seals need to be safe? Like you call them pararescue men so like it’s kind of that regard like we’re gonna we’re meeting a different specimen of people. So and it’s like this weary nervousness that you get over so when you get to the facility and you’re walking around you know they’re very respectful. There’s a mentality that they have from the beginning the second you walk in to the second you leave. Like you know, loyalty and their mission statement. Like they live to that til they die like it’s it’s that intense. So that’s why at the beginning of the documentary we have Brian kind of he he walks through what it means to be a para rescuement and that statement of how intense it is because that’s how intense it was from the beginning. I do wish we could have got footage inside the facility because it’s so cool man. Like it just looks like a record. It looks like a UFC gym again, if I’m being honest, just without like the Octagon. I would set up the workout facilities, the classroom, that’s there for them to go in and you know learn certain things. But you just navigate and you roll with the punches. So Brian, because he has this this system and schooling in place, he kind of had the connections already with you know um I believe it was a local College in Alexandria if I’m not wrong. But one of the local colleges or schools that were in the area that let us use their pool and they didn’t really care about filming anything there. We just didn’t really get any logos you know. Like just things like that trying to stay out of this from like a marketing and advertising perspective. But you kind of just roll with the punches man. Like you just got to be ready you got to be on point so something was to change like you have to have a team willing to make that change and adapt. A lot of times, when people get confronted with things that need to change on the spot, they freeze up and they’re not really sure what to do. So it’s cool to have the crew that you know you can rely on so that if something needs to change, we need to instantly do it or if we wake up at three o’clock in the morning because Brian decides to shoot Alex and us attacks saying hey we’re about to scare the shit out of these guys and put them on a 10-mile run. Get your camera. Like you got to be ready to go so it’s that intense right. So it’s good. The navigation, understanding how certain systems work, and understand how not only their systems, but you your team and your processes. Once you have that narrowed down to a T, it’s almost like you’re invincible and unstoppable.
Cinevo Host: That’s awesome. Now there was a uh a little situation that you told me about where due to your pelican cases and all the gear you were carrying around, you had a little case of mistaken identity. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah it’s actually so I so my I have an email that’s…I’m banned by Airbnb. Um and it’s and it’s primarily because right and like it’s obviously an understanding and if I really wanted to fight for my ability to rent out another Airbnb, I’m pretty sure I can. But so we stayed at like an apartment condo complex like I think it was 10 to 15 minutes right off the base. And it’s a military town right. Like it’s a military town. So like people kind of already have this understanding of like yeah like everybody around us, you’re more than likely going to be surrounded by military. What we didn’t really understand was that the place that we were going to that we rented was like a gigantic somewhat like Airbnb complex before they were actually known as like Airbnb complexes so we were there. And because of the nature of the work we were doing right, like I mean I’ll try to paint the picture of it right. Four pretty muscular dudes with like I have a full beard wearing military hats like we’re in full military garments like in regards to just you know the types of jackets you’ll wear like there’s a certain military look. Whatever you’re picturing in your head of what you would think like somebody that’s not in a uniform. But literally the experience, what it was like, it wasn’t like we planned on it it. Was just kind of just like yeah like when in Rome right? Like do what the Romans do. So because we were waking up at two o’clock in the morning to grab the cameras and move around, like we’re not setting up our cameras in-house and carrying it, like we’re doing on location. So we had a ton of um pelican cases and like all of our equipment. So the neighbor across the hall uh they had a ring camera I think. It was a ring or like one of the like whatever those cameras are outside. And like at two o’clock in the morning, they would keep getting these notifications and they freaking reported it to Airbnb saying that our next door neighbors there and then there was like some weird like there was gunshots heard right like around the time that we were leaving. It was just like this weird misunderstanding that somehow I got caught up in where they were like hey so like you have to pay this fee and then you need to have this fee and I was like guys like this is the nature of our doc, like this is why we were walking around at two o’clock in the morning and you know coming back at 11:00 P.M. But like it was just such a shit show for lack of a better term. Like that’s how insane it got and we were like well what are we gonna do? I’m like well clearly we have nothing to do with this but it’s you know people complained and that’s the reason why I kind of got banned from Airbnb for the time being I guess.
Cinevo Host: Yeah well if uh if you were mercenaries you were the least discreet mercenaries of all time it sounds like.
Ralph Lucchese: Oh absolutely there’s nothing discreet about it in this light. Which is why it was comical.
Cinevo Host: So now you know those are some great experiences and you’ve parlayed into a pretty uh, a more eclectic career as of late. You’ve been doing some behind the scenes short documentary style work with comedian Eric D’alessandro. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Ralph Lucchese: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean so it’s actually funny how I got involved with that right um and it’s something that’s so simple as like hey you just keep reaching out to somebody until you get a no right. Um so it was, wow, it was almost two years ago and my fiance sent me an Instagram DM and was like hey like because she likes Eric D’alessandro – thinks his comedy’s funny – was like hey you should reach out. They’re looking for somebody and I was like cool I’m gonna do it. And I reached out. No response. I was like well now I’m kind of annoyed right like at least tell me to F off.
So I was like hey, just following up so on and so forth and they won’t respond. I was like dude like what is going on here? So I reached. I researched who his agent was and I was like all right like if I’m really gonna do this, I’m going to fully commit to it. But I was like all right let me give it one last chance. And I reached out and he was like hey Ralph like totally gonna do it. Didn’t know I was speaking to his manager Matt at the time but um I was like hey this is what I’m trying to do like I saw you were looking for this give me the opportunity I promise you I’ll crush it for you. And he was like cool, sounds good, here’s a place, here’s a location, here’s a time, let’s do it. And I didn’t realize that the location was you know four and a half hours from where I was and it was like nine hours until I had to be there so I was like well son of a gun right. Like that’s where it was like well got to do what you got to do um and that relationship kind of built. Same idea, like doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall and it kind of kicked off where it was like hey like you only need me for this job? I’m gonna make sure I do the job for you and it’s the product of what you do when you’re there, do what’s expected of you when you’re there and then do a little more so they can see that you’re here for a long time. And because of that, and what I did with him turned into like hey like we’re performing at Live Casino in Philadelphia are you available? And that was yes and then it got into like hey Ralph like considering filming Eric’s comedy special. Would this be something you want to be involved in? And then I actually reached out to Alex to see what we could do from there but um and it was just the relationship kind of grewup until his recent performance or at least his recent show at the St. George Theater in Staten Island that he sold out for 1800 people both nights. So it’s just, it’s cool being a part of it where you get to kind of see it from this weird perspective of an outsider. They take a chance on you and because they took a chance on you, you have this like relationship there where it’s like they can rely on you. That that sense of reliability feels feels great because then you know it’s like yeah you’re dependable. You can be relied on you know if someone calls you up at the dead of night and goes hey I need this done. Can you do it? They know that you’re yes means yes and they know that you’re going to get the job done so that’s a certain you know the ability to do that and that opens the doors for so many things now – meeting with him and his network of people – if they were ever looking for it right. Like it just opened the doors because of the job that you do right.
Cinevo Host: So how would you describe the stand-up community? Would you say you know is it is it a competitive type of atmosphere? Is it a little, you know… how do they work together? Is Eric very like protective of you as his his camera guy or does he prefer to tell you know exclaim your accomplishments and send other comedians your way? Or is it…
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah oh I see what you’re saying. So obviously I hope that. That would be the goal. I think in regards to who goes about doing that it’s kind of out of his jurisdiction only because like he’s represented. He has an agent and a manager right so as long as you’re doing a good job for him, that’s great. But you really want to and I hate to say it like this and Eric if you’re listening just know that I I crushed it every single time, but it’s the idea of you know you want to impress the agent, you want to impress the manager, because they’re the one at the end of the day that’s sending you know they’re sending you the money. They’re the ones that are like hey I represent Eric but I also represent you, this guy, and that guy or this band and that band so Ralph did a good job here. I wonder if he could do a good job here right. So you’re kind of juggling this this strange, I don’t really know how to word it without it sounding pretentious, and I’m really not meaning to come off pretentious but there’s a fine line that you have to like follow because you know you never want to do too much to where you’re overbearing but if then again if you do too little then you seem like you’re not doing your job. So you got to know. You kind of read the room, know the crowd. You kind of get this feeling the world of comedy is really cool though because like from a comedian standpoint for what I’m seeing, like everybody just freaking likes each other and they’re just trying to be funny which is really cool. Like you know what I mean? Like I’ve heard like the conversations in the background like there’s no like shit talking. Like it’s always like did you hear that joke, did you hear that skit? Like man, like the crowd was going crazy when he said that. Like did you hear how they responded? That’s what’s cool about that crap, hearing how comedians that may or may not have ever worked together in the past but you put them in a green room and like they’re talking about the dynamics of a joke and what makes a joke really funny and why it’s funny. That’s a cool dynamic and I have had the opportunity to kind of sit in the background like a fly on the wall and just hear how those conversations go right because I’m learning a whole new industry. It’s like you’re… it’s a… I don’t want to say free education but you’re just learning what truly goes into another person’s craft and I think in this industry across the board whether it’s film television you know Broadway music, across the board, at least having a decent understanding of how the person or the people that you’re working with and what their process and what it actually takes to go into their craft – once you have an understanding of how that goes, your job makes more sense because then you’re able to help them get to what they want to accomplish. And in the meantime, you’re also helping yourself get to that next step in your career right.
Cinevo Host: Right. And this engagement with you know the comic world is a pretty natural segue towards your podcasting production company. Can you tell us a little bit more about this? This is a fairly recent development for you, correct?
Ralph Lucchese: Yeah that’s kind of the new endeavor right. So once COVID kind of sent me back to the east coast you know filming is here. And this is an option but you kind of go to where the market is. Um so while I’m filming, I’m doing a lot of stuff for clients. The kind of things that you know from a showcase level like if I’m ever bidding on a job or an opportunity like that presents itself, that’s where I get to kind of showcase the portfolio. It just thinks that the public portfolio isn’t really out there because it’s not made for the public. That’s one thing you find out too as you start going through things – that yeah like you’re doing work but if you’re being commissioned and you work for hire, thank you for filming it, but that work actually isn’t really yours and unless they give you the right to show it right you know I don’t want it on your site right. I mean granted, that’s not the case all the time, but that is kind of like, just the again, it’s like that mutual understanding.
But when podcasting kind of came about, I always wanted to do podcasting um even when I lived in California. That was always an option and it was always just like well I truly don’t think podcasting is as intricate as people want to make it out to be. And I kept fighting with myself for a very long time about that because the production of podcasting if I could film a freaking movie how hard is it to produce a podcast? Like that was my, that was my mentality about the whole creation of it. Like I did this for this and it was much more involved. Is it truly that difficult? And then you come to find out that it’s the same thing across the board – it’s not the process that’s difficult, it’s the story. It’s the purpose of a podcast. Once you have a purpose of a podcast, the rest is history. If anything could come from it so I turned that and I was like well what’s the next option here? Because no one has three to four hundred dollars a podcast session. Maybe they do right, but like the people were on that they don’t have the access to that sort of capital to do it let alone like hey I’m gonna produce a podcast like what’s my budget and I tell you yeah like a fully intricate podcast video production start to finish. I think this is the range of it you know. Sometimes the door gets slammed in your face so my thing is I wanted the opportunity for people to have the experience that I had in regards to production where I was given a chance and an opportunity to do it like who am I to say no to somebody else that wants the opportunity and chance to do it so I’m in the process. I wish I could send you the website because like literally today I signed paperwork to have it redone and revamped. You can check it out if you want to but it’s it’s like a throwaway website which is unfortunate but um the purpose of The Podcast Room is to give ambitious creators the opportunity to experience what a podcast is, from start to finish, without it destroying their bank account right? The idea is like a gym membership but for podcast production where you pay a subscription fee for the month and you have access to the studio, you have access to the recording devices, you have access to this, you have access to that, so that you would come in and truly do a podcast without the the worry of well am I going to be can I afford 17, $1800 a month to to do four episodes of a podcast? Because the answer is no – not the average consumer – can’t do that, unfortunately. So the goal is to kind of shift it and go well when I was in California and I wanted to do a podcast, I wish this was an opportunity for me while I was out there and it wasn’t til I said well let me at least do it here and see the process that I can do to bring that here. And that’s currently where it’s at. So the podcast, I currently produce two podcasts, one called Lunch Beers um which is an awesome podcast, this is going to be a little shameless plug. So if you’re going to give it a listen, it’s an awesome it’s a great show guys so anybody that lives and works in corporate America. Uh it’s for guys that clock out on their lunch break for an hour, get absolutely hammered, talk about shitty business deals and sports, degeneracy before clocking back into work. And the goal is like hey don’t worry, there’s no HR here, so that’s like a fun podcast in that regard if you like the debauchery of corporate America and like hearing the struggles of what it actually is to get a business deal signed. And the alternative is I work with Randy Dietrich who we did a documentary, Blue Ridge: The Randy Detrick Story – and his next passion in life is to um motivate people who want to be public speakers. This picture like Gary V, but like not as to the extent of Gary V.
Cinevo Host: Okay.
Ralph Lucchese: Um and that’s his goal right. So his goal is to do what we did from a podcasting perspective, was kind of formulate this idea. He has talks that he’s building and developing from scratch and we put him on a podcast and we started from the beginning, some are two minutes, some are 15, some are 30. And we talk about the podcast like what it is. He goes through the whole quote-unquote talk as in as if he was presenting it to a group of people. And then him and I at the end of it from a outsider’s perspective as a new entrepreneur compared to what he’s an entrepreneur, kind of break down like why it’s crucial like for certain for certain aspects – like the purpose of the importance of asking for opportunity, the importance of you know doing the right thing, like how does that translate to business. So those are the two podcasts that I currently produce out of The Podcast Room um but we’re looking to get more through there but ultimately provide it as like a generalized public service so that anybody could come in and pay a monthly fee to just come in and record and essentially leave and have a full edited podcast at their disposal and they can begin their podcasting journey that way.
Cinevo Host: That’s fantastic. It’s a fantastic resource that you’re providing to people that probably otherwise wouldn’t have access to these tools. I haven’t heard of anybody replicating this model so kudos to you for having the ingenuity.
Tell us again the name of those two shows and where we can find them?
Ralph Lucchese: Absolutely, so Lunch Beers, and that could be found on Apple and Spotify and Podbean, Google Podcast, it’s all over all the directories. And the second is The Randy Dietrich Living On Purpose Podcast, same as before, um Apple, Spotify, Podbean, they’re all over the place. Randy and I recently started doing the video podcasting aspect because over the tax write-off season came in the end of 2022. So um purchased all new camera equipment, brand new microphones for the studio, and now we have the video element added in there as well. So the last two episodes that are currently up, I believe it’s 86 and 87, um they now have the video element on it which can be found on The Podcast Room YouTube page as well.
Cinevo Host: That’s awesome. Be sure to check that out, listeners. And you have another project that you’re working on right now that I definitely want to make sure we get to now as as we’ve been going for about 45 minutes here because you are a great conversationalist. Ralph – we’re so pleased to have you as part of the…
Ralph Lucchese: I appreciate that.
Cinevo Host: And we’re so pleased to have you here as a guest today. Definitely tell us about The Met. You’ve got a short film proof of concept completed. You’re looking for funding and sponsorship opportunities here. Tell us about this story. Tell us about what inspired you into it. And tell us where you are now and what the next steps are.
Ralph Lucchese: Absolutely, so The Mat came to fruition…it had to have been…so my buddy Mikey Dahlstrom, he was a collegiate wrestler and he came out on the business trip when I lived, when I was out in Cali, I believe it was 2018, maybe early 2019. And he came out there and I wrestled for a year when I was in high school. But he was like, he performed at the highest stages that’s outside of the Olympics and I was like all right well this is something that I’m truly involved in right. Like I love this. I think this is great. Like what does it really entail and then you start really breaking it down and come to the realization that dude like it’s that same idea, same thing with wrestling. Same thing with the pararescue in the military where it’s that involved. Like it’s fight or flight. Like it’s me against the world. I’m taking this on. I truly think that wrestling is that sport where there is an I in team because you only perform as well as you are right. Whereas other sports, there’s no I in team. But there’s a media team, whatever it is, but the the idea of like no like it truly is a um like a me sport where if you don’t perform, you’re not good, and there’s just something about that that I really I think that I like. There’s just, there’s a quality about it that I truly enjoy. So him and I, we got hammered one night and he started talking to me about this one guy I think with Cary Kolat, and how like intricate his wrestling was and how he’s known for this backflip called the Kolat flip. And he used that to pin somebody and I was like truly invested then I was like yo like this is cool this is the process. And then the creative juices start flowing and you start going well, what can really happen here? Like I wonder what it’s like to live as right like I don’t know Cary, I’ve never met Cary, but I’m curious to know what experience would be like to actually live like with him and just experience that. And that’s kind of where it started. So then that’s a story about a young kid and there’s a lot of personal anecdotes in there that I add in there from a storytelling perspective, and the idea of like a father-son relationship and how crucial it is right. So I grew up, I’m Sicilian um and those who do that don’t know Italian culture, things like that, it’s just very stringent right. Very Roman Catholic, very on the point but my dad was that same way of like hey if you’re going to do something then do it like you don’t quit. Like if you say you’re gonna do it and you truly want to do it, you can’t quit at it because if you do that then what the hell is the point of doing it? So that was like my relationship growing up so that translates into there because sometimes when you go through this process, all you want from somebody whether it be a father figure, whether it be a dad, all you want is for somebody to say good job sometimes. It’s all you want – that’s not going to be the reason you stop right. But if you really think about it, when was the last time someone told you good job? Like I could probably count on one hand how many times and in my 30 years someone actually said that right. So there was this idea and dynamic that I really wanted to mess around with of like what would it be to be the son of an ex-Olympic gold medalist who just so happened to be a wrestler and he is now my high school wrestling coach who only understands perfection? Like what would that concept look like? And really just kind of diving into it like man like throughout this whole process how bad it would be for someone to say good job. Because once that happens, you’ve arrived and the jobs essentially completed because it’s completed and that’s the thing. And I think in life that you’re never truly done because once you arrive you automatically start again. So yes there’s a lot of concepts in there and again like I don’t want to answer too much about it but we’re really involved intricately about getting the film done.
So my recent endeavor I work with this…I got introduced to a manager named John Oakes, who owns the Poconos Park Amphitheater, and he comes from the music industry, heavily involved. And he’s helped produce films in the past. He’s done a lot of stuff from the music side as well music videos. Um his involvement in the music scene is quite extensive and recently the the idea is like hey man like you want to make a movie? We’re going to film a movie and it’s that idea of if you say you’re going to do it then let’s freaking do it. Stop talking about it. Let’s do it. That’s where we’re at. It’s done. The feature scripts currently um on the festival circuit. It’s more of like uh we’re getting like an evaluation done to see where it can be on this on the grading charts out of 10 because some festivals do it out of a 10. It currently sits at a 7.9 so it’s not, it’s not entirely bad right like there’s definitely room for improvement, but before I get it up to the level where we’re going to start like finding funding and investors and reaching out to studios, I want to get it you know in the high eight area because then the only reason they’re going to say no is if they want their team to do it right and not have me do it. So that’s like the overall right. I’m mentally confident that like if you’re gonna tell me no, there better be a good reason. So that’s kind of just where our head is at with it and where it’s at now but yeah man it’s one hell of a ride trying to get it filmed on while you know doing this and podcasting and selling stuff and trying to get Alex involved on projects. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of intricate stuff happening over here.
Cinevo Host: I know we have financiers and producers in our listening audience uh both on our YouTube and in our Discord Channel so I can’t endorse this one enough. I’ve seen the pitch deck, I have a pretty good idea of the story, The Mat. I mean it’s a timeless story uh about you know male relationships. You have a really nice attention to detail, articulating what an East Coast winter really feels like and I think that that comes across in the story. So yeah you know we absolutely wish you the best of luck and we’re gonna do everything that we can to help get this thing over the line uh along with you. It’s a great story and it comes from a personal place which I think is a big factor to authentic storytelling. Which is ultimately, you should be telling something from from your perspective, from your experience, from your heart, and I think the Matt does that absolutely well. Well we’ve been going for for a good while here I won’t take up any more day of your day Ralph, but thank you so much for joining us. This has been a great conversation. We’re so glad to have you as part of the Cinevo community and we really really look forward to seeing the next step in your career sir.
Ralph Lucchese: Hey man, I appreciate you having me on. If there’s ever anything I can do for you guys or Cinevo, don’t ever hesitate to reach out. I appreciate the opportunity to work with you guys.
Cinevo Host: Absolutely! Thank you so much, Ralph. Thank you to all of our listening audience and again be sure to check out our website cinevo.com. If you are a filmmaker yourself, be sure to submit to our grant contest. Although if you’re submitting in professional fiction category, you are going to be going up against The Mat and Ralph Lucchese, so good luck.
Ralph Lucchese: Thank you guys so much. Have a great one.