In 1999 I developed my first (ambitious) online format. A website where travelers could upload (send to...) their own traveling videos sharing first hand experiences and advice to other travelers. A mix between a DIY National Geographic and Lonely Planet... The name was humansteps.com. I was able to buy it and keep it for some years for a low amount of money (today I saw someone is offering the domain north of $2000...). In April 2000 I left Milan (Italy) and traveled to Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu and Lhasa (China, Tibet). No question those were very early days for online video streaming (if I recall correctly, videos were encoded with Real or Windows up to 256kbps, full of huge pixels). But they were pioneering years, during which passion could lead you up to the 'roof of the world' (That's how Tibet is called).
I had with me my SONY 700 one CCD (before the SONY 1000...). When I came back and showed the footage to national TV broadcasters, they were impressed with the quality. $50/$70K Betacam footage was suddenly being challenged by digital low budget cameras in the hands of fearless youngsters (at the time...) that were stepping into the big game thanks to the technological shift. Especially in Non Linear Editing post production (AVID early years...).
In Milan, I was able to evolve my career joining an international communications agency. I developed communication concepts and I directed corporate videos and events for the Pharmaceutical industry in Russia, Greece, Netherlands, Czech Republic and, of course, Italy.
Skipping 16 years forward, I find myself in an unpredictable professional scenario. In 2009 I immigrated in the US, together with my wife, to allow her continuing her PHD in Chicago. On my side, I thought... Hey, I will have a temporary work permit, I have an excellent resume, I'll find something... And Yes, to be honest with you I found much more than I expected.
The first years I joined other millions of Americans struggling with a seriously depressed economy. For two years I've made only some nice meetings with agencies and small businesses. But nothing that really led to continue my creative career in the US, as at the time I was also looking for a VISA sponsorship. In 2011, my wife was offered a job (she's an amazing engineer in artificial intelligence). In order to let her take the job I had to give up on my temporary work permit and I accepted an H4 VISA (FYI called 'the devil's visa' as it allows you to stay in the country, but not to work) during which there's no way you'll even see the shadow of being employed (I just translated this from Italian.. meaning there's no way anyone would consider you for employment giving you a sponsorship when you're on a H4 visa). Image author: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
In 2014, after a long period of time during which I thought my career was a game-over (but blessed with the birth of our daughter, I took care of her daily for 18 months), I started to write a short film (passion never dies I guess...). But unfortunately, after 6 months of a progressive back pain, I was then diagnosed with two different types of cancer at the bone marrow. An aggressive large B-Cell Lymphoma and a Follicular one. Almost two years considering the pain, diagnosis, chemotherapy and side effects. I had to take care of myself until spring 2016. At that moment.. guess what? Our Green Card application was accepted and I received my work permit back! I actually got an unlimited work authorization to be employed by anyone in the US. Now what? So much time went by since I was working on a creative project that it seemed almost unreal to be allowed to work again.
Stubborn as I am, I went on and completed my short film. My first US production! I completed the script, found a great group of people to work with in Chicago (The Foxhole Chicago) and edited on Adobe CS/Mac. The short film title is Thank You Rebbe. I filmed it in 4K RAW with my SONY FS7 and the 7Q+ Odyssey monitor. The video size is approx. 16 times larger than my videos in Tibet and has an outstanding high quality (considering also the image depth) for a low budget production.
The short film was completed in July 2016 and has already been selected and screened at the Glendale International Film Festival (LA) and the Chelsea Film Festival (NY).
As soon as I saw the completed version I was satisfied with myself, especially considering the long stop in my career. But trust me, as much as I've always been self confident in my talent and skills, this time I really needed someone recognizing the quality of my work. Being selected in today's film festival circuit is already an achievement itself considering that even the smallest festival receives thousands of submissions each year.
So what did I find immigrating in the US? A huge life lesson. Since I came here LIFE hit me so hard on my shoulder that while I think I'm standing in the same spot, I'm not. Perception of reality is similar, but not the same.
I am re-entering the market with a lot of enthusiasm, and I chose to do it as a film-maker. It was the first step of my career. My strong technical background is definitely helping me to squeeze out the best from all the new equipment, gear and narrative opportunities. The technical quality of the low budget productions has dramatically increased. But mostly, what happened between 720 and 4096 pixels, is a life lesson that made me a better storyteller. And that's where I always wanted to be at this stage of my career.
So, at the end, this curve ball that life threw me really was an opportunity to grow into. At the moment I'm in remission, feeling blessed, ready to move forward for other storytelling projects and wishing you the best to overcome your challenges!
NOTE If you have Amazon Prime you may watch the short film at no additional costs (it's included in your Prime membership): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYZX4M6
Currently writing the feature-film script Recycle Me, inspired by my true life events: http://www.recycleme.film
Developing the online project humans.life