“Don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity — create your own.” with Rising Star Andrea Cordaro

Don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity — create your own. The reality is you can work hard for your dreams, or you can work just as hard to help someone else achieve theirs. If you are an actor, you need to be doing more now then just auditioning. You need to be making your […]

Don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity — create your own. The reality is you can work hard for your dreams, or you can work just as hard to help someone else achieve theirs. If you are an actor, you need to be doing more now then just auditioning. You need to be making your own work. The entertainment industry now is the land of renaissance men and women. You will be celebrated for being multi-talented.

I had the pleasure of interviewing New York film producer and actress Andrea Cordaro, who runs her own film production company, Fusion Box Films, with her partner and brother, Francesco Cordaro. Their latest film “Cannoli, Traditions Around the Table” was funded by a grant from Avenger’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and won Best Documentary at NYWIFT’s Shorts Festival. It is currently streaming on Amazon and Roku (NYWIFT Channel).

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in the mid- Hudson Valley with my brother Francesco. We were very lucky because our Mom let us fully explore any interest we ever developed, and because of that the two of us always had our hands in something creative. I was also a very theatrical child. When I was around 8 or 9, my brother Francesco and I would go into my Grandparent’s bedroom, dress up as them, and emerge with ridiculous impersonations. My Grandfather loved to tell us interesting and funny stories from his life, and we would sit captivated. I think it’s no wonder the two of us became storytellers. As a teenager, I discovered my love and talent for acting in the theater at school, doing plays like, “Into The Woods”, “Rumors” and “All My Sons”. At the same time, Francesco would run around with his friends outside filming silly genre movies on a home movie recorder. Creating a film company together was a natural progression for us that made a lot of sense as our work developed into a serious profession.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

When Francesco and I made our horror film “Glutton’s Diner”, I had one of the more cinematic life experiences I’ve had in actually making a movie. After wrapping the film, having been up all night getting in our last shots frantically before day break, I walked through a wooded path back to the parking lot. I was freezing, wrapped in a plastic table cloth and covered in “blood”, exhausted, just as the sun began to come up. But I had felt triumphant, knowing we had managed to get all of the shots we needed! And I had survived the night! And then I realized that this was exactly how horror films ended! I was just like any Heroine, who manages to escape at the end of the film with the sunrise.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m pretty sure I’ve personally experienced every single kind of casting scam as an actress. I can’t say they’re particularly funny when they happen but I can now see them coming from a mile away. I use re:scam for the phishing emails. But when I started I’d get fake phone calls from people that when you looked them up were known scammers. You knew it was a scam because they’d speak unbelievably fast to make it that you couldn’t process what they were saying. I once went to an audition that turned into a scam, but the studio it was in was reputable. I went over to the front desk and was like “Oh by the way, you should check out what’s happening in room 12”! They had no idea. But many scammers now like the anonymity of the internet.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We just released “Cannoli”, and have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten. The film which is about the importance of maintaining food traditions through the story of cannoli, is not just a film for Italian Americans but for anyone with a passion for their heritage and good food. We also have another film that is going to be making its West Coast premiere in March at AmDoc. “Bradley Eros, the Performance of Cinema” is an intimate portrait of the acclaimed experimental filmmaker’s work and ideas.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

When I met Talia Shire, she told us how she performs classical plays in her living room to fulfill her own need to express herself and practice her craft. Something about that stuck with me. A lot of actors forget why they started on their path. Every so often you have to return to the something that reconnects you to why you’re on this journey to begin with.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I’m an actor and entrepreneur. So I know all about “burn out”. What I’ve figured out is that you have to get up early and have a positive morning routine of some kind. The internet is full of ideas and examples — for me it’s meditation, exercise, a latte and, as of late, studying Italian. You also have to give yourself balance. You need to make time for people you care about. You need to allow yourself to do things that are frivolous and unrelated to your work. When your work is your passion, a lot of your interests can come back around to it. But having a hobby that doesn’t at all benefit your career is a healthy thing — and ultimately makes you a better artist.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are a lot of good causes to stand by. And I think your life chooses what causes are meant for you to stand by. Something that has been a theme I keep returning to is the importance of preserving culture. It’s in a way what “Cannoli” is about.

The day I learned about the destruction of the original Penn Station in New York City I was devastated. There was this incredible building that was somehow more beautiful and more “grand” than Grand Central. And I sat with my feelings about what it would be like for me to see Grand Central destroyed. To me that building was something I treasured since I was a child — a place that makes you believe in magic and that anything is possible. It was part of the grandeur that meant you were in a truly great city. Mind you, losing Penn Station was the act which started the Historical Preservation movement and ultimately saved historical sites throughout America. But it opened my eyes to the importance of protecting history and art.

“Cannoli” is about the importance maintaining traditions, and how food traditions unite families. When my last living grandparent passed away in 2016, it struck me that I could no longer easily enter into their world of Italian nuances. I recognized that the world of my childhood was slowly disappearing. The only place I knew it existed was inside of me. And I had to make a conscious decision to create that world for myself and my family. The film came out of that feeling.

I am also passionate about the fate of the Sicilian language, which has been listed on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. If you study the history of Sicily and Sicilian Americans, you will hear countless stories about how the Sicilian language was suppressed. Sicilians were told that their language was somehow “low”, somehow less sophisticated, and “incorrect”. In America it became worse — only English was to be spoken. And the first generation refused to allow their children to speak their language. It’s why most Italian Americans are not fluent Italian speakers today. It’s why I grew up hearing Sicilian at home, but can’t speak it myself.

What people don’t realize is that culture and art inspires people to become politicians and doctors and police officers. What we do inspires people to be good people. It teaches us about our own humanity. How many people do you think got their sense of ethics from reading Harry Potter or watching Star Wars? Knowing and remembering history also allows us collectively to learn from the past and its lessons. Each generation does not start over from scratch. It builds.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity — create your own. The reality is you can work hard for your dreams, or you can work just as hard to help someone else achieve theirs. If you are an actor, you need to be doing more now then just auditioning. You need to be making your own work. The entertainment industry now is the land of renaissance men and women. You will be celebrated for being multi-talented.

Know when to say no to a job. At a certain point, you can’t say yes to every job that comes. There should be a real reason why you do something. My criteria for a job falls under 3 categories; 1. Profit : They’re paying me well. 2. Career: It’s a good career opportunity. 3. Experience: I’m going to learn a new skill or have a very unique life experience, like travel to another country or play a character I’ve always wanted to.

Listen to your little voice — I know that I’ve made the right decision in life if I’ve chosen the option that gives me the most peace. Sometimes your little voice will direct you toward things that don’t fall under your normal decision making criteria. That’s when you make exceptions. If you go with it, you’ll find strange synchronicities falling into place. And you might realize, this has been the little bit of luck you’ve been waiting for.

If something doesn’t seem safe on set, it’s probably not. — No matter what scale of production you are working on, if something seems unsafe to you, do not go along with it. When you are in the business of making magical things real, often we do a lot of abnormal things. What you should not do is assume that just because you’re making a movie, that there is some invisible protection in place to save you. There probably isn’t, and your life is the most valuable thing.

Working for free for reel footage, won’t get you reel footage. — There’s a funny meme running around the internet of a skeleton sitting at a computer. The caption reads, “Actor waiting for reel footage”. It’s very accurate. Every actor at the beginning of his career can relate to this. I have found out though, that by working on jobs with budgets that pay you, you are more likely to see that project reach completion than the vast majority of passion projects made for no money. Ultimately you’re in a bit of a catch 22. Remember, if you are giving away your skill for free, that gives you a powerful place to negotiate from. The key is to do that negotiating before you go to set, and set very specific terms about timelines for footage and what compensation is expected if footage is not delivered by that date. You are in reality not working for free. You are working for footage. Get an agreement. If you’re doing a friend a favor that is also a different story. See if you can barter your services — maybe they can cut your reel or take headshots for you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I heard an interview Oprah did with a man who taught a course on Happiness at Harvard, and it blew my mind. He basically said that becoming more successful or getting “what you want” or earning more money doesn’t actually make you happier. ( I think everyone has met someone who has more money than them but still seems pretty miserable). Happiness is a practice. It comes from actively finding things to be grateful for and having a positive sense of purpose.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am extremely grateful to be represented and mentored by an incredible manager — Tsu Tsu Stanton. She tells me I am her “fellow Warrior Queen”. Being mentored by her gave me the confidence to do things that were out of my comfort zone, which has helped me push into new places in my career. You need to feel like someone who’s been there before you is on your side, when you take the kind of risks you need to in the entertainment industry.

I am also extremely grateful for my brother Francesco. I am very lucky to have someone I can trust completely, who gets me, and is as talented as he is. He’s the best partner you could want.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Oprah! She’s the ultimate creative business woman, who has also become an incredible sage. She has an understanding of people, of life, and success that is unmatched. Can you imagine getting personal advice from Oprah?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow my adventures on Instagram @andrea.cordaro.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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