University of Rhode Island graduate, Matt DiGennaro has broken into the film industry by taking any and every opportunity whenever they have presented themselves.
Despite graduating from URI in 2013, DiGennaro has already worked on films and shows such as “The Equalizer” starring Denzel Washington, “The Humbling” starring Al Pacino, HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, among others.
“It was a matter of using the opportunities that weren’t flashy to take me to the types of big TV productions I wanted,” he said. “For now I consider myself an independent contractor but I mostly deal with accounting and finance. I’ve also done jobs for props, locations and production.”
DiGennaro’s ultimate goal is to become a producer. He says that there are dozens of departments in the industry, each with their own pecking order. One of the best ways to become a producer is through accounting.
He credits URI with teaching him to push himself and embrace opportunities. DiGennaro said, “The people who were working hard were reaping way more benefits so I learned to push myself past where everyone else’s limits were in order to accomplish my goals.”
“I started as a journalism major and took film electives for a few years until I realized I was hiding from the truth, that the only thing that made me happy, career wise, was movies,” DiGennaro said. “Luckily, I had a great professor, who helped me realize that and I owe a lot to him for helping to spark my passion.”
When asked if that professor was Keith Brown, who DiGennaro was also a teacher’s assistant for while at URI, he laughed, saying, “Of course it was. I took a class with him literally every semester of college.”
During DiGennaro’s final year at URI he got on as an unpaid set intern for a film starring Mark Ruffalo, “Infinitely Polar Bear”. He said, “Mark Ruffalo and I were walking to set in Goddard Park and it was a beautiful morning and he turned to me and said, ‘We have it good. Don’t tell anybody but I’d do this for free.’ I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I literally am doing this for free.’”
“There is a big financial risk involved and I think that’s why it’s important to jump right in before you get too settled in another job after college,” DiGennaro said. “Since there is such a risk and the business is so much about who you know it is crucial that people do internships in college and get the unpaid stuff out of the way so when you graduate you can hit the job market and have yourself a reputation.”
“Infinitely Polar Bear” was DiGennaro’s first time on a big set and he described it as incredibly intimidating. He said, “It was the first day and we had to get a sunrise shot so everything happened really quickly. There was yelling, running and a lot of people unhappy. It came out really nice but at the time it was awful. I was just a production assistant, but no matter who you are, you’re getting yelled at for something.”
DiGennaro’s favorite production that he has been a part of, was props assistant for an untitled pilot, directed by Martin Scorsese and has plans to air during this coming Fall on HBO. The show takes place during the 1970s and is about a record label company. DiGennaro was involved in finding seemingly old and authentic props for the show.
“We got the props from all over; pawn shops, flea markets, (and) eBay,” DiGennaro said. “We had to recreate (a 1970s) concert so everyone huddled around YouTube for weeks to get every detail we could from the concert. A lot of the resources that we would use as students are the same ones people working for the largest shows out there are using.”
DiGennaro plans to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and spend the next several years working his way up to Unit Production Manager and Line Producer. He also does a lot of writing on his own time and looks forward to getting his personal work published.