Students on the verge of graduating from college can be overwhelmed by fears as they search for job opportunities and places to live besides their parents’ basement. For one recent University of Rhode Island graduate, this time of uncertainty was exciting.
It gave him a chance to take a risk.
Robert Riglietti graduated from URI in 2017 with a degree in film/media and has since moved from his hometown of Huntington, N.Y., to California in search of a job in the film industry, armed with his experience and longtime love of filmmaking.
His foray into filmmaking began when he was a sophomore in high school. He and his friends had the option to make a film of the book they were reading, “Macbeth,” for an extra credit project. While his friends were joking around, making a “silly, little video,” Riglietti found himself taking the project more seriously.
“I wrote up scripts,” he said with a chuckle.
A teacher who watched the film recognized Riglietti’s talent and urged him to pursue his new passion. Taking his teacher’s advice to heart, he made a few more films for extra credit and music videos for friends who were musicians, and he joined his high school’s journalism department for video production experience.
“We didn’t really have a film program but we had that,” Riglietti said.
He would stay up late, editing and exploring the tools in the Adobe editing suite on his home desktop computer in his parents’ bedroom.
“They let me stay on the computer to play with the software but they’d be sleeping right in back of me,” he said.
Thanks to this early exposure and family support, Riglietti knew he wanted to study film when he was applying to colleges in 2012. He underwent the daunting process of searching for and applying to schools before his father stumbled on the URI Harrington School of Communication and Media website.
“There was something about the school that felt hopeful,” Riglietti said.
After attending the open house and meeting Thomas Zorabedian, the assistant dean of the URI College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the Harrington school, he committed to URI. During his time at URI, Riglietti took many film studies and production courses and worked in the Media Equipment Center (M.E.C.), otherwise known as “the HUB,” by students.
Tony Balko, the URI HUB director and senior information technologist, worked with Riglietti his entire time at the HUB. According to Balko, he started his job as the new HUB director the same semester that Riglietti was hired as a student worker. The pair went on to work together for three years while Riglietti was attending URI.
“Riglietti was super self-motivated, a self-starter,” Balko said.
Balko admired Riglietti’s determination to understand a new task or equipment. This focus led to a thorough technical understanding of his work, allowing Riglietti to assist other students who had questions about their films or gear. Balko even trusted Riglietti’s editing abilities so much that he had him color correct one of his own films.
Riglietti took away inspiration and skills from his professors and the films that he was exposed to during his education. He cited taking a production course with Professor Asish Chadha who “opened [his] mind to what film could be” after sharing more experimental films with the class. Chadha’s class marked a noticeable shift in Riglietti’s work. While he always loved film, the work became “cathartic,” as he began to put more of himself into his projects.
According to Balko, the first time he saw one of Riglietti’s film he didn’t know it was his. Balko was testing films for a screening with Professor Chadha when one of the films, “Moretta,” caught his attention. Asking Chadha which student made the film, he learned it was Riglietti’s.
“It was so well done, but also weird, really smart and interesting,” Balko said. “I was thinking, ‘woah this is what that kid is making? It’s amazing.’ I don’t know what Riglietti’s work was like before but certainly that, and everything he made after, was really weird in a great way.”
While his work progressed and he loved his classes, college didn’t come without some struggles for Riglietti. He suffered from issues with his health and anxiety that made it hard for him to keep up with his work during his time at URI.
“It was health related, health anxiety,” Riglietti explained. “I started experiencing heart palpitations and things of that nature. I couldn’t work out anymore because it would drain me way too much. My energy was totally sucked out of me.”
Thankfully, despite still dealing with these issues from time to time, Riglietti was able to find a way to manage his health and work. After continuing to put all his efforts into his work and classes, he accepted an internship with a production company in California following his junior year.
During the summer of 2016, Riglietti had an internship with Origin Entertainment in Manhattan Beach, Calif. He was even lucky enough to travel with the company to the Cannes Film Festival in France as a way to kick off his internship, before even going to California.
“It was [at Cannes] that I met everyone in the company,” Riglietti said.
While at Cannes he played a role as assistant camera for a video the company was putting together. After the trip, Riglietti moved back to Los Angeles for the rest of the summer to intern as a production assistant for Origin Entertainment. Back in California he spent a lot of time performing “mostly remedial tasks”–transcribing clips, cleaning the office and picking up lunch–and Riglietti expressed his desire to work for his boss, Origin Entertainment Founder Jamey Volk.
“Once [Volk] found out that I had some skill as an editor already, he let me cut together a few videos,” said Riglietti.
Volk gave me a taste of both the glamorous and business sides of Hollywood, becoming somewhat of a mentor during the internship, according to Riglietti. Volk brought him along on business trips and events. They toured studio lots, attended film premieres and even met actor and director Clint Eastwood.
The internship convinced Riglietti that he wanted to live in California and, after returning to URI to complete his senior year, he did just that. Riglietti said “starting out in L.A. was rough.” He bounced around during his early months there and slept on friends’ couches, including fellow URI alumnus Laura Giarusso, before finding a home in North Hollywood.
“It’s so important to have friends here,” Riglietti said, thinking of all of the people who helped him out.
Despite his internship experience and handful of friends in the city, he struggled to find work before landing a job on the Youtube channel TechSmart. While there he came up with video ideas and produced them from start to finish. Unfortunately, the job didn’t last long.
“With things moving so fast there they realized it wouldn’t be financially possible to keep me on board,” said Riglietti. “I was laid off after just two weeks.”
This short stint at the channel didn’t slow down his ambitions, as he managed to pick up freelance gigs through friends, and even Volk. During these weeks he worked as a sound editor for one movie and as an editor for another, gaining new skill and experience working with visual effects. He even picked up job he heard of from Volk that Riglietti still works on today. He serves as the lead editor for Listing Drone, a “drone based company for real estate videos.”
Additionally, he accepted a new job just last month, working as a Data/IO for the trailer house, Open Road Entertainment, where he transcodes files, prepares assets for editors and producers by arranging files on their servers, and posts the trailers online for viewing. Open Road Entertainment has produced trailers for shows on Fox, The CW and E! Network.
“It’s essentially a stepping stone between being a production assistant and an assistant editor,” said Riglietti, describing his new job.
After months of bouncing between jobs and friends couches, Riglietti has a fairly steady job — for the time being — and has moved into another new apartment. As he settles into life on the West coast, he embraces each opportunity, big or small, as a learning opportunity on the path to his dream job.