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Rising Star Frank Zarrillo Of Big F Pictures On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

Guernslye Honore

Oct 31, 2023

Accept criticism. Don’t let your own ego get in the way. If numerous people are telling you about the same issue in your movie — then fix it. Don’t think everything you do is right… because it’s not.

Asa part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the film industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Frank Zarrillo.

Award-winning filmmaker Frank Zarrillo has been making films since the age of 13. Passionate about cinema, Zarrillo continues to write and direct his own films while working in the entertainment industry. His first feature documentary film The Wrestler: A Q.T. Marshall Story won Best Documentary at San Diego’s Comic-Con International Film Festival in 2017. He is the founder/CEO of Big F Pictures. His latest film GASPARI, the first authorized biography chronicling the life story of iconic bodybuilder Rich Gaspari, will be released on November 3, 2023 in all English speaking territories on Amazon, Vudu and Google Play. GASPARI is distributed by Generation Iron, the premier New York City-based global digital media company focused on health, fitness, bodybuilding and strength sports, and its distribution/production partner The Vladar Company.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, born into a construction family. After doing that work myself, I later applied it to my film art and worked on a plan on how to break into the film world. Having that work ethic made it easier to translate it over to the film world, giving me the ability to keep going and outwork the competition.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

At 13, I saw Goodfellas, and from that point on I wanted to be a film director. You can tell there was a master behind the camera, and from then on, I never looked back.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I worked on a ton of different things in different industries with film. I was a production assistant for Project Runway. I filmed videos for Grammy winner Stephen Marley, and I won Best Documentary at the San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival for The Wrestler: A Q.T. Marshall Story, which is streaming now on Tubi TV, Roku, etc.

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 was working for a film festival and one of my many jobs was to pick up an Academy Award- winning actor from the airport. (I will leave his name private). I was supposed to pick him up, but I kept missing the turn at the airport. Needless to say, I eventually picked him up, and I knew that any chance of talking to him about my career was over (lol). But, lesson is, always be extra early next time so you don’t ruin a first impression that could potentially open doors for you.

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

As I mentioned before, I’m doing some video work with Stephen Marley. I shot recap videos for other music legends, Sublime With Rome and Slightly Stoopid that have yet to come out. I shot a feature documentary on the inventor of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, David Klein that hasn’t come out yet as well. That story went viral in 2020 during the pandemic where he put on a nationwide Willy Wonka-esque treasure hunt, which resulted in participants searching for a $5,000 gold ticket and a candy factory up for grabs. 50,000 people joined the hunt. Currently, I’m editing my documentary called, Matusow that features World Series of Poker legend, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. That film was shot at the highest level of the poker industry and features the face of poker Phil Hellmuth, Hollywood legend James Woods, and Daniel Negreanu. I shoot all my projects with Black Magic Design.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

My three reasons would be no matter your age, gender, or background, if you can have the opportunity to tell a story — do it. Diversity is important because there’s so many different cultures in the world, and we need people from all walks of life to educate us and inform us about it. How else would we learn these things if we don’t have people from different backgrounds telling us their stories? Point is, if we allow more diverse people to tell stories, that will only contribute to different alternatives for cinema. In result, we’ll have different stories, different voices, different cinema.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

Start as early as possible. It’s a long, long tedious road. If you want to work in this field, then you have to meet as many people as possible. Preferably, ones that are higher on the pecking order than you are. They’ll force you to elevate your game. People only like people who are like themselves or who they want to be like.

Remember that this is a BUSINESS. As much as you want to make a film for yourself, you have to keep the audience in mind first. Think to yourself, how would my project sell in the marketplace? Does my subject have a name, following, awards, accomplishments? You’re going to be married to your project the rest of your life, so be careful of what project you decide to invest your time and money in. Think to yourself, is this project going to stand the test of time and get me further into the business?

More importantly, not to disparage or discredit anyone’s work, but if you’re working on a project for a few years, with no name recognition in it, and you shot it at your family or friends house, think to yourself — who is going to invest the time and money to watch it? Especially since there’s numerous streaming sites and movies/shows already in existence.

Don’t get distracted with things that don’t help your end goal. The old days are gone where filmmakers can skate by being a one trick pony. You have to learn all levels of the filmmaking process. Learn how to edit, direct, write, produce, and learn cameras.

Accept criticism. Don’t let your own ego get in the way. If numerous people are telling you about the same issue in your movie — then fix it. Don’t think everything you do is right… because it’s not.

Finally, as selfish as this sounds, you have to be prepared to put the film business before anything else in your life. It takes up all of your time. And if you can’t accept these things early on when starting out, then I would suggest another route. (I think that’s six.)

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

Focus every waking minute on mastering your craft. Be honest with yourself. Look in the mirror and think before you get into this business if you really have what it takes to do this. It’s a long chess game. You have to be obsessed with the business. If you want to be a film director, study all the greats’ movies. See what makes them successful. Never think that what you did or doing is the best. Each project you do has to be BETTER than the last. I can’t speak on “burn out.” but I can say that it’s going to be a rough ride to getting your work out there. You just gotta keep going. And do not let your health slip. Make sure you’re going to the gym, eating right, and living a healthy lifestyle.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. :-)

My goal one day is to win a “Best Director” Oscar, so I can’t speak on being an influence yet. I can answer that once I get there. But I can say if you want to make films, make films. Stop waiting for permission or the right time, or next year, because time waits for no one. And when people see you do good, then that can inspire them to do the same in their chosen career paths.

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?

Too many people to name. But in short, my family, friends, the Big F Pictures crew, business partners, and the guys at my old college, Full Sail University. There’s no one person you can credit. Honestly, there’s a multitude of people behind the scenes that help elevate and push you to your goal daily.

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

I don’t have a direct quote I can think of, but I can talk about what I believe in. Over the years, I’ve seen too many people who are too afraid to follow their dreams, or put their limitations on you and themselves. I told myself early on that I would never let someone or somebody dictate my life path. No matter how long or how hard it is to break into the entertainment business, I was going to do it no matter what. Too many people live in “quiet desperation.” They backed themselves into a corner because they were too scared to follow their heart. Director Robert Rodriguez once said that people often say, “I can do that” and he said, “I will do that.” Point is, I’m just getting started and you’re going to see a lot of high level projects coming from me, so stay tuned.

Passion. Determination. Patience. Perseverance. Never Giving Up. As cliche as it sounds, it really is the matter of “staying on the bus.” Whoever has the will to “stay on the bus” the longest will start to reap the benefits. The longer I navigate through this industry, the higher profile clientele I get to meet and work with. Eventually, people will see your mission, and will start to invest in you.

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 just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Martin Scorsese. He’s the greatest filmmaker of all time. A lot of the working directors today and greatest movies ever made were influenced by him. He’s already achieved G.O.A.T. status and has nothing left to prove. Now in his 80s, he continues to make movies at the highest level because of his love and passion for cinema.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @fzarrillo — Youtube — Frank Zarrillo — Facebook — Frank Zarrillo

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Grateful for the interview! Thanks guys!

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