TV and film activist Taylor Taglianetti

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Through her efforts to connect Italian Americans in TV and film, Taylor Taglianetti is having a huge impact on the industry at a relatively young age.

Over the years, Fra Noi has featured many film industry standouts who have made a positive impact on their industry, but none with a story of youthful exuberance, persistence and vision quite like 22-year-old Taylor Taglianetti. As founder of the National Organization of Italian Americans in Film & Television, the recent NYU graduate advances a simple but dynamic mission. In a nutshell, Taglianetti wants to connect and empower Italian Americans to attain their professional dreams.

Make no mistake, Taglianetti is pursuing her own goals as a celebrity interviewer and documentary producer, and NOIAFT has helped her make progress on those fronts. But in a world where “paying it forward” often falls to those who have enjoyed long, successful careers, Taglianetti is already fulfilling a promise she made while still just a teen. Blessed with the opportunity to attend a prestigious college through several Italian-American scholarships, she committed on her application to helping those students who followed her. NOIAFT is that promise kept. Membership is free for all, but there’s a catch: “By becoming a member, you pledge to help at least one person who is a part of our organization,” she says.

Lou&A spoke with this dynamic young professional about her passions for film, family and aiding those around her with similar aspirations.

Lou&A: Tell us about your ancestry and upbringing.

Taylor Taglianetti: My family traces its roots to Potenza in Basilicata and Salerno in Campania. I’m from Brooklyn, and my mother is Irish. But she didn’t really grow up with the appreciation of her background the way Italians do, so she’s an honorary Italian. We forced it on her. (Laughs.) She’s worked at an Italian-owned heating and ventilation company for the last 28 years.

Lou&A: When did you know you were first interested in film?

Taglianetti: I always had a camera growing up, and my dad would take me to the park to make films. I was maybe 7 years old, and we lived with my grandmother. I recorded everything we did together, and I would interview her. It’s great to look back at these interviews and have that documentation. Once I got the bug, I joined a film and photography program in middle school. That was just everything to me. I absolutely loved it.

Lou&A: Your father had a lot to do with it as well.

Taglianetti: He always wanted to be in the film industry and, at 45, became an intern at a small production company. My dad had always wanted to be a writer, but growing up in a tough and poor Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, he didn’t have the luxury of pursuing his dream. He didn’t give up on it either. He read scripts for six years and learned story development inside and out. When the producer unexpectedly retired, my dad at 51 years old found himself without a job. At his age and with no formal film education, no studio would hire him. That was two decades ago. Now I’m trying to produce a screenplay he wrote called “Dust.” It follows a route similar to “The Grapes of Wrath.” The former head of Robert De Niro’s reading department said that visually it’s the best screenplay he’s ever read. I promised my dad that I’ll get “Dust” made one day.

Lou&A: Why did you decide to form NOIAFT?

Taglianetti: My top two reasons were that I wanted to pay it forward and out of necessity. I received two scholarships from the Columbus Citizens Foundation. They’ve put on the Columbus Day Parade in New York City for 75 years. On my application, I said, “If I receive this scholarship, that’s an obligation to pay it forward.”

Then when I got to NYU, I realized it didn’t matter how hard I worked; success boiled down in large part to who you knew. Some of the students I knew were the sons and daughters of famous actresses, or had parents who were financiers and very, very wealthy. They had connections to get the jobs. So when I decided to start NOIAFT, it was important to me not to charge anything. I’m a product of scholarships and know how hard it is to get a job in this industry. The only obligation for someone getting into the group is to pay it forward to another group member.

Lou&A: But isn’t doing all this with a full-time job difficult?

Taglianetti: It is tough doing this and not making money from it. I’m employed at Paradigm Talent Agency, where I work for four of the agents there, including one of the partners. It’s for film, TV and theater — very intense and very interesting to learn about the business during a pandemic. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to get some kind of sponsorship for the organization. I’m also helping Michela M. Smith produce a documentary about a mother and daughter who set out to discover why Italian Americans love to garden.

Lou&A: How did you get involved in that project?

Taglianetti: It’s a funny story. Annabelle Attanasio made a film called “Mickey and the Bear.” I spoke with her and posted the interview on social media. Then the National Italian American Foundation posted it, and writer/director Michela M. Smith read the interview. She found my organization, and that’s how we got together. She works heavily in the comedy space — Funny or Die, Comedy Central, “Saturday Night Live” — and wanted to make her documentary the best it could be in terms of post-production and sound. So we started working together, and we’re almost done with the project. Isabella Rossellini is one of the subjects in the documentary.

Lou&A: You’ve developed quite the track record as a celebrity interviewer as well.

Taglianetti: I think I’ve done at least 60, and the more I do it, the less intimidating it becomes. You begin to see them as people. One of my favorites was Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. She recently started her own production company, and I was really impressed by her work ethic. She compared directing films to growing up playing softball. The big game came down to how much you prepared. If you prepared, you earned the right to be there and can now have fun. When I have a big interview coming up, I think about what she said.

Some of my other favorite interviews have been Dion and Joe Pantoliano. Dion is my favorite musician, and Pantoliano is one of my favorite actors. I recently interviewed the Russo Brothers, and it felt amazing that my organization was recognized by them. My goal is to work with them, so I feel like I am one step closer.

Lou&A: Your gratitude shines through here. How do you explain it?

Taglianetti: I’m lucky my passion connects my Italian heritage to the film and TV industry. It doesn’t feel like work, and I’ve made so many amazing friends and connections. I’ve had this sense since I was a kid that anything I do, I want to help people. Growing up, movies were my best friends, and a lot of people have invested in me.

The saddest thing is to waste something that someone else would die to have. A lot of kids haven’t been given the opportunities and resources I have. If I have to stay up an extra hour a day, it’s only fair.

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The above appears in the March 2021 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

 

About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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