Campanelli got his start studying film at what’s now Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. “I met so many people there who are amazing friends and colleagues to this very day,” he says. “It’s where I learned to pick up a camera and really do professional movies, as well as sound and picture editing. What I also loved about the program was they had guest speakers who worked in the business.”
One such speaker was then-camera assistant Glen MacPherson, “who talked to my class about the reality of working in the film business,” Campanelli says. “We became friends and I ended up being his camera trainee on Meatballs III: Summer Job,” which was filmed in Hudson, Quebec, in 1986.
Since that first gig, Campanelli has worked with a Hollywood Who’s Who and directed Indian Horse, the critically hailed, award-winning feature film based on Richard Wagamese’s novel about Canada’s residential schools. The film debuted at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
“Everyone wants to premiere at TIFF, it’s the ultimate place to do it,” Campanelli says. “We were so blessed that they accepted our film, and we were so nervous. It was a big deal — only the second film I’d ever directed, and it was so close to Montreal that my family came down. It was magical.”
A quality education
Campanelli is also proud his student film, From a Whisper to a Scream, won first prize in a 1983 student film competition held at Sir George Williams University Alumni Auditorium in Concordia's Hall Building, the same auditorium where his professional directorial debut — Momentum, featuring actor Morgan Freeman — premiered at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival. “It felt incredible to come full circle,” says Campanelli whose mother, Carmela Campanelli, BA 95, attended both screenings.