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Reel to reel with Concordia filmmaker

Long-time Clint Eastwood collaborator and alum Stephen Campanelli is now in director’s chair
January 11, 2016
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By James Gibbons

Rubbing shoulders with Clint Eastwood is just another day at the office for Stephen Campanelli, BFA 83.

The Steadicam operator has shot over 20 films with the iconic action star and Academy-Award-winning filmmaker.

Stephen Campanelli on set of Momentum Stephen Campanelli, centre, on the set of his directorial debut, Momentum | Courtesy of Stephen Campanelli

Campanelli’s own feature-length director’s chair debut is the thriller Momentum.

“The world premiere of Momentum was on the exact same screen as my first-ever student production,” says Campanelli. That venue is Concordia’s Sir George Williams University Alumni Auditorium in the Henry F. Hall Building.

Momentum was shown in July 2015 as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival — one of the largest genre cinema events in North America.

In 1983, Campanelli’s 10-minute piece From a Whisper to a Scream met its first audience under that same roof.

Momentum movie poster Campanelli's film Momentum was released on video and iTunes on December 1.

“It’s about this guy who wakes up in a morgue,” says Campanelli of his student effort. “It starts to get hot — and he realizes he’s being cremated!”

A common audience member at both screenings — 30 years apart — is Campanelli’s mother, Carmela Campanelli, BA 95. “I think she was weirded out by my student production — though Momentum is a different story.”

Campanelli went on to make a name for himself in Canada and Hollywood as a Steadicam operator.

The hand-held, motion picture camera features a mount that isolates it from the operator’s movement, giving smoothness to the shots.

Owning the piece of equipment gave Campanelli a natural advantage.

Campanelli with Momentum stars James Purefoy and Olga Kurylenko Campanelli with Momentum stars James Purefoy and Olga Kurylenko | Photo courtesy of Stephen Campanelli

“I borrowed money from the bank and from my parents to buy one. There were probably one or two people in Canada that were using Steadicams back then,” says Campanelli, referring to the late 1980s.

Because of that, Campanelli was soon booking gigs Canada-wide.

“Someone brought my work to the attention of Clint Eastwood. I was signed onto Bridges of Madison County in 1994 and we’ve worked together ever since,” says Campanelli, who resides in Santa Monica, Calif.

His advice to his fellow Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema graduates? “Be personable. You have to be someone people want to work with.”

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