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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Conversation with Taylor Taglianetti, Founder of NOIAFT

A new platform has recently been launched that promotes the work of Italian Americans in film and television. The brains behind the initiative is a young, passionate woman who is taking the support that she received early on in her journey and paying it forward.

With origins in Basilicata and Campania, Taylor Taglianetti is a proud Italian American from Brooklyn, New York. She is currently a senior at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in January 2020. She is majoring in Film and Television and minoring in the Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology. Taglianetti aspires to be a feature film producer and bring great stories to the big screen. In addition to running NOIAFT, she is currently a Development Intern with Silver Pictures, the production company that produced the Lethal Weapon and The Matrix series. Last summer, she was a development intern with Maven Pictures, the Academy-Award winning production company behind Still Alice and The Kids Are All RightTaglianetti also has experience producing and directing short films. Her debut short film, Generation Hollow, was produced by the leading non-profit, Reel Works, and was an Official Selection at the 2014 Girls Film Festival and the Juror’s Choice for Outstanding Filmmaking at the 2014 Women of African Descent Film Festival. Additionally, she has received scholarships from the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and The Charles & Lucille King Foundation. In 2018, she was one of twenty students selected from thousands nationwide by the National Italian American Foundation to travel to Italy. 

I asked Taglianetti about the mission and future of NOIAFT. She was so articulate and generous with her answers to my questions, it is clear that her organization is about to become a powerhouse of promotion for Italians and Italian-Americans across the globe. 

What inspired you to start this organization?
I recently launched The National Organization of Italian Americans in Film & TV (NOIAFT) with the goal of helping Italian Americans break into the entertainment industry and promoting stories about the Italian American experience. In the entertainment business, there has been no organization for Italian Americans to network and share these sorts of creative opportunities, and I hope to fill this need.
My dad always wanted to be a screenwriter but never had a formal film education or opportunities to present his material. I think he’s a really good writer and I’m confident if his material was represented, it would be picked up in a second. There are a lot of stories like that and I think having a network like this where my platform can be used for people to showcase their work and meet and work together with others of the same heritage and background, it can really help create more opportunities for all.
Furthermore, as an aspiring feature film producer, I wanted to use my unique skillset and background to pay it forward to my community. I have been overwhelmed by the support of the Columbus Citizens Foundation who not only gave me a scholarship to go to a private Catholic high school, but made my dream of going to NYU’s prestigious film school possible with their generous scholarship.
I also had the honor and opportunity to be selected to participate in the National Italian American Foundation’s Voyage of Discovery Program last summer to travel to Italy for the first time. My experiences in Puglia allowed me to learn about amazing aspects of my heritage that I may not have otherwise encountered. Knowing that there was so much I didn’t know about my roots signaled to me how important it is to share this knowledge with others. In the entertainment industry, Italian Americans are often pigeonholed to working in the mob genre. While some of those projects are very good, I thought it would be great to also show that Italian Americans are working on other interesting projects beyond that genre, too.

What is the organization's mission?
Although we are in our infancy, NOIAFT aims to provide our members with networking opportunities, a go-to community when looking to assemble teams for projects and, as we grow, internship, job, mentoring, workshops, grants for creative works, and scholarships. In short, NOIAFT is a network dedicated to helping talented Italian Americans gain entry into the entertainment business by working together.
Membership with NOIAFT is free as long as you pledge to help another Italian American in the group. It can be as simple as giving another person advice if the opportunity presents itself. As membership grows, I will be reaching out to established industry entities, and urge them to consider our members when doing business.
Additionally, on various social media platforms, I spotlight work created by, and for, Italian Americans and those of Italian descent. Most recently, we completed press coverage and conducted red carpet interviews at the Tribeca Film Festival, BAMcinemaFest, the IFC Center’s Split Screens TV Festival and Lincoln Center’s Open Roads Film Festival. 

Taylor Taglianetti interviewing Italian producer Domenico Procacci at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

I've seen on your social media pages that you cover a lot of Red Carpet premieres in New York. That is pretty impressive since your organization is so new! You have really hit the ground running. What are your short-term and long-term goals for the project?
Going to festivals and premieres was never a thought in my mind when I started NOIAFT. Now, it’s become one of my most important assets in building up the organization. A friend of mine, Adam Yuster, suggested I attend the Tribeca Film Festival and was able to help me get press credentials a month after the deadline. I was surprised by how much access I got as an organization that just started. I spent hours going through the hundreds of films playing and basically made a list of anyone involved in the productions of Italian descent and contacted their publicists for interviews. Of course, I had to also grab some interviews with celebrities like Alexander Skarsgård and Christoph Waltz. One of my goals that I’m considering is creating a subsidiary to the organization that is just for entertainment interviews/press-related content.

I have some really exciting interviews booked for July. I can’t say what they are now, but they are going to be with very high-profile talent. Also, this week, one of my members, Christie Peruso, is actually headed to Sicily to cover the Radio Italia Live Concert in Palermo. She’s a seasoned actress, model and correspondent based in Milan and from the East Coast.  We connected on Instagram and will be working together on other projects. It’s so exciting to see that after just a couple of months since starting that NOIAFT is going international. One of my other goals would be to get more members out there interviewing. Not only is a lot of fun, but it’s also a tremendous networking opportunity. I recently started working with member Giò Crisafulli who is a writer, director, producer, editor and actor. Again, another fortuitous Instagram encounter. I asked him to conduct all the NOIAFT interviews at Open Roads. I was so impressed with his depth of knowledge of cinema and Italian culture. Overall, it’s great getting this fantastic content, but I need to figure out the best ways to disseminate these interviews, reach a wider audience, and in turn, recruit more members. So, thank you very much for giving me a platform to talk about NOIAFT!

Check out Giò Crisafulli's interview with filmmaker Laura Luchetti at Open Roads: New Italian Cinema...

I saw that you invite people to become members. What are the benefits to being a member?
Whenever someone becomes a member, I put them on a mailing list to let them know about screenings, press events, casting calls, etc. I had a couple of members come to Tribeca Film Festival and work as press. Two of my other members conducted interviews at festivals. These are great opportunities to network. Also, becoming a member is free so there’s nothing to lose!

By becoming a member, you also get access to our members’ directory. NOIAFT is a community that, I believe, works best when people work together. Sometimes, it’s just having that simple resource to say, hey, I need a couple of actors for my short film and using the directory as an easy way to find talent. I also promote member projects and spotlight members on our website and social media, including conducting on-camera interviews with them.

Right now, in NOIAFT’s infancy, these are the main benefits. However, the goal for the future is to provide internship/job opportunities, workshops, mentoring, fundraising initiatives for creative works and scholarships for members.

Tell me about your Italian-American origins and culture. You obviously have great pride. 
I’m a proud Italian American from Brooklyn, New York. My roots trace back to Potenza in Basilicata and Salerno in Campania. I would say the cornerstones of my Italian upbringing are food, family and faith. I don’t think my Italian American upbringing is too different from others, except that I didn’t grow up in an Italian neighborhood and not until the last couple of months did I get into eating sauce…yup, can you believe it?

I’m actually only half-Italian; my mom is Irish. We really don’t have any Irish traditions so I’d say she’s more Italian than Irish, haha. My great-grandfather, Gelsomino Taglianetti, was born in Potenza in 1892 and at the age of 19, hopped aboard the S.S Romanic in search of his sweetheart, Maria Cavallo, my great-grandmother, who early on had emigrated to the United States. My great-grandparents owned a tailor shop near my house. My grandmother, Carol, was a seamstress and grandfather, Rocco, was a plumber and steamfitter, but also a medic’s assistant during World War II.

My Grandma Carol’s brothers, Jimmy and Johnny, both served their country during the war, too. My father’s paternal uncle, Alfred, had lied about his age, joined the Coast Guard at seventeen, and participated in the Invasion of Normandy.

My grandfather’s other brother, Phil, was in the Navy and went on to make a career of it, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer. In fact, he once avoided an international incident by locating important documents that were thought to be stolen. My father dug up an old magazine that featured a story about him. I read that my great-uncle had participated in the invasions of Kwajalein and Saipan and helped liberate the Philippines. In 1948, he was used as the model for a “Join the Navy Poster” that was distributed all over the United States in a highly successful recruitment drive. He said his tour of duty with Uncle Sam took him all over the world, but the biggest thrill he got was meeting Pope Pius XII in a private audience.  My dad’s brother, my Uncle Philip, served in Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart. Last year, I made a documentary about my family’s involvement in the military.

I’m so proud of my family and their sacrifices motivate me to work hard every day. I recently connected with a distant cousin through Ancestry DNA and he informed me that I have an ancestor, Captain Zaccaria Taglianetti (1815-1874), who was a hero for his participation in the Lucanian Risorgimento of 1860. He was captain of the squad from Salvia. Cap. Zaccaria Taglianetti persists in local memory, having had a pizza named in his honor at Savoia di Lucania's 2013 Pizza & Beer Fest (Il Capitano: tomato, mozzarella, and basil!). Zaccaria's son, Vincenzo Taglianetti (1838 - 1893), saved the life of the King of Italy and was later given the title of Duke.

Taglianetti told me that her favorite Italian movies are Bicycle Thieves and Cinema Paradiso. She is grateful to the support that she has received from family and friends. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted to add to our interview, she sweetly replied, "I want to thank my parents, Alan and Shirley Taglianetti, my brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Dominique Taglianetti, and my friend, Austin Tucker, for without their support, NOIAFT would not be possible!"

Visit NOIAFT online at There, you will find links to the organization's social media platforms and information on how to become a member.

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