Filmmaker Alexander Monelli, who goes by Al, has been serious about making movies since high school. His first camera was gifted to him by his parents, and was a camera which used massive… what are those called again? Oh, yes! Massive VHS tapes to record.
“In high school, I used videos as an excuse to not write papers. I just got hooked on it, ” Al explains.
Moving onto Long Island University to eventually study film, Al transplanted to Lancaster in 2012 for a job at Franklin and Marshall College as Video Producer and Video production Manager. Now engaged to school psychologist, Amanda (who he met in high school), Amanda and Al are slowly making their mark in Lancaster.
Al most recently won Best Documentary and Best Homegrown at the Lancaster Film Festival last month for his documentary, “Man With Puppet.” But did you know “Man With Puppet” was actually the second film of a trilogy series?
Al’s first film, “Juggle,” was created as a five minute short in 2014 for the Lancaster County Community Foundation competition. He knew he wanted to create a documentary when the competition was announced. Al has completely fallen in love with performers of all types, specifically street performers, and feels passionately about telling their story.
One of my biggest questions was how much he directs the developing story. Most documentaries have narratives of some kind, and feel a little scripted. Al, however, lets his subjects tell the story and edits the films in a way that works best in telling the story. Sometimes this turns out much differently than he originally anticipated and, as Al says, that’s okay.
The first of the trilogy, “Juggle,” is a whimsical family piece about a husband and wife team called Cissy and the Man. Cissy and the Man is made up of Jason and Kate Horst. Jason and Kate made Al feel very comfortable in filming their entire life for several weeks. He entered their home to film their daily lives, which included their day jobs, and into the evening as they transformed themselves into juggling clowns.
Kate was pregnant at the time of filming, which at first seemed like a hiccup within the project, but ended up beginning Al’s trilogy just perfectly.
“I saw it as the perfect way to begin the trilogy. Kate was pregnant and starting a family, just as I was starting my film trilogy.” It’s as if the idea of starting a family coincided with the idea of beginning a series of beautiful pieces of art as well. Of course editing down all of his footage into five minutes was quite challenging, but that’s part of the fun. Al gets to evoke whatever it is he wants with the footage he has caught on camera. He can tell a story in whatever way he feels is best for the viewer.
WATCH THE FILM: