By Jennifer Leevan
Steven Spielberg. Steven Soderbergh. Steven A. LaMorte. The first of these directors created films such as Saving Private Ryan, and Jurassic Park. The second created Magic Mike and Erin Brockovich. Few have heard of this third Steven, the
Steven of the future. The films of the future will perhaps be action packed thrillers, and there will certainly still be romantic comedies, but – because of the immense opportunity for financial success – the way of the future is 3-D film. With such potential for profit, filmmakers are becoming more invested in the 3-D market. However, of the many up-and-coming filmmakers in New York or Los Angeles, few are as savvy with the technology of tomorrow as LaMorte. A director and editor, LaMorte seems incapable of thinking about small-scale projects, and ever optimistic, he hopes not to have to for long. Focusing on “a 3-D action adventure film that is sort of Van Helsing meets Indiana Jones, and is set in World War I,” LaMorte has his sights firmly fixed on a successful and high profile career.
Interested in what others thought of LaMorte, I met with one of his colleagues, Ryan Franco, an editor and director of photography. From the moment the interview began, Franco was enthusiastic about LaMorte’s work. Franco describes LaMorte’s ability to turn a “sour event on set into a chance to bring the set together as a team,” and praises LaMorte’s decision-making skills as well as his efficiency and “bedside manor” with actors. “Steve has the real mark of confident talent… being entirely prepared yet entirely willing to try something new.” Franco talks about how well LaMorte comports himself on set and in business meetings and more than anything else, he seems to swear by LaMorte’s desire for excellence in all the work he creates. “He’s the most driven guy when it comes to pre- and post-production. He will scout with me at the obscene hour we plan on shooting at, or wait patiently for hours and hours as we color correct a short film or commercial. Many people just don’t have the patience that excellence requires. Steve does.” Franco is also clear about LaMorte’s honesty. He points out that whether Lamorte is working on a budget of fifty dollars or five hundred thousand dollars, LaMorte will not let his name go on anything that hasn’t been scrutinized and painstakingly worked on.
LaMorte seems to take the competitive film industry in stride. He has created several Limited Liability Companies to produce his films and anyone who meets him will tell you he always is looking for an edge, or for an opportunity to connect with a
potential client. Although he has spent his life in New York, he is preparing to move to Los Angeles. A daunting journey for anyone, LaMorte admits there may be difficulty ahead. “It can be tough as a director, someone who sits on the creative side, to rationalize and deal with the fact that at the end of the day the entertainment industry is a business and business people run the show no matter how much you love your artistic work.” LaMorte goes on to admit, “someone needs to make money otherwise… it ain’t happening.”
With the economy only just beginning to recover, one might wonder about the future of 3-D films since they are certainly more expensive to produce than regular 2-D. 3-D filmmaking is almost as old as filmmaking itself. LaMorte brings up an interesting factoid: “there are indeed 3-D color 35mm Nazi propaganda films.” But, because 3-D technology as well as filmmaking and editing technology have both seen great advancements in the last few decades, and also because advertising companies can excite audiences with the prospect of seeing their favorite actors in not two but three dimensions, 3-D films are experiencing a renaissance. One example of the success of 3-D films and the improvements which have been made to the medium is that when Spy Kids 3D: Game Over came out in July of 2003, it had a box office profit of almost $112 million. However, only six years later, Avatar made roughly $760 million. What is interesting about this is actually not that Avatar may have been a more marketable movie or that the Spy Kids film may not have been as well made. No 3-D film has grossed less than $114 million since 2008. As LaMorte put it, the 3-D filmmaking field is “so wide open that there is no right or wrong way to do it.”
When he was younger, technologies always excited LaMorte and he recalls his introduction to film almost as excitedly as a child remembering that Christmas is on its way. “Imagine having a whole set of paints and colors to make your painting and then discovering one day that there’s a whole new and different set of shades that you never explored before.” LaMorte wears a suit everyday. As he puts it, he dresses “not for the job [he] has, but for the job [he] wants. His ambition is palpable in his voice and prevalent in his language. Just looking at Lamorte, one might stall at why he creates films and not hedge fund portfolios. However, when asked, he reports he first became interested in producing films at an early age. “As an only child with a single mom, I guess I really needed to make my own stories and entertain myself through the years – and as I grew into an adult, I moved from acting and performing into going behind-the-scenes, and telling stories, and creating entertainment, and making people laugh, and cry, and root for the characters that I like to create in my work.” LaMorte’s sentimentality and single-child can-do spirit is certainly not lost in his films.
LaMorte, a first generation Puerto Rican–Italian–American from Staten Island, is not just a film producer dreaming of a career; he is working hard every day towards a career full of artistic and financial success. His work, although occasionally serious, is more often than not given a humorous edge with a sort of witty and yet delightfully familiar humor, characteristic of much of his work. LaMorte is best known for filming ofMatisyahu’s music video for his hit song: “One Day.”He was also
recently hired to direct ten commercials for a technology company based out of Texas. Hired specifically to “take their existing material and create a story and sculpt an entertaining and enjoyable campaign that people would want to watch online,” he found it amusing how many restrictions he was given. “They brought me on board and asked me in the pre-production stages to – and I quote – ‘make our ideas funnier’ and then subsequently in the post-production phases said, ‘this is too funny… can we make it less funny? we really don’t want to make people laugh.’”
Now with a lease signed in Santa Monica, California, LaMorte is entering into a new adventure. Ideally, within the next five years he will be “directing and producing multiple features that get a wide, global release,” while “working on higher profile music videos.” and perhaps even filming fashion shows. LaMorte admits that he recently assisted on a fashion shoot and has since begun dreaming of the possibility of one day filming the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. With a smile stretching from ear to ear, he says, “it might be a lot of fun to do – working with the models certainly wouldn’t hurt either.”