Filmmaker Spotlight | Alexander Monelli of Monelli Films & Lancaster Documentaries
Updated: Mar 29
In an effort to bring more cinematic stories to life, Dadley Productions is proud to highlight filmmakers across the country producing cinematic stories in their local communities. Today we are featuring Central Pennyslvanian filmmaker, Alexander Monelli of Monelli Films & Lancaster Documentaries.
Check out our exclusive interview with Alex here:
How do you like to tell cinematic stories?
I started making documentaries in 2013 really. I made a few before that but hadn't found my style or voice yet. I like to tell stories that relate to some aspect of childhood but through a more melancholy adult lens. Every documentary I personally make (not the ones I get paid to do) are usually about some aspect of my life that I want to share with others. I tell everyone that I use other people's stories to share my own. So a documentary about a video store that's closing forever is really about my fear of saying goodbye to someone I love. I also like documentaries because I can wear every hat. I shoot, edit, direct, and even make the posters for my films. I enjoy every aspect so much and I found a groove where I can work by myself and really create something super personal, even though it's someone else's story.
How did you get started as a filmmaker?
I forced my parents to shoot my short films for me when I was 7. I starred in them so they had to film. I made sequels to "Indiana Jones" and "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids." I still have the movies and you can see and hear me giving them direction on camera angles and when to cut. In high school, I started to take filmmaking seriously and began to study different directors. Then I went on to film school and now I'm making a living with this.
What inspired you to pursue filmmaking here in Lancaster County?
I moved to Lancaster by myself in 2012. I didn't have any friends here and didn't know the area at all. I made a short documentary for a competition put on by the Lancaster County Community Foundation. I got to know some people through that and realized this was a good way to get to know Lancaster. So one day when I was walking down a random street in Lancaster City I stumbled across the Lancaster Marionette Theatre (formerly the Hole In The Wall Puppet Theatre) and knew I instantly wanted to make a documentary about it. That turned out to be "Man With Puppet" and I got to know even more people from making it. And it just kind of snowballed from there.
What do you love most about your local film community?
I love the diversity in everyone's approach here. Everyone is doing similar things but in a different way. Even the production houses here tackle similar videos in their own unique style. I don't feel like anyone is trying to rip anyone off or compete with anyone. We all sort of have our thing and it's really cool.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to tell their own story?
Don't listen to anyone on the internet. The internet will tell you that you need to do all of this crap to be able to make a movie (especially what camera or equipment you should be using). Don't waste your time worrying about gear. Legit movies are being shot on iPhones now (i.e. Soderbergh's Unsane, Tangerine). The only excuse to not be producing a film today is you.
What is one *practical* way people outside of the filmmaking community can get involved in cinematic storytelling in their hometown?
It's so easy to contact people today. Find someone whose work you admire in the area and just send them a message on social media.
What current feature films or TV series have inspired you?
I think Black Mirror is the best thing going right now. The episode San Junipero is quite possibly one of the greatest television episodes ever. I finally sat down to watch this show after being pestered by friends for a while. I'm a huge fan of The Twilight Zone so this hit the spot. The storytelling is far superior to anything on TV. I also liked the movies Hereditary and Christopher Robin from last year.
For inquiring minds, what is the best way to keep in touch with you?
www.monellifilms.com, Instagram (@monellifilms), Facebook (Alexander Monelli, Monelli Films, Lancaster Documentaries)