Alumnus of the Month: September 2007
David Giardina, B.A. ’84
What is your edge (strength)?
My main edge comes from being a free thinker. I have always liked to question things and get to the root of any idea or belief. This has made it easy for me to be driven by joy, as opposed to fear, with anything I pursue.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I found Hofstra to be very diverse as far as the people I met there and the variety of courses it had to offer. I pursued a B.A. instead of a B.F.A., which afforded me the opportunity to take classes in many subjects besides theater, such as literature, languages, sciences and communications – so I was always stimulated.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
FI’d say my specialty is in writing/directing/producing. I was always interested in movies, and I always wanted to know how they did things. Even though acting became my main focus for a while, I still saw myself being involved with the creative process – specifically with film. That said, I also am a big band singer and I’ve become a health researcher and educator. When one of my teenaged film students started asking me questions about the nature of health and the mythologies surrounding disease, I was inspired to write a book on this topic. Even though each of these fields is distinct, I find them all relative to each other.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first full time job outside of Hofstra was at a truly horrifying company in NYC that published financial literature. I was the “low man on the totem pole,” and that’s how they treated me. My feeling at the time was that I HAD to suffer through this to make money. I thought I could do that and pursue auditioning at the same time – and I was jarringly mistaken. How I lasted at that nightmare place for five months, I can’t say. But it taught me a big lesson about not forcing myself to do anything and to pursue my true goals instead.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
I’d have to say the most rewarding experience so far is somehow being able to produce a two-hour movie with virtually no money – and have it turn out to be a GOOD movie! Also, I recently wrote a children’s novel as a gift for my 3-year-old niece and 7-year-old nephew. My nephew is already an avid reader, and he gave me the highest compliment when he said, “it’s the best book ever!” His response has inspired me to have the book published.
Who in your field do you most admire?
There are so many people past and present I think are exemplary. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carl Dreyer continue to inspire me. I applaud Michael Moore for shaking up the public complacency and also for helping documentaries to be more commercially accessible – especially since I am currently working on a documentary.
What was your major?
My major at Hofstra was theater, as it had been my goal since I was about 12 to be a professional actor.
What was your favorite class?
There were a number of classes that stand out. Mrs. Aiden’s voice class, Professor Howard Sigmund’s drama history classes were inspiring – though his exams were a true ordeal to study for! I also enjoyed Professor Chalfant’s Shakespeare classes. He really brought that subject to life. Dr. Ruth Prigozi’s film classes I enjoyed very much. I was also fortunate enough to take a class with Professor D’Innocenzo on nuclear disarmament.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
There are a few. One that comes to mind was from senior year. At the end of my last semester, close to graduation, someone from (I think) the Admissions Office asked the Drama Department for four students who could create a special puppet performance for the children at the annual Hofstra Open House. I was chosen to be one of these students, along with fellow alumni Dina DeJoseph, Shawn Davis and Jerry Marco. We were taken to Eisenhower Park puppet theater to choose puppets for this purpose and then between the four of us we created an original puppet show called Tudbard the Blue Toad and the Three Bears. It was performed at Hofstra’s Little Theater to great fanfare from the kids. It was a very rewarding experience – especially since I had never done a puppet show before.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What advice would you give current students?
All I can do is encourage everyone to focus on exactly what they want. When we follow our hearts, we always get what we want. When we do things because we feel obligated to do them, we experience all the things we say we DON’T want. Trust me when I say it’s easier to do what you truly want as opposed to what you don’t want.
How do you balance work and life?
To me, life is joy, and I make a point of doing what I enjoy work-wise and otherwise. Again, the trick is to focus on what you like, not on what you don’t like. People often ask me how I find time to sleep being that I enjoy doing many different things. My answer is usually – I don’t worry about it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself writing and publishing more books and producing more movies and doing more traveling and singing and life coaching and …
Do you feel that being a drama major at Hofstra gave you a uniquely different experience in college than your fellow students? In what way(s)?
That’s a difficult question to answer only because I never considered any other major. I could not imagine myself, for instance, majoring in accounting. For one thing, I certainly went to a lot more cast parties than I would have in another major!
How do you feel your experience at Hofstra prepared you for work in film?
Even though I did not major in film at Hofstra, I knew I always liked that medium. I did take some film discussion courses at Hofstra, which I found very enriching. These classes were taught by professors who had a real passion for film. They introduced me to various figures in world cinema and sparked my awareness as to what could be expressed through film. To this day, I apply a lot of what I picked up at Hofstra to the films I make.
Your film Taffy Was Born (2004) has received critical acclaim in the independent film circuit. Can you tell us a little about the process you went through to create and produce this movie?
Taffy Was Born began as a vague idea in the late 1990s. Not a day went by when it didn’t tug at me and say “Ya gonna write me? Huh? Huh?” and so finally late in 2000 I sat down and wrote it. I did not read what I was writing as I went along. Only when I felt I had gotten the full idea onto the page did I go back and read it – and I like it very much. Soon after, I had couple of staged readings of the screenplay with actors here in NYC and then came getting the cast and crew and everything else needed to film it. After a relatively few shaky starts with a couple of errant cast and crew members, we had ourselves a very solid company, and the production went quite smoothly. We only shot on weekends over a 5 _ month period. Our locations included New York City, Upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. I was very blessed with the people who worked on it – from the filming to the acting to the set pieces to the musical score. Taffy has gone on to receive some festival awards and good notices. I’m weighing my options now regarding distribution.
What has been the most enjoyable project of your career thus far?
Taffy was certainly enjoyable. And right now my teenaged film students are shooting their first 30-minute film, and that has been very rewarding to gauge their progress from script development to final production. The documentary I’m filming now is very exciting for me – mainly because of the subject matter. We’re addressing the American medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA, and encouraging people to question what they believe about health and disease. For instance, most people still believe that germs and viruses cause disease and that drugs can cure disease – and, as we explain in the film, this is not true.
I tend to find most of what I work on at any given time very enjoyable. People have asked why I don’t just work for a studio or some “big guy” in the industry. My answer is that I’m not really interested in working for an industry. I enjoy creating projects that inspire me. I don’t create things that are clinically tested to simply make a certain amount of money. I often hear, “Oh, what a difficult field you’ve chosen.” And I remind them that it’s not difficult at all. In fact, it chose ME.
David Giardina spent a good part of his childhood performing with various theater companies around Connecticut, including Oddfellows Playhouse (where he studied acting, script writing and directing, and more), Theatre First, Company 1 in Hartford, and the Alliance Theater Group in New Haven. In 1977 David was one of 100 teenagers from around the United States to participate in Center for Creative Youth, a residential arts program based at Wesleyan University. It was there that he first began making his first short experimental films.
After graduating from high school in 1980, David received a scholarship from Hofstra University and graduated with a B.A. in theater in 1984. From there it was off to New York City to pursue professional acting. He joined AFTRA and SAG and appeared in many productions through these unions, including As the World Turns, NY’s Most Wanted (he played the criminal of the week!), after-school specials for ABC and CBS, including Linda Lavin’s directorial debut, Flour Babies, as well as comic roles on the USA Network, appearing opposite Gilbert Gottfried. David has had many walk-on parts on the big screen, including films such as Regarding Henry, When Harry Met Sally and Moonstruck.
Since 1992 David has been living in Manhattan and dedicating himself to writing/directing/producing independent features. He was the assistant director on the feature Messenger by award-winning director Norman Loftis. In 1995 he directed, co-wrote and edited the horror homage to the classic monster films House of Monsters. The feature garnered praise from executives at Universal Studios and Sarah Karloff (yes, Boris’ daughter)!
In 2004 David wrote, directed and produced the psychological thriller Taffy Was Born, which won the Best Director Award at the New York International Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles and Audience Choice Award for Best Feature at the same festival in New York. It also received Honorable Mention for Best Feature at the Genesis Media Group Competition. Taffy Was Born was screened at the Cannes Film Festival Marché du Film and at the Forest Grove International Film Festival in Oregon.
David recently wrote a children’s novel, which he hopes to publish later this year. Another of David’s books, about the nature of health and the mythologies surrounding disease, is titled A Banana In My Pocket (but I’m still happy to see you). This book is available directly from the author.
David is writing another urban thriller film and is currently shooting his first documentary film with author Matthew Grace. Similar to David’s book, this documentary deals with the American Medical Association, the Food and Drug Administration, the pharmaceutical industry, and the Centers for Disease Control, and how these organizations influence what we know about health and disease.