ThesisCrazy!!!: John Cicco

Thesis submissions are upon us! Our next thesiser shot a comedy short on 16mm film! Read after the jump to find out what John Cicco ’20 has been up to.


John Cicco uses he/him pronouns and is a senior in the College of Film and the Moving Image. His thesis, King Cocktail, is a short film shot on 16mm and hand-edited in the film building’s Steenbeck room.


Wesleying: How’d you come up with it? & What’s it about?

JC: It was an idea I had for a bit of someone who was really into flair bartending, which is like bartending where people  flip bottles and stuff. I’ve always thought that was a weird and kind of funny idea. And I’ve also always thought of it in relation to college. A little bit like if someone was like a bartender for college students, or if someone cared about cocktails, but serving them to students.

So what I ultimately did was I converted my script into being about two students who are really into bartending or throwing a party and trying to impress one of their classmates. So I set it in my house and [a neighbor of mine] went and built a whole bar for me, like the whole setup. He built a shelf we covered the wall in  my kitchen with like a leather kind of covering and I just shot it in my kitchen in my house.


Why’d you choose to shoot on film?

One: I really enjoyed doing sight and sound,  I loved the process of [physically] cutting film together. Two:I didn’t think I would get that opportunity again to shoot on film. And so I decided to just go with that.


What was your favorite part to shoot?

There’s a sequence in the middle of the movie where it’s essentially like they have to really impress the son of a famous bartender who is a real bartender in real life. His name is Dale de Graaff. He wrote like a very famous book about bartending. And I learned about him in a documentary and I was like, I might as well just use that person. So I made up a fake son for him to have, and they have to wow this person and they do this big drink making routine. 

That was probably my favorite day to shoot because we had shot everything else and we had the whole last day to just come up with random stuff for them to do. Cutting that together was probably one of the harder parts but also just overall that sequence was probably something I’m most proud of.


What was the hardest part about shooting?

The hardest part about shooting was probably set design and getting everything in order. It was I mean the fact that it was in my kitchen and just kind of like a part of my living space for so long. The shelf kept falling over – it was a piece of wood that we clipped using clamps into like the two windows that were covered. And so we had to we put leather over it. And it had to hold alcohol bottles. That took hours throughout the shoot.


What’s the part you’re most excited for people to see?

Eventually, the drink making sequence. I’ve shown that to a lot of people and I really think it’s fun. Just generally the movie itself too.


Current mental state?

I’m very relieved, I just sent my sound off to be mixed [to Chris, the sound mixer.] All the appointments are virtual now and it was very hard to get motivated to work on it. But I kind of sat myself down for two or three days and just really worked really hard on it and have now gotten it off and he’s having no issues doing it. So I think that now I’m just kind of relieved and relaxed. At least right now.


How has Coronavirus affected your process?

Well, the biggest thing I guess is we’re no longer having a screening. Or we will have a screening, eventually.


What’s it like working on your thesis from home?

It’s definitely harder to do.Once I got I got into a groove doing it in the Steenbeck room [film editing room] in the film building, I’d go in there and I turn off my phone and like, sit in this room in this room is designed to be used for this process. The sound stuff was always going to be on my computer, but it definitely is a lot harder to away from a space that’s designed to be used for a certain purpose, and then also just kind of being away from the context of everything [from the audience you think the film will be shown to, the deadlines, and the screening.]


Favorite form of procrastination?

Animal Crossing. I just got Animal Crossing. I’ve been playing that just been doing mundane tasks. I just spent like I want to say like 20 minutes just picking up weeds while listening to a podcast called Blank Check about a film critic and a comedian who discuss the filmography of filmmakers who have gotten the chance to make like giant budget movies.


What’re you gonna do once you’ve handed in your thesis?

I’ll probably have a drink of some kind.


If you could compare your thesis to one other song/movie/television show?

It’s a little kind of a it’s it’s slightly “Tim and Eric” but also, aweird running thing is the music of this one guy named Scat Man Joh,n who is a 90s one hit wonder who sings the song “I’m the Scat Man.” For some weird reason (or just for fun) I decided to have his music running throughout the film just so I could say “music by Scat Man John.” So I guess if there is an energy to it, it is obscure 90s euro pop music by Scat Man John and everything that kind of goes with that.


Any advice for future 16mm students?

Always pay attention to sound. And make sure you reach out to people early to get their commitment for co workers or yeah for crew. Also just filmmaking advice in general is just try and have your set be as positive of an environment as it can possibly be. Something that I was proud of consistently was the people who worked on it. There was always a great energy of people willing to help me do this weird little movie – that spirit was something that I think really helped us get through it. And so [it’s imperative] to build that feeling of everybody being in it together and everybody being important, and then people want to help you.


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