By Nicole Cecere
Andrew Graziosa has turned his nightmare into a dream come true. The Adelphi University filmmaking student and Lynbrook resident’s new horror short film has been selected to nearly a dozen film festivals nationwide and won several awards.
Due to its success, Graziosa and his production team are working to create a 90-minute feature film, which will be a continuation of the short.
His inspiration for the short film’s script came from a nightmare.
“I always had the ambition to make stories out of my dreams,” Graziosa said. “That’s what Wes Craven was doing - all of his movies were nightmares… When I had this dream, I wrote it down as a script. It was the first time I ever did a script format. I let it sit… and when I went back home that same day, I got it to 20 pages. It has been in the works since 2019.”
The six-minute horror short film, “Gateway Eyes,” premiered first to an audience of 120 at the now-closed, Merrick Cinemas. It was then premiered at the Adelphi Spring Student film festival in 2022.
Since then, it’s been selected for 11 film festivals and won six awards. “Gateway Eyes” won best first time director honorable mention and a bronze prize for best horror short at the Independent Shorts Award and audience choice and best cinematography at the Adelphi Spring Student Film Festival. It was also a semi-finalist at the Nyack International Film Festival.
Graziosa was able to travel to Los Angeles in September 2022 with two of his producers to attend the Independent Shorts Awards.
“It was a great experience being able to network with really great people in a city I’ve been dreaming of visiting since I was really young,” he said.
Graziosa works hard to ensure he has the necessary funds for the film. He does so by connecting with executive producers and angel investors. A recent fundraising event was a meet and greet with American actors Damian Maffei and Matthew Stannah.
Graziosa’s interest in horror films goes back to his childhood when movies such as “Halloween” and “Scream” were released. Horror movies didn’t scare him though. However, reading horror stories did because his imagination did most of the work.
“You only think of things the way they would scare you,” Graziosa said. “I read this one [horror] story. I went to bed right after I read it and had a nightmare about it. A nightmare that someone came to my front door, knocked and my mom answered. My dad got killed, my mom got killed and I was sitting there just watching it.”
This is essentially the plot of “Gateway Eyes”—with some extra gory details, of course.
With Graziosa’s filmmaking passion, he took classes at Adelphi to aid his skills. In particular, he said Professor Terrence Ross’s course “Writing the Screenplay” brought a new perspective to his project. Along with a new supporter.
“He’s got a lot of talent as a screenwriter and as a filmmaker," said Ross. “I realized immediately how talented he was and encouraged him. I realized how serious he was because he wasn’t talking about doing a 20-page script; he was talking about doing a 120-page script. That impressed me…that he did the script and backed it up.”
With the “Gateway Eyes” feature in the works, Graziosa and his team keep busy by working on other production projects. “Disassociation,” Graziosa’s second short film, is one of these projects. The short is an over-exaggerated look at a 21-year-old girl’s struggle with disassociation, depression and anxiety.
“I wanted it to be a more personal project,” Graziosa said. “I’ve always wanted to help people… I’m a very big mental health advocate. As someone who suffered from depression and has ongoing anxiety issues, I love to create awareness.”
This also happens to be his motivation for filmmaking.
“I want to create a support system for people that need help or don’t know where to get help… [I want] to be that helping hand in a sense for people that need it,” he said.
Graziosa asked Jonathan Bauman, an Adelphi student, to work on this short with his team. Bauman worked as an audio technician.
“I never worked with such a coordinated team as much as his team is,” Bauman said. “It was like a family.”
“Disassociation” premieres at Adelphi’s Spring Student Film Festival. Graziosa’s work and student films will be shown in the Olmsted Theatre at 7 pm on May 9.
“If I had to summarize the way Andrew approaches work and how different it is to other people, I would say the pace, drive and coordination he has is on a whole other level,” Bauman said. “I wouldn't consider him a student anymore. I would consider him beginning in his craft.”