Marc Fusco, a Penn State alumnus and award-winning filmmaker, has always had a passion for the silver screen.
"There was always something that attracted me to good story telling and it is one thing that gets my attention," Fusco said. "I fell in love with movies at a young age."
Fusco, Class of 1993, graduated as a film-video major and accredits much of his success to his Penn State education. At the time, the program focused on a manual form of editing film as opposed to the digital editing of today.
"At Penn State, we edited reels and cut our film with a splicer. When it came to video we were doing mostly documentary on video tapes and we didn't work on computers at all," Fusco said. "It essentially got me prepared in the logistics and mindset of making a movie or story on video or film, and Penn State was really cool because we had great professors who were filmmakers."
Later, Fusco went on to work as a long-time assistant to director Steven Spielberg and worked with him on several major-motion pictures including "The Lost World," "Amistad" and "Saving Private Ryan."
Working alongside Spielberg allowed Fusco to gain valuable experience in the industry.
"Working with Steven was an incredible experience. Here is a guy who is one of the most successful filmmakers and did a lot of work that was critically acclaimed," Fusco said. "[Working with Spielberg] was intimidating at first, but after you pinch yourself a million times, you allow yourself to learn. I was able to sit back, absorb what he was doing and I can't emphasize how incredible it was being on set with him. He is very demanding and great guy at heart."
Fusco has directed and written various shorts, like 1998's "The Interview" and films such as "Stealing Time." He has also written "The Reel Killers" for DreamWorks, the upcoming comedy "Don't F With The Indians" for TNP Films and assignment work on Arclight Film's thriller "The Courier," according to marcfusco.com.
Currently, Fusco is undertaking another big project of his own.
He is currently preparing to debut a film that he directed and edited, "My Uncle Raphael," Sept. 21 in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto.
The comedy stars Vahick Pirhamzei, Missi Pyle, John Michael Higgins, Anthony Clark, Joe Lo Truglio, Rachel Blanchard, Carly Chaikin and Sage Ryan.
"They are all comedic geniuses in this movie and there was an immediate chemistry," Fusco said. "They can improvise and there were days on set when we couldn't stop laughing."
The plot is based on a famous character from an Armenian stage play created by Pirhamzei, who plays Uncle Raphael in the film.
"The plot is about a really dysfunctional family that is cast in a reality show and an old Armenian uncle is thrown into the family to save them from failing," Fusco said.
Fusco said Pirhamzei is like the Armenian version of the main character in the "Madea" comedy films, directed by Tyler Perry.
"We cast Vahick and we made it the way we wanted to make it," Fusco said. "It has a unique, traditional brand of humor that plays well across the audiences."
Pirhamzei's character Raphael is the first Armenian character to play a lead role in an American film.
"It's always a pleasure working with someone like Marc Fusco who knows how to communicate with his actors and has great understanding and experience at what he does," Pirhamzei said. "His directions and tips of how to play Uncle Rafael on the big screen, since it was originally from a stage play, made my character more real."
Many of the actors had enjoyable experiences creating the film, especially because of Fusco's personality and the passion he put into his work.
"Marc is such a joy to work with because he is inspiring and attentive and makes every day on set fun," said Ursula Taherian, the actress who plays the character "Helen." "You could tell he loved his job and was very proud of the film we were shooting."
Fusco hopes to expand the release of the film to more cities across the country, including State College.
"My goal is to bring it to State College," Fusco said. "We created a kickstarter.com page for students to talk with us to help network with us in LA and help us expand."
Through the kickstarter.com page, Fusco hopes to raise $50,000 in pledges by August 16 to supplement the current marketing budget for "My Uncle Raphael" in the first three-to-five cities. Every $50,000 after that will help aid in the addition of more cities that will host the movie, with State College being a possibility.