Headshot_Natalizio_2013_small_buttonJust two minutes before deadline, Winona State University student Alex Natalizio moved his cursor across the screen and clicked “submit.”

The 19-year-old college sophomore just finished entering a film contest he had learned about from a friend 24 hours earlier.

Natalizio had submitted entries to film contests before but with no success, and expected nothing different from this entry.  He felt he lacked the equipment and experience needed to win.

This time, however, he had unknowingly set into motion a chain of events that would lead him to California to work with a famous filmmaker and would allow him to bring his idea to life.

The contest, called “Take Your Shot,” required Natalizio to submit a pitch for a short film and keep it less than 300 characters in length.

The quickly-brainstormed pitch, entitled “Weight of Love,” was inspired by Disney and Pixar films such as “La Luna,” “Paperman” and the emotional opening scenes of “Up.”

“I tried to mimic the ways that a story can be shown rather than told through words,” Natalizio said.  “To have character development without dialogue.”

“Weight of Love” is about a quiet college girl named Aria who keeps to herself to hide her unusual condition of being weightless. After discovering her secret, a boy named Adam is determined to help her accept this condition, and their relationship grows as they try to date without her floating away.

“I wanted to tell a love story with a unique take that people haven’t seen before,” Natalizio said, “and to leave the audience thinking about the film by not revealing every secret about the main character.”

The judges selected “Weight of Love” as one of the top 50 pitches out of more than 2,600 entries.

“When I found out I was one of the top 50, I was really motivated,” Natalizio said.  “I had recently made the decision to pursue film completely, no matter the risk.”

The soon-to-be filmmaker kept his composure, certain he wouldn’t win the whole contest. After all, the next stage in the contest was for the top 50 contestants to get as many people as possible to vote for their idea on Facebook.

“I had overwhelming support from my family and friends voting every day and sharing with others,” Natalizio said.

The Pewaukee, Wis., native made the cut, finishing the Facebook round in fourth place. The third phase of the selection process for the 10 remaining contestants was to undergo online interviews with the judges and hosts of ISAtv, one of the producing companies of the contest along with AT&T.

“I was extremely nervous about the interview, and didn’t really know what to expect,” Natalizio said.  “Afterwards when I was told I won, I was shocked and couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact this was actually happening.”

Natalizio had been selected as one of the three winners of the contest. He flew to Los Angeles to meet with his chosen mentor, YouTube filmmaker Freddie Wong, and to shoot his short film, “Weight of Love.”

“I love his creative use of impressive special effects,” Natalizio said. “I requested him to be my mentor because I was already a huge fan, and also because he would be able to pull off the visual effects needed to make Aria’s floating effects believable.”

The aspiring film director hopes this is just the beginning of his career in the filmmaking business, and is seeking as much support as possible in this project.  There will be various smaller contests related to the production of the three winning videos. For example, Natalizio landed Wendy Nguyen, a fashion design blogger, to star as Aria by winning one of these smaller contests.

In addition to wanting people to enjoy his short film, Natalizio hopes he can serve as an inspiration for others though this experience.

“I hope people can be inspired by this opportunity and have the confidence to pursue their dreams,” Natalizio said. “I was afraid to go after my dreams of filmmaking, thinking that someone from Wisconsin or Minnesota wouldn’t have a chance in Hollywood, but this contest has motivated me to take the risk and completely pursue film.”

Even after beating out thousands of contestants, meeting and working with a famous filmmaker, getting a foot in the door to Hollywood, and bringing an original idea to life, Natalizio is still keeping his Hollywood dreams in check.

“My family was worried about me missing a week of classes, as was I, but my professors have been really supportive,” Natalizio said.

To support Natalizio with his film, visit www.takeyourshotfilms.com.  The website will have behind-the-scenes videos and supporting contests.  Watch for the premiere of his film online sometime in October.

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Eric Hawkins

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