Filmmaker Adam Pesapane (Col ’95), who goes by “PES,” studied a little film history at UVA, but didn’t pick up a camera until after college, when he worked at a large New York City advertising agency.
“Commercials are really just good short films,” explains PES, an Echols Scholar with a degree in English literature who also studied printmaking. “[Printmaking] was where I really started to become confident to make my own ideas,” he says.
“Stop-motion is fantastic, because you can make a film simply by photographing things and moving them,” says PES.
He filmed his first stop-motion animation, Roof Sex—a minute-and-ten-seconds-long film of two stuffed chairs engaged in a steamy city rooftop tryst—in three months and then emailed it to 50 people.
“Two weeks later, I overheard people in a bar talking about it,” he says. “That was the moment when I thought, I can make films and put them out there and millions of people can see them.”
On the heels of Western Spaghetti’s success, PES’s second cooking flick capitalized on avocadoes’ resemblance to grenades. Fresh Guacamole, financed by Showtime, became at the 85th Academy Awards the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar.
“It’s a great honor, because I don’t think that Fresh Guacamole is the kind of film that typically gets recognized by the Academy,” says PES.
With creative commercials and successful films under his belt, networks now approach PES to finance his film ideas.
Next, PES is developing a couple of feature films, including one based on the Garbage Pail Kids. He’s also working on a collaboration with jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez and dreaming up a third cooking film.
“I believe whole-heartedly in the power of the short film,” says PES, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with wife, Sarah (who produces and manages the business side of his films) and their two kids. “For a work of art to connect with 10 or 20 million people is an amazing thing of our time.”