Lights! Camera! Action! at Mangia Apizza

By Jason Marchi/ • 05/04/2022 03:30 pm EST

When the look of Hollywood comes to town it always draws attention. The lure of lights, film cameras set upon tripods and dollies, microphones hanging from overhead, and actors and production staff milling about provide a visual thrill to on-lookers that never fades out—and that was the scene in North Haven on March 26.

Joey Ambrosini and his team—which he said are also close friends—recently wrapped production on the short film Jackpot Hit, which Ambrosini wrote and co-produced. He also plays the lead character, Billy, a young crook who gets tangled up in the mob world.

“I first wrote the script back in August, after we finished shooting a film from the same director, Michael Giovannini,” Ambrosini said. “I then offered the director’s position to Michael, and he immediately accepted. I was just so excited because I know [Michael] is a very hard-working guy and knows how to run things extremely smooth.”

“Michael and I go way back,” Ambrosini continued. “I’m talking way before I started acting. We used to go to the same summer camp and one day I just saw him on social media, and I noticed he had a passion for filmmaking. I then reached out to him after years of not seeing each other and from then on, we would start to create.”

Giovannini directed Jackpot Hit on the heels of directing a four-minute runtime gangster picture titled pay daywhich was released on YouTube this past September.

While most of Jackpot Hit was shot in Ambrosini’s hometown of Monroe, one scene was filmed at his uncle’s restaurant, Mangia Apizza at 244 Quinnipiac Avenue in North Haven, on March 26.

“The scene we shot in North Haven featured Tony Spera, son-in-law of [famed Connecticut demonologists] Ed and Lorraine Warren; American heavyweight boxer Tony Grano; and Steve Galluzzi, founder and owner of Mangia Apizza,” said Ambrosini.

According to Ambrosini, Galluzzi made his acting debut in the movie playing Jack, a mobster.

“Being in this [film] was a very exciting and humble experience in my life,” Galluzzi said of this acting debut. “With all that’s happening around the world, I couldn’t be happier to share this moment with my nephew, family, friends, and the community.”

Spera, who plays mob boss Raymond, said of his character, “It was fun playing a gangster. Joey and the rest of the cast and crew were exceptionally courteous and talented.”

Filming at his uncle’s business was a thrilling and rewarding experience for Ambrosini.

“Writing this scene was a lot of fun and having the honor in bringing Tony Spera and Tony Grano into the team was so exciting,” Ambrosini said, adding, “and I am so thankful for my uncle Steve and his partner, John Mongillo, for letting the team shoot at their place of business.”

Ambrosini also brought another friend, Joe Samonek, into the production.

“Joe [Samonek]who played a high school student in the feature film The Junkyard Dogs, makes his producer’s debut in this movie,” Ambrosini said. “We went to the same high school. Joe and I sat next to each other in a class we had, and ever since then we were like brothers.”

“We are all similar in our ways,” Ambrosini explained. “We are all very young and creative and dedicated to our crafts. The actors were either personal friends of mine or people I know from making connections in the business.”

Ambrosini also said he’s extremely proud of the cast and how they played their parts, and how everyone involved worked well together at the various filming locations.

“There was Mangia Apizza in North Haven, [and] we also shot at houses that we had sliced ​​up for the scenery, which couldn’t have been possible without our production designer, Ludwick Francois,” he said.

As is often the case with independent filmmaking, the budget for Jackpot Hit was extremely low.

“However, it was the perfect budget for this movie because we were able to purchase everything we needed,” Ambrosini explained. “The budget totaled up to $700 and the majority of it would have never been reached if it wasn’t for our kind and amazing supporters who made donations on our Indiegogo page.”

The production team raised a little more than $500 from crowdfunding and the rest came from the pockets of the filmmakers themselves.

“We used the money to purchase all types of props and wardrobe and music from our amazing composer Zemiah June, and we still have a decent amount of money left over, which we plan to put toward submissions to film festivals,” Ambrosini said.

While Ambrosini noted he has a particular love of the horror movie genre, regarding his two short films as a writer so far, “I just love gangster movies,” he said about writing the script for The Jackpot Hit.

“One of my favorite movies is A Bronx Tale and the first-ever movie I was in [as an actor] was a gangster biopic called vault. But [The Jackpot Hit] was actually inspired by a scene from an episode of The Sopranos when this group of young and dumb kids wants to rob the mob.”

The film is now in the final phase of filmmaking known as post-production when sound effects and music are added, and the motion picture is cut to the final look and sound for viewers to enjoy.

Ambrosini said the final length of Jackpot Hit was unknown at this time, but he was hoping for around a 10- to 12-minute film, more than twice the length of pay day.

Jackpot Hit is set for a Friday, May 13 release on YouTube via the director’s own distribution company, Giovannini Productions.

As for the team’s next slate of productions, “Our plans for the future are quite simple,” Ambrosini stated. “We call it more and more success.”

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