Rosendale welcomed home prodigal son, cinematographer and filmmaker Sam Falconi back into the fold in July of 2022 when Falconi Media opened headquarters on Main Street, Rosendale. Falconi admits that when he left home, first for California and then New York City, he didn’t envision settling back in the area, however after traveling for the last decade and a half, he couldn’t be happier to be home and bring it back to where is all started … that is, when he gets back from Dubai.
Falconi grew up in Kerhonkson. As a child, he remembers spending the majority of his time outside climbing trees and running around in the woods. Ironically, he grew up in a strictly no-TV household (with the exception of the occasional Pee-wee Herman). He attended Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz where, looking back, he realizes the educational style would prove influential to developing his eye.
“In terms of cinematography – a lot of the exercises from Waldorf we did play a role,” says Falconi. “At the time, I wondered why we were doing what we were doing, but now, looking back, I have a different appreciation. Projects like shading in an object but not putting lines around it really informed how I think about composition and light and shadow.” Falconi recalls countless hours spent with his friend Gideon Sterer creating Claymation movies with a camera that belonged to Sterer’s mom. “We spent hours hitting ‘stop’ and ‘record’ about a bazillion times on this soccer-mom-style camera,” recalls Falconi.
An essential piece of Falconi’s career was found in a difficult family experience. “I had a psychopathic next-door neighbor growing up in Kerhonkson, which eventually led to my mom having to have restraining order – he was doing things like running around in tightie-whiteies, shooting a shotgun and screaming like a chicken in our backyard. My dad borrowed a Hi8 camcorder to record what was going on, and when it wasn’t used for that, it was in my hand doing experimental shots. Things like the toilet flushing, extreme closeups, very avant-garde stuff. So this tool, which was brought into the house to help with a psychopathic neighbor became something else once it was in my hands, it led me onto my path in film.”
For ninth grade, Falconi was faced with a choice. Head to Hawthorne Valley or a Steiner school in the city to continue his Waldorf education or attend Rondout Valley High School. “I had been living in this this little bubble and I really wanted to check out the outside world,” explains Falconi, and so he headed to RVHS. Once at Rondout, Falconi clicked into the WISE and New Visions program, which he says allowed him to really expand his experience in film. “I started getting my feet wet in film industry high school,” explains Falconi.
“I’d spend two hours in school in the morning and then head into the city, where I got to work on commercials and music videos through Rondout.”
After high school Falconi decided to forgo the college route, and the summer after graduation he and his friend Oliver Noble made their first film, “Night of the Living Jews,” starring the great Melissa Leo of Ulster County, which got a lot of attention and was accepted into the Woodstock Film Festival. Fresh off that success, the pair packed up the car and headed west, their sights set on Hollywood.
Once in Hollywood, the reality proved to be quite different from the dream – a mash-up of experiences that spanned the range of the business. Falconi connected with Harris Savides, the now late cinematographer whose credits include “Finding Forrester,” “Zodiac” and “American Gangster,” among others. Falconi initially worked with Savides on a Revlon commercial (starring Halle Berry) and was quickly taken under Savides’ wing. Working with Savides on the film “Greenberg” ignited an interest in acting for Falconi, and so, when he decided to move back to the East Coast in 2010, it was with the intention of becoming a proper actor.
“To be honest I thought LA would be easier and more exciting than it was,” says Falconi. “In New York City, I was able to ring a buddy’s doorbell and I’d end up on a roof looking at the skyline with friends. In LA it takes three weeks to make plans, it’s hard to have the same spontaneity and community that’s possible in New York.” Once back on the East Coast he enrolled in acting school but continued to take work behind the camera to pay the rent. Which leads us to Beyoncé.
A friend asked Falconi to cover film the artist Luke James at a premiere and Falconi agreed; the hitch was that the equipment was in a building on Broadway. Falconi made his way to Broadway, grabbed the gear and stepped into the elevator along with two other men. The younger of the two cocked his head and asked Falconi if he was a camera operator. He said he was, and the man said simply, “We might need you.” Falconi thought little of it and went off on his way. Later that day, when returning the equipment he ran into the same two men. They asked Falconi to see a sample of his work and Falconi flipped open his laptop and showed them a random section of the day’s footage. He was hired on the spot for a gig the next day, subject undisclosed. The following day, Falconi showed up ready to work. “I was introduced to somebody named B, an older white woman, and I was like, OK, cool, so I thought that was who we are focusing on. Suddenly someone taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘She’s about to arrive! You’ve gotta get her arriving,’ and an Escalade pulls up and Beyoncé steps out.”
One day led to two, which led to three, and it was at that point that Falconi was asked to join Team Beyoncé. “After a couple of days of working in a row they said that she felt comfortable with me and asked me to stick around.”
In the ensuing years, in addition to half a decade as Beyoncé’s personal cinematographer (he continues to enjoy working with her), Falconi started racking up a slew of credits both behind and in front of the camera. Some notable acting credits include roles in “Summer House,” “Artist in a Field” (a 2022 short) and the Hulu series “High Fidelity.” Behind the camera he’s collaborated with H&M, Gucci, Vogue, The New York Times and Billboard, to name a few, as well as a night sky’s worth of stars including Prince, JZ, and Alicia Keys.
Falconi says that helming his company, Falconi Media, snuck up on him. “It starts with you just working a lot, and then you start hiring people to work under you, and then the project gets bigger and bigger.” As of today, Falconi is preparing to head to Dubai on Sunday, Dec. 4, to create two episodes of a branded content series called “KaoticaLive” for KaoticaEyeball, focused on musicians doing remote live recording sessions. Think a sexier, shrouded, remote-location version of the NPR Tiny Desk series.
Falconi Media has come back home. While Falconi says that his business is “like a ninja” and can go anywhere at any time, the official HQ is located on Main Street in Rosendale at Area 415, a multimedia production company and event space that also hosts a store. He shares the space with his colleagues and collaborators – directors Julienne Jones and Max Basch, music producer Bosch Purvis and herbalist Malia Scharf – and both separately and together they create branded content, commercials and hope to foray into feature films.
While he loves, and is still often working in, the city, Falconi says that being back in the area has felt like the best of both worlds. “Rosendale is kind of the perfect proximity to both the madness of the city and nature for me. It’s the perfect little combination. When I was younger, I was not that interested in upstate – I wanted to reject the area, but as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that upstate gives me that inner expansion. It’s really exciting to come back to this sleepy little town and see all the potential that it has. I love that it’s quiet and that it seems like it could be vibrant at the same time. That what makes it special. Rosendale is just that perfect combo of sleepy and vibrant.”
He’s also excited to start collaborating with local creative people. “I’m super excited about collaborating with local businesses and artists,” says Falconi. He is currently working on a project with his mother, Dina Falconi, which includes over 50 hours of content including a YouTube channel and education materiel entitled “In the Wild Kitchen.” He’s also looking to connect with local youth and ready to offer internships as production assistants and assistant editors.
“When I was 18 or 19 I would have been pretty stoked to meet the older version of me and get taken under my wing,” Falconi says. “Right now there’s a lot coming through the pipeline, and it would be a great opportunity for a savvy, hungry young soul. I remember I just wanted to find stuff to create as a kid, and now I’m standing here and I’m creating it. There are a few people that came into my life in the beginning stages of my career, even as I was just finishing high school, that were super clutch in giving me direction and inspiration that made sense and who physically took a risk on bringing me in on their professional sphere. Who knows how many of these things would have unfolded for me? I want to be that same person back to any other young person who might not feel that it’s possible to do this as a career. I think there is some magic to it, but I also think people are intimidated by it, and that’s not necessary.”
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