Junior Communications major Timothy Chivalette and sophomore Economics major Ian Angotti have been classmates and friends through middle school and high school. At Stockton University, they’re pursuing different fields, but their friendship and common interests brought them together as the director and host of a new television series about the distinctive people, places, history and culture of southern New Jersey.
The first episode of “NeedlePoint with Ian Angotti,” now available on YouTube, features interviews with Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson and his wife Nikki, and members of the Ong’s Hat Band.
“I have always wanted to interview,” said Angotti, of Mays Landing. “Coincidentally, in high school, I was chosen most likely to host a talk show.”
“I’ve known Ian since he was 11. He has the personality to lead a show,” said Chivalette, of Egg Harbor City.
While Angotti is the researcher who steers the storylines with his thoughtful interviews and inquisitive personality, Chivalette is the creative eye behind the camera and the brains inside the editing booth.
The film project was funded through Stockton’s Distinguished Student Fellowships program and advised by Dr. Thomas Kinsella, professor of British Literature and director of the South Jersey Culture and History Center, and Dr. Christine Farina, associate professor of Communications. “They understand the work we do and appreciate it. Dr. Kinsella goes out of his way to make sure we have the resources to do the best that we can, and Dr. Farina is great at being a mentor while helping us piece the footage together,” said Chivalette.
Prior to an interview, Chivalette and Angotti discuss in detail all of the information they hope to highlight. “Then I research and develop interview questions and themes so that when the interview happens we achieve what we set out for,” explained Angotti, who likens their pre-production process to meticulously rehearsing football plays.
“Most brainstorming sessions or film shoots end with a trip to Denny’s or Applebee’s where we share perhaps the greatest communication between humans, laughter,” Angotti added.
Although he’s looking through the lens now, Chivalette is at home on the other side of the camera where he has played a role in “Delivery Man” with Vince Vaughn and a small role in “Wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo DiCaprio. Chivalette began stage acting at age 12 and started appearing in front of the camera in professional movie productions at 18. Today he’s a professional union actor with SAG-AFTRA.
He has a leading role in “The Sound of Magic,” which will be released later this year.
His advice to students is “keep doing it because, with anything, you start out terrible. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. It’s all about practice, and if you like it, keep doing it.”
After taking a class with Dr. Farina, Chivalette discovered his interest in filmmaking. “She showed me a whole other world of editing and camera work. She’s amazing. She’s a professional filmmaker and helps us to understand the difference between narrative and documentary filmmaking,” he said.
“Right now, the main focus in my life is making ‘NeedlePoint with Ian Angotti’ the best show that it can be,” he said.
Angotti describes Chivalette as “optimistic, driven and at times thunderous in his conviction.”
“Loyal, funny and upright” is how Chivalette describes Angotti.
Together, they are a powerhouse.
One of the biggest challenges for Chivalette is deciding on what makes the cut. “There’s some stuff that’s gold that you have to leave behind,” he said.
However, the golden nuggets that don’t make the final cut are saved by Angotti, who hopes to become an archivist. He started an archive of the project’s interviews through the South Jersey Culture and History Center, which he hopes one day will have its own space that would serve as an area for “research, contemplation and a home base where all things southern New Jersey can be found.”
The film series “provides a nexus for southern New Jersey communities to interact and learn about the history of the area,” said Angotti.
Angotti works full-time and has a full course load of 20 credits. When time allows, he plays piano, acts in local theater productions and enjoys reading presidential biographies and books on the Romantic Era composer Chopin.
“I never knew that we had people studying South Jersey. To me the history is fascinating,” said Chivalette.
“Nothing is boring because there is always something to be learned. I’ve lived in South Jersey all my life, but everyone has a different experience. We’re hoping that students will become more interested in the place they live. South Jersey is something special and important to history. We want them to look beyond the shore,” said Chivalette.