Making people care about others through the power of cinema is Vince Marcucci’s mission.
The day after his degree in cinema at UCF, he will launch his first documentary, a four-part 80-minute series retracing a day in the life of four naturalists. The premiere at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida is not just a project that took over 18 months of his life, but a fulfillment of the dream that brought him to college in the first place.
The film, Tales of Sunshine: Florida EcoStories, placed Marcucci in the director’s chair for the first time, while responding to his need to draw attention to social issues.
âThese two realms blend together well,â he says.
Marcucci recognized early on that films and documentaries had a unique power to illustrate the need for social change. He considered pursuing filmmaking directly after high school, and scholarship opportunities – including an SG Sustainability Initiatives scholarship and a part-time summer grant from UCF – helped sustain his interest. Besides the typical activities of university life, he began to develop links with industry and to network with biologists, anthropologists and sociologists who shared his interests. Getting his hands dirty as a part-time student at the UCF Arboretum boosted his zeal for environmental studies.
In the summer of 2020, he approached Lisa Peterson, Principal Instructor at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, about developing an independent study course to complete a film. He had the idea to film his friend Ian Biazzo, a doctoral student in conservation biology, while he was doing field research in conservation biology.
This little idea quickly turned into an incredible amount of work, even before filming began. Marcucci recruited more students to help with cinematography, sound, music composition, graphics and logistics. Then came the pre-planning, followed by a full weekend of filming. His team turned to him to lead pre-shoot meetings on safety as well as logistics, such as how much water to transport through the Central Florida scrubland.
As the project grew and Marcucci realized the value of adding more voice, he remembered the advice his mentor, Peterson, had given him at the start of the project.
“She said, ‘The documentary will tell you what it wants to be,'” Marcucci said. “So since the episodes went from 10 minutes to 15 to 20, I just let the art explain itself.”
Along with Biazzo’s conversational biology work, the film follows members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a professional mermaid, and a recreational fisherman. A grant of $ 1,800 from the Office of Undergraduate Research has played a big role in the expansion of the series.
For months, Marcucci spent every day working on the project to some extent, especially since he was faced with the monumental task of editing it into a finished piece. A three-month hiatus from a summer job in Hawaii in 2021 gave him a new perspective upon returning for his final semester at UCF.
Showing the final piece on the big screen and reaching the finish line fills him with a mixture of relief and anxiety. It’s already been interesting to see which stories early reviewers prefer, he says, so he’s very excited to engage with audiences.
âMore than anything, I’m really excited to show it,â says Marcucci. âIt has been a long process.