“Innocence” by Miranda Jean and Michael Cicchetti competing at IFFNY

The short film “Innocence” by Miranda Jean and Michael Cicchetti is an official selection at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York. The film will screen on Monday, May 28, 2018 at Producers Club Theaters at 6:00 pm (358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036). 

Innocence recently won Best Indie Film by Top Shorts in March 2018. The film is also in consideration for Best Indie Film of the Year 2018 by Top Shorts as well as for Best Duo of the Year (Miranda Jean Larson and Mikayla Desroches) and Best Young Actress of the Year (Mikayla Desroches).

Miranda Jean Larson is an actor/writer/producer living in NYC. Originally from Southern Utah near Las Vegas, she is a graduate of Pace University NYC with a BA in Acting and a minor in Film and Screen Studies.  As an actress she works in film, theatre, commercials, and voice over.

Miranda Jean Larson Headshot, Photo by Lauren Toub Photography

Miranda Jean Larson Headshot, Photo by Lauren Toub Photography

She is the writer, co-director, and one of the producers of the short film Innocence and is proud to have this film as her first professional writing, directing and producing credit.

On her days off, Miranda enjoys reading and re-reading as many books as she can, traveling the world (most recently the Scottish Highlands for a month), and singing and dancing down the city streets of New York while passersby stare.

Mike Cicchetti, born and raised in Port Washington NY, started his film career in a screenwriting class back in high school. Upon entering Hofstra University for his Film B.A, he learned how to excel in all aspects of filmmaking, obtaining numerous awards for his creative efforts in Cinematography, Directing, Editing, and Producing. Upon graduating, he started up his own business as Cicchetti Multi-Media, focusing on his freelance efforts full time in video and photography, acting at times as a consultant for individuals and companies looking to start up their own video careers. He has since worked on numerous productions including commercials, TV shows and feature films. When Mike isn’t working out in the field or editing at his desk, he enjoys reading, playing guitar, taking photos and enjoying a weekly game night with friends.

Mike Cicchetti

Mike Cicchetti

Meet the Artista: NY Elite Interview with Filmmakers Miranda Jean Larson and Mike Cicchetti

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?

Miranda Jean Larson: Thank you! I am honestly so excited and honored. Since I was a kid making up stories with Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets in my bedroom, it has been a dream of mine to be a successful professional storyteller. And getting the chance to go to a film festival like IFFNY in New York City is an absolute dream come true.

Mike Cicchetti: I’m very grateful for our acceptance into IFFNY this year. We worked very hard over the past year on Innocence and have really taken the response to the film to heart. It means a lot to us.

NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions world-wide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?

Mike Cicchetti: Being in the top 40 for us means that the message we were trying to get across, the themes we tackled and the emotional pinpoints we worked towards, have come across clear and concise. Being able to showcase it to such a wide and diverse audience was part of the reason why we pushed forward with the film and why we put so much of our time and energy into it.

Miranda Jean Larson: Given the context of the film and where the world is heading as far as women in film and our representation in the business, I’m honored that my voice was heard. Being a female filmmaker working in NYC isn’t easy, but it is so worth it when I see all of my fellow filmmaking colleagues (men, women, and gender fluid) making inspiring work. I’m very happy to be recognized for mine.

NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about? 

Miranda Jean Larson: Innocence. It’s a short film about a young woman who gets sexually assaulted at a college party, then a child named Paige tries to stop her from committing suicide.

Mike Cicchetti: It deals with sexual assault and the aftermath of the emotional toll it takes. As much as it deals with that harsh reality, it’s equally about persevering through trauma and finding a light at the end of that dark tunnel. When Miranda brought the screenplay to me last year, that very factor of it was one of the biggest draws for me to be a part of the film.

NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it. 

Miranda Jean Larson: (Trigger Warning) Innocence puts the conversation of how to heal from traumatic and life changing experiences into the voice of a child. The Survivor’s story is one that I’ve heard over and over again from many women (and some men) on countless occasions. It is about experiencing trauma in something like rape and figuring out how to move on and heal from it.

Mike Cicchetti: The film was written by my Co-Director and Co-Producer Miranda Jean Larson. My first time working with her was as an actress in my thesis film “Half-Way”. We had kept in touch after the fact from time to time and once I started my production company (Cicchetti Multi-Media), she approached me with “Innocence”.

Miranda Jean Larson: We had a small, wonderful crew who were all great friends of ours including Anthony Zaccone (Cinematographer and Associate Producer), Jon Bewley (Assist. Dir.), Paul Peglar (Score), Anthony Noto (Storyboards and PA), Kerri McConnell (Assist. Camera), Calvin Dardin (Sound), Josh Timpko (Gaffer), and Adrianna Covone and Sophie Stratyner (Make-Up/Wardrobe).

Our film also stars Mikayla Desroches as Paige, and Chris Krause as the Young Man. I’m acting in the film as well as the Survivor, the young woman at the party.

Innocence Screenshot, Chris Krause as the Young Man

Innocence Screenshot, Chris Krause as the Young Man

NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?

Miranda Jean Larson: The message I originally wanted for the film is more apparent after you watch it, to remind yourself that it’s ok to remember to be happy.

I also wanted to explore what it would be like on film to see an assault from behind the victim’s eyes rather than as a bystander or police officer, or even the rapist as we’ve seen from so many other films and television shows.

Since I wrote the first original script back in 2011, the world has evolved. While we were editing the film, the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke and the #MeToo movement took over the internet and media. But my script barely changed. The rape was always part of the story, and the man was always “the nice guy”. This story isn’t new as I’m sure many people have realized over the last year.

Mike Cicchetti: What we’re hoping people take away from Innocence is a better understanding of the severity of sexual assault, and at the same time to know that there can be a means of overcoming that trauma. The interesting aspect of creating this film was that we were in post production while the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements were kicking up and creating that social awareness for these heinous practices of sexual violence and manipulation on a much more massive scale than people were willing to acknowledge. Those developments really gave the film greater weight in terms of the times we were releasing it into. Additionally, For me, I’ve always wanted this film to find its way to male audiences as a means of realizing the impact of unwanted sexual advances can have on a person.

NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York.  Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018?

Miranda Jean Larson: Yes, both Mike and I will be attending the festival. I live in Astoria so it’s right in my backyard!

Mike Cicchetti: Being able to have our world premiere take us to Kaufman Studios is surreal. I consider it an additional bonus to having our film premiered so close to home. 

NY Elite: What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film? 

Miranda Jean Larson: Remember to find happiness in your own life. Be kind to others. Be aware of the people around you and their experiences. And if you can see someone suffering, ask if they need help.

Mike Cicchetti: When the audience at IFFNY watches “Innocence”, I hope that our intentions with this film and the messages we worked so hard to put to task in this film come across very clear. We wanted to do away with sensationalism and wanted to stay rooted in reality when it comes to the subject matter and we’re hoping our audience identifies that once the credits roll.

Innocence Screenshot, Miranda Jean Larson and Mikayala Desroches

Innocence Screenshot, Miranda Jean Larson and Mikayala Desroches

NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you? 

Miranda Jean Larson: I love any film with a good story. It could be made using chewing gum and string and still move me to tears or laughter. The best quality a film could have is just honesty; telling a story from an honest place, rather than putting the “best bits” of any other film into yours and hoping it will impress people.

Mike Cicchetti: For me a great film has a lot of facets. Some of the most important aspects of it center around character reliability and the film’s thesis statement, or what the film is trying to say under the surface. Analyzing those deeper themes and meanings and watching a character grow throughout the course of a film are some of the aspects that keep me hooked.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in? 

Miranda Jean Larson:  Other than Innocence, one of my favorite films to work on was actually where Mike and I met, on the set of his thesis film Half-Way. It was about a brother/sister rekindling their relationship after their mom passed away. I’ve also loved working in theatre as Rosencrantz in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Gene Frankel Theater and with an Independent Pop-Up Theatre Project co-produced by Punchdrunk (Sleep No More) and Samsung in which I was a performer both at a pop-up in NYC and during the Art Basel Festival in Miami, FL.

Mike Cicchetti: “Innocence” is absolutely up there, but it feels impossible to nail down a top 3 of my favorites. Every project I’ve been involved in has had a certain impact on my life and career that I cherish and it’s hard to hold some over others.

NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?

Miranda Jean Larson: Innocence is definitely my biggest achievement to date, and I’m thrilled that we won Best Indie Film for the month of March at Top Shorts as well as being nominated for Top Shorts Best Indie Film of the Year for 2018.

I am proud to have worked with so many independent theater companies and indie films, and am excited to move my career forward with many more writing and producing projects to come!

Mike Cicchetti: Some highlights thus far include this film. I’ve looked at Innocence as a culmination of the past few years of my career: Had I not worked with Miranda before, we wouldn’t have worked on this film either. Had I not met our Cinematographer Anthony Zaccone during my time at Hofstra University, we wouldn’t have had our cabin location nor a cameraman we could trust this film with immediately. A lot of the cast and crew came from friends we both knew prior to this film taking off and that community itself takes time to build. I see that as a reflection of both of our achievements, both in our careers and our lives respectively.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways? 

Miranda Jean Larson: I have a musical theatre background. My parents are both creatives. Mom is a Triple Threat performer, and she and my dad run a performing arts studio called Diamond Talent that I, my two brothers, and my soon to be sister-in-law all grew up in taking classes every day. Tap dance and Musical Theater were my favorites. I still love to sing both very well and very badly.

Shout out to my amazing tap teacher Cindy Metcalf for teaching me the actual choreography of Moses Supposes from the film Singin’ in the Rain.

Another one of my favorite creative outlets is reading stories to children.  I was a nanny for a few years, and bedtime stories was my favorite part of the day because I got to create magic for them for just a few minutes at the end of every night.

Mike Cicchetti: When I’m not making films, I write, make music, and take photos as a means of creative expression. When the work gets busy it sometimes gets harder to balance out with the more creative ventures. But life is about balance, and I am finding my means of evening out the work pursuits and the fun creative pursuits as well.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?

Miranda Jean Larson: Jump in. Filmmaking as a career, especially producing and writing, has been a challenging and rewarding experience, but I spent so long thinking that I should wait until the right moment to get involved, wait until I know the right people, wait until my work is good enough. The truth is, don’t wait. Jump into the void of unknown and go.

Mike Cicchetti: Expect the unexpected. Be ready for disappointment and keep going when it hits you. Stockpile as much work as you can even if you can’t make all of it right away. Flex your creative muscles, if you don’t work at it you may lose it. But most of all, take care of yourself. I’ve seen too many colleagues, myself included, who’ve benched their lives for their careers. The thing is, you need both to make it into this business. Again, life is about balance and that balance is a necessity to make it through your career as a filmmaker. Once you have that, you can do anything.

NY Elite: What’s next for you?

Miranda Jean Larson: As a writer, I’m working on writing several new projects of my own that I’m hoping to start prepping for production sometime at the start of 2019 as well as some other exciting projects that are still under wraps.

As an actor, nothing is set in stone for the immediate future. But life is an adventure and will always continue to surprise me.

Mike Cicchetti: Right now I’m working on a few projects, including finishing another film in post-production, writing a feature screenplay and shooting a music documentary about a musician in NYC.

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