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New Jersey's Renaissance Man

By Gary Wien

originally published: 11/01/2007

As someone who recently went to a college reunion, I must say I pity the people who have to run into Kenneth Del Vecchio when they return to campus. This guy has done more in his thirties than most people could ever dream of doing in their entire lives. He's been a best-selling author, a successful attorney known as the expert on criminal law, won dozens of bench-press competitions, attended parties with people like Steven Spielberg and Jon Voight, created the Hoboken International Film Festival, and has acted, directed, written, and produced five feature films. How's that for small talk over drinks at a reunion?

In case his name isn't familiar to you yet, don't worry it will be soon. Kenneth Del Vecchio is one of the hottest names in independent film right now after securing a two film distribution deal with Universal Pictures for his films Polycarp and Pride & Loyalty. He's had distribution deals before, but this will mean more exposure than he's ever had before for his films.

"The deal with Universal puts the movies in nearly every movie chain and Mom & Pop store across the country," explained Del Vecchio. "And they'll put them on cable television after that. Simultaneously I have the sales agent who cut the deal with Universal selling the films worldwide. So, there's quite a bit of exposure."

Both Polycarp and Pride & Loyalty will be officially released in February. Pride & Loyalty is based on Del Vecchio's first novel, which he wrote at the end of his second year of law school. The story revolves around Jake DeMitro, an Ivy League law graduate who finds himself in the middle of an investigation of his father and his sister's murder is somehow connected. The film stars Charles Durning and Mark Consuelos.

Polycarp also stars Charles Durning, this time alongside Michael Pare, as a series of horrific murders, the occult, biblical prophecy and sex clash in a melee of gore and mystery, with psychiatrists, attorneys, homicide detectives and rock stars all being suspects.

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Things happened quickly for Del Vecchio once he graduated law school. Pride & Loyalty was published and became an instant hit and he soon found himself up and down the East Coast on a book signing tour as a best-selling author. Del Vecchio knows this isn't the way the script normally goes.

"Basically, I got lucky," said Del Vecchio. "I got lucky in the sense that somebody actually read my novel in the publishing world and made an offer for it. There's a cliche in the business that you 'can't get a book published until you have an agent and you can't get an agent unless you have a book published.' I was naive enough to think that I could anyway. And so I was persistant and I think that if you have a lot of persistance and a lot of luck and if someone actually reads it then your talent has to carry you. So when I saw that somebody of a reputable nature took an interest in my writing, it confirmed for me that I can succeed in this."

"So when I graduated from law school, rather than taking a job with a prosecutor's office that had been offered to me or one from a couple of law firms, I decided to start my own practice so I could handle things in the matter that I wanted to without any interference from anybody else."

Once Del Vecchio achieved success as a writer he then set his sights on filmmaking. Even though his friends thought he was crazy and he had no experience in films, he simply used some of his patented persistance and found a few people to back his first film called Rules For Men.

His debut won Best Comedy at the Atlantic City Film Festival and starred Jackie "The Joke Man" Martling from The Howard Stern Show, Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos), Frank Gorshin (Batman's Riddler) and Jim Florentine from Comedy Central's Crank Yankers. Having stars in his films has been a trademark of Del Vecchio's films.

"Over time you just start accumulating relationships and you hopefully accumulate some strength in the business and become bigger and better known," he explained. "For the most part, unless you're the son or daughter of a movie executive or movie star, which is how about 50% of the people in the business make it, you need people to believe in you and who are going to back you and support you. You've got to have guts and take risks and ultimately that's what I did."

One of the risks he's taken in recent years was to start what is now known as the Hoboken International Film Festival. The festival started in 2006 at Fairleigh Dickinson University and moved to Hoboken this year. It quickly has become one of the biggest film festivals on the East Coast but Del Vecchio isn't satisfied yet.

"My goal is to be as big as Tribeca," said Del Vecchio. "I really think we can be."

The film festival is the culmination of all of the different relationships Del Vecchio has developed through the years. He didn't just want to start another film festival, he wanted to create the best film festival in the state.

"I wanted to come off the bat in the top 15-20% of the world," explained Del Vecchio. "What this meant to me was that certain things had to be in place. You had to have celebrities involved, you had to give some cash awards and real prizes to the filmmakers, and you had to be very selective in your submission process."

His planning obviously worked because immediately after the awards were handed out for the first festival, towns were literally bidding to become the festival's home.

"Ultimately, I chose to go to Hoboken because I really believe Hoboken is the artistic capital of New Jersey," said Del Vecchio.

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The resume will continue to be built up for Del Vecchio with tons of things happening in the next few months. His New York Criminal Code book will be published in January by Prentice Hall; the 5th Edition of his New Jersey Criminal Code book is coming out; and he just landed a role in a film alongside Michael Madsen and Bruce Davison called Break, which starts shooting shortly.

Kenneth Del Vecchio definitely has a lot going on. Some folks even think he'll run for President someday. I can't see why he would, he's probably having too much fun dabbling in everything. Besides being President would probably bore him to death.

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.




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