Kenneth Del Vecchio has made at least 20 feature films. Not only that, but his background is a New Jersey judge, author, he has run for senate, and he is the founder of the Hoboken International Film Festival. His films mostly drive a political message of one kind or another, and with that they have garnered quite a bit of controversy. Cinedelphia Film Festival is extremely excited to be screening two of his films, the first being Scavenger Killers (2013), where a judge and hot criminal defense attorney team up à la Bonnie and Clyde and go on a killing spree. The second, and far more provocative of the two, is The Life Zone (2011), which is a horror film that follows three women who are being held against their will and are forced to go through with their pregnancies that they were in process of aborting. Cindelphia had the opportunity to correspond with Mr. Del Vecchio, and he certainly did not disappoint. You definitely do not want to miss this double feature, which will have special guests in attendance.
Cinedelphia: You have quite a different background for your average filmmaker. What initially drew you to making movies?
Ken Del Vecchio: I always loved writing, right from grammar school. During my second year of law school – at Temple University in Philadelphia – I wrote a novel. There’s a cliché in the business: can’t get a book published unless you have an agent; can’t get an agent unless you have a book published. Well, at 24-years-old, I didn’t buy into the cliché and I went to Barnes & Noble and bought a book that listed every publisher and agent in the country.
Thereafter, I sent my manuscript to numerous publishers and agents; I sent it by mail, as it was 1994 and email wasn’t an option at the time. A bit after I graduated from law school, I got lucky – and received a few offers from publishers! In 1997, the novel, Pride & Loyalty, was indeed published. It was right at the time when the publisher was taking things to the next level, and they selected Pride & Loyalty to be one of seven novels that they were going to push really hard. They sent me on a book signing tour across the East Coast, and my novel became a little bestseller, with me getting a lot of publicity as the “Next John Grisham.”
About a year and half earlier (end of 1995), I was noted as the youngest attorney in New Jersey history to try and win a felony jury trial (not sure if I was actually THE youngest or just one of the youngest), when I successfully defended a man against wrongful gun charges. This notoriety with, even more so, the bestselling novel, led me into the film business. I had written another book – “for fun” – called Rules For Men. I sent it to the “Howard Stern Show” and everyone found it real funny (it was rather obnoxious). So, I hired a bunch of Stern Show regulars (Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling; Fred Norris), along with a few other well-known actors, to be part of the movie version of the book –and I made my first movie. This was the same year as my novel publication (1997). I kept at it, and now I’ve made about 25 films. I think there was a lot of luck involved, but also a hell of a lot of persistence.
C: Do you have a favorite of your own films?
KDV: They’re all my babies, but I guess I have favorites: a tie among The Life Zone, Scavenger Killers, The Great Fight and one of my newest films, Price For Freedom (which will be the Opening Night Movie on May 29 at my own film festival, Hoboken International Film Festival).
You can see my filmmaker highlights reel here (it has clips from all of my movies): www.JusticeForAllProductions.com
C: How have your past judicial careers influenced your films?
KDV: I became a Judge in New Jersey in 2010 but, no, it didn’t have any influence on any of my movies. I just have a nonstop, working mind wherein I make movies across all genres – about topics that just f’in interest me! But, as many may know, I have many times played judges in movies (one time the “Naked Judge”) and Scavenger Killers is about a maniacal “Bonnie & Clyde” duo of serial killers: who happen to be a judge and hot criminal defense attorney.
C: Have you run into any controversy by having both a pro-gay marriage film and a pro-life film? Do you see these as conflicting?
KDV: There has been a TON of controversy regarding these films, especially The Life Zone, the pro-life film. There were literally over 100,000 media reports – across the world – when The Life Zone hit. Everything from FOX and other major networks to the LA Times to Newsweek/The Daily Beast to the largest media publications in France and Japan. The media was so crazy that I was the lead segment on “The Colbert Report” one night–and didn’t even know it!
What was all the fanfare? This was the first “Hollywood”-cast movie (starring multiple Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees) that took a pro-life position. Although the movie cuts right down the middle, examining the topic of abortion from both sides (pro-life and pro-choice), there is a “Twilight Zone” twist ending, which sends a definitive pro-life message. This hadn’t been done before because, quite unfortunately, most in “Hollywood” are pro-choice – and my film bucked that attitude. Interestingly, half of the people involved in The Life Zone are pro-life and half are pro-choice, just like America.
Many find it a paradox that I have made both a pro-life film (The Life Zone) and a pro-gay marriage movie (An Affirmative Act) as, supposedly, these are divergent views. Well, I’m not a robot and I don’t think straight down political lines. Both movies send messages I believe in, and I don’t give a f$+k what anyone thinks. Controversy gets people talking – and thinking – and that’s a great method for ultimately changing minds. Also, they’re very entertaining movies – and I’m an entertainer.
C: In what ways do you think films with underlying political messages can impact society?
KDV: See above…And if they’re well-written and not preachy, a filmmaker has the best chance of making an impact.
C: If you could live inside any film for the rest of your life, which film would it be and why?
KDV: None – I’m happy with my life. I have a beautiful, cool and intelligent son, and a hot, cool and intelligent wife. I’d never leave that for any movie.
C: Are you currently working on any new projects?
KDV: I have three brand new movies premiering at my film festival, Hoboken International Film Festival, at the end of May:
Price For Freedom (which is already being called the “Iranian Schindler’s List”) – a bio-pic epic movie that chronicles the birth of Islamic terrorism, taking place in 1979 Iran, through the eyes of a man who led the escape of numerous friends and family from the tyrannical Ayatollah Khomeini into the safety of America. This is based on a true story.
Joker’s Wild – a horror film that is inspired by the movie theater attack in Aurora, Illinois (when the lunatic dressed like “The Joker” shot and killer numerous victims). This film, which seemingly turns into a ghost story, squarely tackles the Second Amendment and gun rights, incorporating views on each side of this divisive issue. But, ultimately, it’s a very scary horror movie.
Twelve Angry Men and Women – it’s a sequel to The Life Zone! And it’s an homage to the Henry Fonda classic. The kidnappers had been arrested seven years later and tried. Twelve jurors decide their fate. Is kidnapping a pregnant woman to stop her from having an abortion (to save the baby’s life) a crime? That’s what these jurors need to decide. Initially, 11 of the jurors vote “guilty”; the one who votes “not guilty” works to change the others’ minds…And, of course, there is an unforeseen twist ending.
Thanks for the interview, and stay Nude!…”Nude” means “cool” – it comes from my first movie, Rules For Men.
The Life Zone and Scavenger Killers screens at PhilaMOCA Sunday, April 12th, starting at 7:30pm.
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.