Profiles and Interviews With Interesting New Yorkers

DJ Higgins: A Filmmaker Whose Films Inspire and Educate

By: Nick Christophers

If you did not know about this talented filmmaker before you will soon enough. DJ Higgins has begun to make his mark in the film industry with his motivational projects. He is a one of a kind director who has amazing stats under his belt. Higgins speaks three different languages and has earned four Master degrees in the past few years. He is also currently completing a doctorate in Modern Languages through Middlebury College. There are not many filmmakers with that on their resume.

His Uncle Louie is who motivated him when he told him “to keep educating yourself since knowledge is a form of wealth which cannot be taken away from you”. Higgins ended up living abroad in Spain, Argentina and Italy while working on his many Master degrees.  His love for films was evident from a young age and he always dreamed of creating his own work. This would come to pass. In film school he met his soon to be partner Julie Robinson who also shared the same love affair for filmmaking. 

They both shared the same vision to make films that can possibly change the public’s mindset on certain issues. One of their most prized projects is out now called “Meet Mario” which captures the battles one man has with racism. The character is a black-Italian which that alone is a unique twist.  Both Julie and DJ created their own company called Meet Mario Films. The film company’s goal is to produce films that can help make a difference in the world.

Higgins has been making films for the past seven years and completed film school four years ago. Along with Julie they have released six films in three years.  Currently, he is shooting a project called “Armed and Dangerous” which should be an interesting addition to his film collection. In 2016 his project “Pasquale’s Magic Veal” won numerous awards like at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival for Best Comedy/Best Dramedy Short Award, at the California International Shorts Festival for Best Narrative Short and Best Actor in a Comedy for Joseph D’Onofrio (Bronx Tale) and Best Ensemble Award at the Brightside Tavern Film Festival.

“Pasquale’s was my dream project. We shot it on a Red and I really wrote it for Joe Donofrio whom I was a fan of for years. Joe is really funny and brought a great comedic presence to this dark comedy. Yes, I think in an age of dishonesty it is a film that will serve its public well as a voice of reason and truth!”

Higgins has utilized his love of the Italian language in one of this recent projects  “Santino” which actually derived from a book he wrote entitled “Un Giorno a Staten Island con la Nonna e Santino”. On board for the project were some well-known actors like Tony Darrow (Goodfellas), Dan Grimaldi (Sopranos), Artie Pascale (Sopranos) and vocalist Cristina Fontanelli. The film was in Italian with English subtitles which was interesting and rare to see. The film earned Cristina a Best Actress award at The Cutting Room Film Festival.  Higgins dedicated the project to his nonna (grandmother) who was a great influence in his life.

“What I love about writing and directing comedies is that the audience laughs (hopefully) each time you show it. This is the magic of filmmaking, it’s (hopefully) a gift to each person that is seeing it for the first time. There is a certain generosity that each film should bring to its public and the best feeling in the world is seeing people impacted by your art.”

If he was to choose which actors he would love to work with he mentioned John David Washington who has a great presence on camera and Kate Hudson who he really respects since she brings so much to the table.  The film “Santino” is a touching comedy that tells of how a grandmother struggles to find a suitable mate for her young 27 year old nephew it is a funny and whacky story that will leave you laughing for sure. The additions of such talents like Angela Rago and Giuseppe Santochirico who are from Italy added an authenticity to the project that films today sometimes lack. The project was made possible by the contribution of the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum supported by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and The Italian Sons and Daughters of America.

Presently, he is working on a series called, “SMACK” which is intended to educate and scare young kids about the terrible drug, heroin. The actors who bring this epidemic to the screen are Anais Almonte, Craig Rivela, Evi Siskos, Silvia Dionico and Alex Montaldo.  So far the series has seen some positive feedback on the festival circuit. The film highlights many facts and issues about the drug that will only benefit every young person.  As you can see DJ’s desire as a filmmaker is not only to entertain but to bring awareness to important issues that affect us daily. Catch a glimpse of his work on YouTube and be on the look-out for festivals that showcase his amazing projects.

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