Home-Grown Cinema: David Giancola and Edgewood Studios in Rutland

by Ed Barna
During an illustrious or notorious 22-year career, depending on the point of view, David Giancola has blown up much of Rutland, Vermont, flooded its streets, crushed the county with ice, consorted with aliens, filmed and fought in court with Anna Nicole Smith, made a Christmas film that seems likely to be a permanent gift to the country – and has proved to any doubters that Vermont can be a base for making commercially viable films.

With more than 20 films in the can, as the saying goes, Edgewood Studios is on a steady enough course for Giancola to think back, reflect, and advise state legislators on how to make life easier for filmmakers who will follow (in two words: tax credits). Not that he’s taking it easy: The reason he gives “more than 20” as the number of films is that the total keeps increasing.
Truth told, he’s been making films a lot longer than 22 years, counting time behind the family 8 millimeter film camera, then video work for public access television. By 10, he knew what he wanted to do in life, after watching Earth-shaking films like “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

“He was very innovative,” said Joseph Giancola, David’s father, who has been able to help him as a real estate agent, construction company head, and developer. Notably, Edgewood Studios now has its headquarters in the Howe Center, an 18-acre former factory site that Giancola Senior has made into a thriving mixed-use district in Rutland’s downtown area.
“I remember my cellar wall all totally covered, wrapped up, with aluminum foil,” said the father. The house was “Grand Central Station” on weekends as his filmmaking son brought friends to the big basement space to act in space dramas or James-Bond-type action-adventure plots. It was almost literally the stuff dreams were made on: two walls in his son’s bedroom were covered with Star Wars wallpaper that he had found on a trip to Quebec.

David said that going from film to video let him do much more editing, and using the more professional equipment the public access channel owned expanded his range. Also, he said, his family owned an equipment rental shop, where he got all sorts of experience maintaining and fixing things.

At 17, he had to decide whether to go to film school, as some of his friends had done, Father Joseph recalls, “He came to me and said, ‘I’m the most senior and the most underpaid employee at the rental shop, so I’m retiring. I’ve decided to go into the film business.” More recently, he recalled, his son told him, “I never went to college, and now I’m teaching a college course.”
The Giancolas owned a space that had just been vacated, in the same small plaza off Route 7 where the rental shop was located, and Edgewood Motion Picture & Video (the old name) started there. They recorded weddings and bar mitzvahs and “once I even shot a funeral,” David recalled. As cable television developed, a market for local video advertising opened up, and they made “hundreds” of such commercials.

In time free from work, Giancola and friends started making films “on the cheap-cheap,” often using his father’s properties for sets or family connections for getting things loaned or donated. It was community filmmaking – but at the same time, it meant acquiring and learning how to use equipment that would be part of stepping up to bigger things.

That’s how it’s been, David said: going through a period of making action-adventures sold mostly to foreign cable channels; getting a reputation for having quality equipment and doing post-processing for other filmmakers coming to Vermont; making a lot of money for investors seeking to do a “Die Hard”-type film at a ski resort; working with other investors who bailed out on the fourth of what was to be eight films, but getting a lot of cred in the process; helping other films like the second “American Gun” and “Bereft;” boosting Chester’s economy by about $400,000 by filming the Christmas movie for Hallmark there (“Moonlight and Mistletoe,” third among original network movies that year for households with viewers age 25-54 and age 25-64), “Illegal Aliens” with the late Ms Smith, and on from there, just taking it as it comes.

Not looking to go Big Time.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of famous people, and they’re not any happier than we are,” Giancola said. There’s a song by the Eagles that he keeps in mind: “Take it easy, take it easy/Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
It has to be fun, he says – “That’s why I’m staying in Rutland.”