Joseph Procopio - Sundae

When Joseph Procopio was a child, growing up in Toronto, he was immensely interested in film. It wasn’t like other children, who simply liked to watch the most popular movie. For Procopio, it was a passion.

“I would spend hundreds of hours scouring through my parents’ film collections to either watch new films I had not seen before or to re-watch my favorites. After being exposed to many different forms of films from various genres, I began to watch the behind-the-scenes extras, which is where I discovered the filmmakers, writers, and producers discussing the process of making movies. It was at that time when I knew that I wanted to be part of the process,” says Procopio.

Now, as a multi-award winning director and producer in North America, Procopio is living that childhood dream. He has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s top talent, such as Oscar-nominee Sean Astin, known for his iconic role as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mikey in The Goonies, the titular Rudy, and Bob in Stranger Things, on their film eHero.

More recently he produced the award-winning film Tools of Refinement, and his has received many other prestigious awards, including Best Young Filmmaker at the oldest-running festival in the Southern United States, the Nashville Film Festival, for his film Western Spaghetti in 2008, and The Rising Star Award at the 2011 Rhode Island International Film Festival for his film Onion Skin, to name a few.

“I am thankful and humbled by the success I have seen throughout my career. I am proud that audiences and industry professionals can connect and enjoy the stories I have brought to the screen. It keeps me motivated to continue working within the field and look for opportunities to improve, learn and most importantly, have my work constantly evolve,” he says.

Procopio is often recognized for his extraordinary talent and versatility in his many roles in filmmaking, exemplified when he wrote and directed his film Sundae, where he was awarded the Dr. J. Gerald Lamoureux Award for Excellence at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) 2013. RIIFF is one of only 75 film festivals worldwide that is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

RIIFF has seen 29 films that premiered at the festival go on to receive Oscar nominations, with six winning the award. Procopio was a mere 18 years of age when he received this distinguished honor. Sundae was also recognized at the Toronto International Short Film Festival 2013 in the “Best of Canada” category.

“I often look back at this production and smile knowing how far I have come, and I hope to continue doing so with all my previous projects as I continue down the long road of the film industry,” says Procopio.

Sundae is the story of two friends dealing with diverging paths and the fate of their extraordinary time together. Procopio wrote the script in his final year of high school. At the time, he was maturing into an adult, and he wanted to explore feelings from past relationships and someone he cared about very deeply. 

“I felt that the friendships and relationships I had with people with whom I had spent almost 6-8 years within high school and middle school were coming to an end and I used the medium to work my way through those feelings as we were all going our separate ways,” Procopio recalls. “Sundae explores the feelings everyone experiences when separating from people in their lives and revisiting those feelings years later, moving away from regret and overcoming past traumatic experiences while also embracing decisions made in the past and maturing in order to move on.”

Working on Sundae was bittersweet for Procopio at the time, but he worked tirelessly to make it the success it went on to become. Using all of his experience at the time and diving deeper within himself to bring the most impactful story to the screen was essential to the project’s success. As both writer and director, the film started and ended with his vision. Every decision he made from conception to distribution helped shape what would become a transformative moment in his esteemed career.

“I believe this project exposes me at my most uncertain and vulnerable. Being able to transpose those feelings and opinions on life successfully was essential for the project to feel real, direct, and relatable,” he says.

Procopio has come a long way in the last seven years since Sundae first premiered, but he still looks back at the experience fondly. He has a lot on the go currently, with four projects in development, including three feature film scripts and one television series. For those looking to follow in his footsteps, he offers some astute words of wisdom.

“My advice for those wanting to pursue a career in filmmaking will always be to focus on the story as the number one element: in short, ‘what is the story?; Regardless of the gear used during production, financing, or attached talent, the one pivotal part is if the work has a compelling story; at the foundation of the craft of filmmaking, everything must be story-driven to allow the audience to feel invested and remain engaged. If your story is compelling, so will your audience,” he concludes.

Photo by Julien Mandell

By Punit