We had the good fortune of connecting with John-Paul Panelli and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John-Paul, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I heard a great quote in my early 20s from George Bernard Shaw, I’m paraphrasing here, that says, “People are always blaming their circumstance for who they are… the people who get on this world are the ones who look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.” Any “risk” that I’ve taken in my life or career has always been under the guise of there is no other choice. If you take anyone’s actions and hold them up to another’s, many of those choices can appear inherently risky from their perspective. In actuality, there is only one decision, at any given time, to be made for each person. These are two competing ideas here in a larger conversation of whether we merely have free-will or the illusion of it. But in truth, it doesn’t really matter. If you want to be a master of your craft, graduate top of your class, travel to 40 countries by 40… you go outside of your comfort zone, you put in the hours others won’t, you plan that trip abroad every year. It frees you of the question of, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” If you want “x”, you have to do “y”… classifying it as a “risk” doesn’t change that. You only have one choice anyway.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Always tough to start self-aggrandizing, these sections are usually best written by others. But… in a strange way, I’m happy with the time it’s taken me to find filmmaking as my muse. I think if I had gone to film school in my early 20s, and not had a large portion of my adult life exist before I came into film, I’d be a very different story-teller than I am today. Certainly, a less interesting one. I wouldn’t be as grateful if there was no in-between. The thing I’m most proud of is my persistence and ability to take challenges in stride. I don’t have the highs of resting on any laurels, nor the lows of my failures. A simple and continued effort to continue.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First… The Vista. Always the first stop. If you want the true “feel” of watching a movie in LA, this is the theater to attend. One screen. One movie. A highly worthy experience. Next… Mexican food. There’s an array of great choices depending on your tastes, but generally, the ones on the street are going to be the best. Pablito’s is my go-to recently. Finally… the Rated-R Speakeasy. You’d have to be a horror fan to really enjoy this, but it’s usually held in the back of a huge costume store (that doubles as a haunted maze when you arrive) and they’d play great classic movies, had good drinks, merchandise for sale from local artists, and the most friendly bar crowd in LA. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Almost 10 years ago exactly, I had, what seemed to be at the time, a cordial conversation over a cigarette with a woman. It was at a wedding reception in Berlin and over the course of these few minutes, I was given the support to pursue filmmaking. It sounds silly to say that a 10-minute conversation altered the trajectory of my life forever, but it is a moment and she’s a person, that still greatly affects me today. There is only a before and an after. I owe everything I have done and everything I will do in film to Vicky Heienbrok.