Alumnus always on the search for stories

December 14, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Most days Penn State alumnus Justin Vesci spends his time searching for something elusive — something so hard to find that good days are rare and, even then, a potentially great find represents just the beginning of what could be, might be, special … someday.

Vesci, the senior director of development for Silver Lion Films, scours articles, books and submissions seeking characters and stories that are compelling enough to resonate with viewers.

“If you’re reading a book or a script, you can tell if you care about the characters. If their interactions are deep and make you want to know what happens next, it’s probably something we can work with,” Vesci said. “Maybe it has enough meat to be a film or a series. Again, that’s just the start. It’s a long process.”

After Vesci, potential projects move to the company’s president of development, Veronica Hool. If they spark an interest with her, the move closer to reality.

Still, an idea provides just the initial seed. It needs to get nurtured successfully through other stages, including script writing, financing, location scouting, casting, distribution and more.

Vesci, who earned his bachelor’s degree in film-video from Penn State in 2005, has been with Santa Monica, California-based Silver Lion Films since December 2008, starting as an assistant to company president Lance Hool. Vesci has earned growing levels of responsibility during his 12 years with the company, and has enjoyed many successful searches for characters and stories.

One of those successes — the result of more than four years of work — was released as a feature film in 2020. The film, “2 Hearts,” focused on two couples in different decades and different places that shared a hidden connection. View the film's trailer, here.

Along with his development role with the company, Vesci served as an associate producer for the film. Those duties put him on set during shooting in Hawaii, working in and around the production office and helping with the second unit.

While the feeling of success can be hard to find when slogging through books and scripts, it’s more tangible when shooting a film.

 "A good day is that I find something that speaks to me and pass it up the chain. The victory days happen a lot more during a production."

— Justin Vesci

“It’s the hardest job, until it’s the easiest job. A good day is that I find something that speaks to me and pass it up the chain. The victory days happen a lot more during a production,” Vesci said. “Being on a set, working with a bunch of people to get something from words to screen and bringing something to reality, is the greatest feeling in the world.”

It’s that feeling that helps motivate Vesci on a daily basis — and really what got him into filmmaking in the first place.

He grew up in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and as a boy tracked his day in part by what was on TV, what aired when and how his schedule fit around what he watched. He was undecided about a major when he arrived at Penn State, initially trying graphic design and eventually selecting film.

“Films and TV have always been a part of my life, so it made sense,” Vesci said.

He was the first member of his family to attend college, and when they moved to California during his junior year that made his potentially daunting trip to Hollywood after graduation less scary.

After Vesci graduated in December 2005, just before pilot season, he moved to Sunnyvale, California, with his family. That was just a brief stopover, though. Not long after that, he loaded a duffel bag in his car, pocketed the $600 he had to his name and headed south to Los Angeles.

A mailroom internship with Buckwald, a talent representation agency, helped get him acclimated in Hollywood and focus his potential career path. He later worked on the feature film “Street Kings” starring Keanu Reeves. Vesci held positions with Whiteiron Entertainment and Double Feature Films before joining Silver Lion Films.

These days, Vesci does his daily reading in Franklin, Tennessee. With enhanced reliance on connectivity technology during the coronavirus pandemic, he moved away from southern California and continues to search for those elusive characters and stories.

Last Updated June 02, 2021