From professional bodybuilders to candy inventors to poker champions, Frank Zarrillo loves to tell interesting stories about real people. Born and raised in Toms River, NJ, Zarrillo was inspired to be a storyteller after seeing Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” at age 13. This led him to a short stint as a production and location assistant, where he worked on movies, reality shows, and other television projects. Eventually Zarrillo started Big F Pictures production company and directed his first feature documentary, “The Wrestler: A Q.T. Marshall Story,” which went on to win Best Documentary at the 2017 Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival.
Now a director, cinematographer, screenplay writer and editor, Zarrillo’s latest feature documentary, “GASPARI,” follows the first-ever Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition winner Rich Gaspari and how he continues his legacy with a global supplement company, Gaspari Nutrition. Offering a behind-the-scenes look at Rich’s daily life in the fitness industry, the film premiered in December 2022 at Hollywood legend Kevin Smith’s inaugural SModcastle Film Festival in Atlantic Highlands, NJ.
“I became involved in this project by personally reaching out to legendary bodybuilder Rich Gaspari,” said Zarrillo. “I was interested in telling a story about a man that had his glory back in the late 80s and 90s and exploring how he continues to stay relevant today, so many years later. He’s an inspirational and motivational figure, my favorite type of story to tell.”
The majority of the film was shot at the bodybuilding industry’s most prestigious events, including Mr. Olympia and Arnold Sports Festival, with Zarrillo capturing the action using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K digital film camera in Blackmagic RAW.
A Streamlined Production to Post Workflow
“I had done a lot of research on high-end, affordable cameras until finally coming to the conclusion that the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K was the way to go,” said Zarrillo. “It has everything a pro-level independent filmmaker needs to make a quality film, and I’ve recommended it to other filmmakers as well. The camera’s compact size and interface make filming easy. It’s also easy to bring when traveling around the country for my projects. Every shoot I’ve been on I’ve been around other film experts, and they always comment on my nice setup with my small rig.”
Zarrillo originally chose the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for its affordability, quality and ease of use, and he noted that its numerous additional features have streamlined his workflow, including the touch screen and the false color setting. It’s these tools that help support Zarrillo’s artistic vision, for example, one of his storytelling techniques involves physically following his protagonist around.
“For this technique, I use a lot of gimbal movements, and I use my camera stabilizer while filming my subjects,” he said. “On my live shoots, I’m able to toggle through the touch screen on the camera and quickly change the video and audio settings. The Pocket Cinema Camera 6K’s touch screen is definitely the best I’ve ever used to date. For example, if I’m coming indoors from outside, I can quickly change the ISO with a swipe of a finger.”
He continued, “I absolutely love the false color setting on the camera. If you think your lighting is wrong, or you’re on a run-and-gun style shoot, you can refer to false color quickly and alleviate any concerns of under or overexposing your images. The quick playback is helpful as well just in case you need to show your client or crew a clip.”
For post production on “GASPARI,” Zarrillo took advantage of the Blackmagic Design camera to post ecosystem, editing and grading the project with DaVinci Resolve Studio. “I’ve used every other editing software in the past,” he said. “I can honestly say that DaVinci Resolve Studio is the absolute best post program I’ve ever used. I love its organizational menus and how it is extremely compatible with my laptop. It’s lightning fast and allows me to work at the speed of thought.”
Capitalizing on Success
With another documentary on the film festival circuit, “Candyman’s Gold,” and one currently in the works, Zarrillo remains busy. “Candyman’s Gold” is about the inventor of Jelly Belly jelly beans, David Klein, and his nationwide Willy Wonka-esq treasure hunt. Participants hunted for hidden gold ticket dog tags valued at $5,000, with the grand prize being a key to Klein’s candy factory in Hawthorne, FL, and Zarrillo documented the treasure hunt process across several different states. He is also currently finishing a documentary about poker player Mike Matusow and his journey from losing millions due to personal issues and substance abuse to now battling to get back to the top of the game. The majority of the film was shot in Las Vegas at both The World Series of Poker tournament and The World Poker Tour’s 20th anniversary tournament, with Zarrillo capturing every nail-biting moment. Both of these films were shot with the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K in Blackmagic RAW and edited and color graded with DaVinci Resolve Studio.
“I was able to get three feature documentaries done on a one-time, nominal gear investment,” he said. “You honestly can’t get that much quality for the price anywhere else. I’ve had the camera since 2020, and it still works perfectly. It starts right up in seconds, so if you need to film something on the fly there’s no wait. I love the fact it uses SSD drives and how fast that compatibility is. You can’t beat the price, and it comes with DaVinci Resolve Studio for free, which I thought was amazing on its own.”
Building on his success with the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, Zarrillo plans to eventually explore Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini line of cameras for future projects. He is in pre-production on several new films now and knows that Blackmagic Design will be with him along the way. “I believe Blackmagic Design is on its way to leading the industry,” he concluded. “Any independent experienced filmmaker should own this brand.”