Chris Cardillo – The Jersey Film Guru Who Does it All

Aida Toro

January 12, 2023

Images courtesy of Chris Cardillo.

“New Jersey always seems to be the butt of jokes for films set in New York,” said Director and Producer, Chris Cardillo. “Not everyone lives in New York or Los Angeles, so I feel that setting films in New Jersey gives them an authentic hometown appeal.” 

Cardillo’s team has taken over filmmaking in New Jersey. If you are in the Garden State and the business of movie-making, then you’ve either been on one of his sets or heard of him.  

“Truthfully, I never really went into the entertainment industry wanting to become a producer or director,” said Chris Cardillo. “I’m a good follower, but in the absence of someone taking charge, I will always be the first to step up and take the lead.”

Cardillo and Adio Ash, Cinematographer.

As a child, Cardillo always spent time writing and performing screenplays. He recalled writing his first play at the tender age of five, which he alongside all the neighborhood kids performed for their parents. From there, Cardillo and his brother took charge of their family’s VHS video camera and created ‘skits’ or short plays, followed by recording them. 

“As far as on the professional level, I would say the film that jumps started my film career was ‘Grievance Group’,” said Cardillo. “Still one of my favorite projects that I’ve produced, which took almost a year to complete and had so much footage for, that we divided it into two movies.” 

When he arrived on set for the project, Cardillo was supposed to fill in for a test scene. He practiced for days and nailed the scene. As a result, he took over as the producer and wrote about 90 percent of what is seen in the film. To add on, Cardillo was one of the main characters.  

Later Hhe then executive produced ‘By Deception’, a psychological suspense thriller with a twisted and dark edge released in 2020. Cardillo stated he was not the scriptwriter in this film, however, the script had him guessing and that’s what drew him into the project even further.

Cardillo directing actress Daniella Salvi and crew on set.

Cardillo was then introduced to ‘Second Chance City’ in 2022, where he was offered one of the lead roles. He felt that another actor was better suited for the lead role he was offered. With that said, he leaped and became the director of the film. The film is about a young man wrestling with reassimilation as he struggles to piece together his life after being released from prison.

“Through my observations, I have seen people ‘cop a plea’ deal on some minor insignificant charge or one in which they could have asserted a good defense,” explained Cardillo about the film’s plot. “That individual is then demonized in the court system and paraded around with a ‘prior’, as it represented some type of modern-day scarlet letter.”

He explained that it becomes almost impossible to have a fair fight or defense once a person is in the system. It’s not the first charge that gets you, however, the fallout and the labeling causes the system to reverse the rule to become ‘guilty until proven innocent. 

“I’m not here to make the guilty innocent, but illustrate the severity of being coerced into a plea to a lesser degree because you don’t have the resources to be properly represented,” said Cardillo.

Cardillo stated as much as he enjoys the creative process when it comes to films, his strong suit is organizing, which is the reason why he landed producer roles 11 times. As a director, he receives creative control.   Although he directs and produces, Cardillo also writes and cultivates ideas when it comes to films. 

“When I write, I usually know how the story starts and how it ends and what the characters learn,” explained Cardillo. “I like to be as detailed as possible with character development; the more of a backstory you have of a character, the more the audience finds the character interesting.”

He stated the only problem with writing is that there’s limited time when it comes to introducing characters. Before the writing process, he’ll create elaborate back stories of the characters that he keeps to himself so that he could decide how each one will react to the actions of the scenes. 

“I view a block as ‘figuring out’ how to get the character from point A to point B,” said Cardillo. “I’ll focus on the goal of the scene in between those two points and how to best convey that transition.”

After working in the film industry for quite some time, Cardillo’s received positive feedback, such as being told that he runs an extremely professional set. Even Hollywood actors and actresses have disclosed to him they enjoy working alongside him because they feel they are not harassed. 

“Hell, we will ‘write you out’ before we accept any antics on set,” he said.”This is a surprisingly small industry and word gets around. I feel that this is one reason that we don’t have any problem attracting hard-working talent.”

Currently, Cardillo is focusing on post-production for “Second Chance City” and deciding what festival route to take the movie towards. For the first time, his goal is not to shoot for distribution because he would like to enter the film for festivals. He’d like to attend and watch the magic unfold with this ”Second Chance City”. In the meantime, Cardillo continues writing scripts and working on storyboards for other projects. 

“I don’t like to unveil those works until I am about to execute them,” he expressed. “I’ve toyed with rough sketches to do a bubble gum comedy with a female lead and possibly a comedy series with Marquis Ransom and I that plays like a modern-day ‘Starsky and Hutch’, but nothing set in stone.”

Cardillo hopes to work on projects with other creatives, as he enjoys cultivating art for art’s sake. For him, this could mean making a music video with Tyler the Creator or doing a vintage period piece with Bradley Cooper.   

“Stay tuned, there is more to come,” said Cardillo.

Follow Cardillo on Instagram | @chriscardilloofficial