Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Dance faculty member branches into film

Whether in the dance studio or on a film set, John Virciglio said he has always considered himself an “outside-the-box thinker.”

Besides his position as an adjunct dance faculty member at The University of Alabama, Virciglio also owns and operates a film production company. Virciglio said the idea behind Sharkbite Productions, based in Birmingham, was rooted in his childhood experiences as a dancer.

“I always enjoyed the energy of dance,” Virciglio said. “My aunt ran a studio in Florida, and my older sister danced, so I was able to meet a lot of people who I had a lot in common with. That’s where I learned a lot about discipline and coordination, and those are two things that have helped me to this day.”

Virciglio said the idea for Sharkbite Productions stemmed from his collegiate experience, when he discovered videography.

“When I was teaching during my collegiate years, I got bored of teaching the same kind of class all the time,” Virciglio said. “So I came up with a class where students would learn how to make a music video.”

The course, called “The OnLocation Video Experience,” allowed Virciglio to explore videography. He said the concepts, attention to detail and dedication of the filmmakers he observed while watching behind-the-scenes DVDs of feature films was influential.

“I’d never picked up a camera before in my life; I just thought it would be fun,” Virciglio said. “The videos turned out to be MTV-quality, so I figured it was time to start thinking about this as a career.”

Following the success of his course, Virciglio attended film school at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, Calif. When he returned to Alabama and founded Sharkbite Productions in 2004, he said he found a different landscape than before.

“When I left, there were only two film studios around Birmingham,” Virciglio said. “When I came back, there were tons, so I had to find a different niche.”

Producing anything from dancers’ audition reels to high school athletics and projects ranging from small-scale and local to large-scale and national, Sharkbite Productions acts as a creative outlet, both for those involved in the production and for Virciglio himself.

“We’re always looking for something new,” Virciglio said. “Anything they want, we can do. We’re all about the creative process.”

Expanding to include graphic design and theatrical productions, the development of Sharkbite allowed Virciglio to bring the theatricality of dance and technology of film together. Following the 2008 production of “Frequency,” a multimedia piece that he produced, directed and choreographed in collaboration with the departments of art, engineering and telecommunication and film, Virciglio broke new ground in 2011 with “The Realm,” the first live performance to be performed in stereoscopic 3-D.

“’The Realm’ was all about creating a real-life environment in real time,” Virciglio said. “The performers were live, but their environment was in virtual 3-D. When the actors and audience put on the glasses, everything came to life.”

Despite Sharkbite’s growth over recent years, Virciglio said he has been able to find a balance between the demands of Sharkbite and his teaching duties in Tuscaloosa.

“Being in a creative industry, everything takes a large amount of time,” Virciglio said. “Being able to go out and getting to film, edit and render videos, while also teaching and helping with performances, has been very demanding. So I divide my time between my work here at UA and Sharkbite in Birmingham, so I can give them both my full attention.”

Depsite his success, Virciglio said he has been presented with several challenges in the production industry due to the industry’s oversaturation.

“With the advent of the iPhone, anyone can go be a production house these days,” Virciglio said. “It’s hard to find a quality-driven individual, so if I’m doing a project, it’s got to be high caliber.”

Cornelius Carter, a professor of dance and director of the dance program at the University, said Virciglio’s incorporation of technology and dance proves that he has an eye for what the future holds for dance.

“John’s ahead of the game,” Carter said. “He’s very innovative. Very few people can see into the future, and John has a vision.”

While Virciglio has been busy with Sharkbite’s larger-scale projects, including an in-progress collaborative project with a studio based in LA, he said he has been devoting his time to the University, as he is currently working on a dance for the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre’s spring production. Carter said he has enjoyed working with Virciglio at the University.

“He’s a fantastic colleague,” Carter said. “It’s been great to watch him grow.”

Virciglio said he has also been able to use his skills in videography and technology to help his students and encourage them to expand their skill sets.

“On ‘The Realm,’ I worked with students to give them the skill set to do things themselves,” Virciglio said. “For any dancer, having the ability to create your own productions and do your own graphics and editing and video makes you a better hire.”

Carter said technology skills are vital to aspiring dancers in the industry.

“Most companies these days ask for websites and video reels,” Carter said. “If you don’t have a solid, clear online presence for yourself, you can’t get a job. Your presence determines future, and you have to be clear on how you present yourself.”

Virciglio said he has advice for aspiring dancers and film producers alike.

“Honestly, the first step is genuine, driven passion,” Virciglio said. “You have to be open to all opportunities, because whether you like it or not, you can always learn from it.”

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