Originally posted on the Vitae website:
A one-time actor turned behind-the-scenes mogul, he founded Valencia’s film program in the late ’80s through a combination of connections, chutzpah and a gift for gab. Nobody schmoozes like Clemente. “You create your own buzz,” he says. “You talk up projects, you listen for promising ideas. And you promote—the work, your colleagues and yourself. If you say it often enough and convincingly enough,” says Clemente, “it’ll start to come true!”
Valencia’s Film Technology Program brings in film and TV professionals, “not professional teachers,” but “professionals at what they teach.” Their mission? “I want them to make our students employable.”
Students learn about lighting, sound, cameras, producing and location scouting, all the skilled grunt work that makes a movie. And they do it by making movies. The program, one of the first in the world run this way, gives students credit for serving as crew on low-budget film shoots, learning alongside professionals, picking up what to do and how to do it on actual film sets, working with name actors like Kat Dennings or Julie Harris, Rupert Friend or Ruby Dee.
Clemente had a brainstorm when he made a pre-”Miami Vice” Don Johnson film with the help of students from the University of Miami. “Cease Fire” (1985) provided the template for the many Valencia co-productions that followed. Clemente built bridges with every other film entity in Florida, from studios with soundstages (Universal, Disney) to other film schools (UCF, FSU, The DAVE School, Full Sail University), producers to film commissioners.
“Everybody is welcome to play with us in our sandbox!”
To achieve that cooperation, you have to be a master schmoozer.
“One of the best lessons Ralph teaches is that production should be fun,” says Ben Rock, director of “Alien Raiders” and assistant director on the recent Crackle TV series, “Chosen.” Rock, part of that 1992 Valencia class that went on to make “The Blair Witch Project,” says that under Clemente, students realize that “running a set is like throwing a party and trying to be a good host, and Ralph is the best kind of host. My best memories of Valencia are of Ralph, working the set, joking around, telling stories, keeping everybody’s morale up.”
Clemente, now 71, leads by example. He’s one of the first on the set in the morning and the last to leave, 18 hours later, whether the film is “The Way Back Home,” shot in Central Florida, or “Campin’ Buddies,” for which he hauled 43 students to Shreveport, La., to make. “I hope they see me and figure, ‘If the old man can do it, why should I be late?’”
He has a new facility on East Campus opening in 2016 to look forward to. And he has former students to keep track of, film folk scattered far and wide. In November he’s visiting the set of “Game of Thrones” in Ireland, where his former University of Miami student, David Nutter, is directing.
Nutter, like most everybody who has fallen under the Clemente schmooze, has a Ralph impersonation. It’s something you pick up on any Valencia film set—the Clemente accent, a German native who grew up in New York and Miami, absorbing a little Central Florida consonant-skipping drawl along the way. Impersonators start with name dropping, segueing into some movie making anecdote and finishing with “I get vairy EXCITED” about this film pitch or that idea.
Clemente laughs. He’s heard hundreds of versions of himself over the years. It’s the schmoozer’s sincerest form of flattery. “I’ve heard people doing me who’ve never even MET me.”
Click HERE to read the article on the Vitae website