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Business Italian Style – NYC

Students team up with leading NYC-based “Made in Italy” businesses for media project

Posted in: CHSS News, Inserra, Italian News and Events, School of Communication and Media

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When in Montclair, do business as the Italians do! In fall 2014, 18 Montclair State University students from the Business Italian course and two students from the University’s School of Communication and Media were able to do just that with the groundbreaking “Business Italian Style” project.

The students enjoyed a unique opportunity to link their study of Italian language and culture to New York City-based “Made in Italy” businesses by preparing, conducting, producing and editing interviews with prominent Italian entrepreneurs and creators in the design, fashion, art and food worlds. The result: four subtitled video interviews and related articles published in the daily Italian language online newspaper, La Voce di New York, that have received more than 100,000 views since they were published in February 2015.

View student videos and articles on La Voce, focusing on design, fashion, art and food.

An Interdisciplinary Project

Montclair State’s Italian Program, housed in the Department of Spanish and Italian,  is ranked as the largest in New Jersey and the fifth largest in the country by the most recent Modern Language Association survey.

“Our program is interested in devising innovative ways of teaching and doing research that align with today’s globalized world,” says Teresa Fiore, associate professor and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, who spearheaded “Business Italian Style.”

“I thought of asking people in various professional fields about the role of Italian language and culture in their work,” Fiore recalls. She reached out to Maurita Cardone, deputy editor of La Voce di New York, which focuses on Italian and Italian-American news and culture, about circulating brief video interviews online. “When my department colleague Enza Antenos made her Business Italian class available to the project and when Giuseppe Malpasso, a filmmaker from Art Motion Picture agreed to provide feedback on filming, everything fell into place.”

The students, who were divided into four topic teams – design, fashion, art and food – attended preparatory workshops led by Cardone and Malpasso, before researching their topics. Under the guidance of Antenos, they then crafted sets of questions in Italian for interviewees in each sector, who were chosen by Cardone. The interviews were conducted over two days in both New York City and New Jersey.

“The project gave us the chance to be in places that we would not otherwise have access to like prominent designer Gaetano Pesce’s one-of-a-kind studio,” says Italian major Emilia D’Albero. “The project was incredibly engaging and really opened me up to new opportunities that I had never thought existed. As an Italian-American I was proud to see the culture of my ancestors’ homeland represented so strongly in one of the world’s most important cities.”

Made In Italy

“The way Italians do business is very similar all over the world,” says Italian major and Milan, Italy, native Serena Pederiali. “For me, the biggest benefit of this project was getting involved with businesses that spread and believe in the ‘Made in Italy’ brand, which stands for quality, creativity, artisanship, style and innovation.”

Each group of students created a subtitled video and an article in Italian that were published in La Voce on consecutive weeks during February. In interviewing designer Gaetano Pesce and Federico Materazzi, the vice president of Poltrona Frau Americas, the design team explored the influence of Italian design, while the food team learned about imported and freshly prepared Italian foods through interviews with Sabbia Auriti from the N Beverage Group and Eolo and Pastai Restaurant owner Melissa Daka.

Art team students talked with Highline Art director Cecilia Alemani and Center of Modern Italian Art director Laura Mattioloi about the role of modern and contemporary Italian art in the U.S. Fashion designer Tiziano Zorzan and Alberto Milani, CEO of Buccellati Americas, shared insights about Italian style and its adaptability to the American market with the fashion team.

“Business Italian Style” is a hit.  “The four-part series as a whole received more than 40,000 views on La Voce by the second week in March,” says Antenos, an expert in foreign language learning and technology. “The immediacy of the delivery mode and the wide online dissemination among an ever-broadening audience makes the project so much more meaningful.”

So far, journalists and educators who are interested in using a similar format for stories and courses in Italian studies have been in touch.

Filmmaking Italian Style

Following the advice of Malpasso, student filmmakers Omar Portilla ’14 and Jarrett Strenner did the bulk of the filming.

“I got involved in this project because as a major in television and digital media who has been taking Italian courses as part of my minor, I thought it would expand my knowledge in both fields,” says Strenner, who helped in both the production and post-production aspects of the project. “On the production side, I helped film some of the interviews and footage. Then, when it came to post-production, I became the person doing all the final edits to the video.” He also came away with a newfound respect for the challenges of subtitling during the post-production process.

Italian major Angelene Agresta, who hopes to become a professional subtitler, subtitled the video interviews. “It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely my favorite part of the project. When translating, you need to take into account how many words need to be put onto the screen and for how long,” she says. “It’s important that you subtitle concisely so as not to lose the audience’s attention.”

D’Albero, who graduated in January 2015, hopes to become a translator. She gained invaluable experience by helping to transcribe, subtitle and edit the interviews. She also translated the food and art articles from Italian into English for La Voce.

Real-World Learning

To Fiore and Antenos, two of the most important goals of the project were to provide students with an innovative real-world learning experience and a dynamic approach to learning a language. “Learning to work as part of a team was as important to the students, as having the opportunity to interact with professionals,” Fiore says.

Strenner particularly appreciated the hands-on learning experience. “For me, this project gave me more experience in working on and producing a video in a more professional setting and on a professional deadline,” he explains.

“I entered this project with only the knowledge of the Italian language. I didn’t know anything about Italian or American business, interviewing, film editing or journalism. I feel like this project and class has allowed me to get my foot in the door,” says Agresta. “I don’t know where it will lead me in the future, but I feel that it’s definitely a start of something big.”