AFI Member Spotlight: Pete Costello – American Film Institute

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AFI Member Spotlight: Pete Costello

This month, the American Film Institute is highlighting Five-Star AFI member Pete Costello, who’s been a member since 2013 and has supported AFI through the Costello Educational Foundation. Costello lives in Orlando and has worked in the Transportation sector for over 20 years. AFI spoke with Pete about how he became invested in AFI’s mission, his experience attending our recent AFI/Netflix Screening Series and why it’s important to give back to the arts.

AFI: What is your first memory of a film or television show that made you fall in love with the art form?

Pete: It was a rainy Saturday afternoon on Cape Cod in 1977 and, instead of going to the beach, I saw STAR WARS for the first of seven times. I came out of the theater that rainy day thinking, “Wow!  What was that?  It was magic!” For me growing up, there was nothing like being with my entire family in a packed Uptown Theater on Wisconsin Ave in Washington, DC seeing a STAR WARS movie on a big screen. When those curtains drew back and we heard the 20th Century Fox fanfare and saw that Lucasfilm logo – it still gives me chills thinking about it. STAR WARS also helped with my love of movie soundtracks as I bought that STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE double album on vinyl and still have it on my iPod along with other soundtrack classics from movies like AMERICAN GRAFFITI and RISKY BUSINESS.

AFI: How did you first hear about AFI, and why did you become an AFI member?

Pete: I saw something online about AFI’S 100 Years…100 Movies list and the AFI AWARDS, and I thought, “You have to belong to an organization that supports what you are interested in.” I love films, so that is why I joined AFI.

AFI: What part of AFI’s mission, programs or events interests you the most?

Pete: Supporting the AFI Conservatory really makes me feel good about the future of film and the people who will continue to elevate the art form. When I was a new member, I enjoyed getting the DVDs and programs for the AFI Life Achievement Awards for John Williams, Steve Martin and Mel Brooks and wondered how I could participate. I upgraded my membership to be a Five-Star member, and going to the George Clooney and Denzel Washington AFI Life Achievement award ceremonies were among the highlights of my life. I am now looking to upgrade to the Patron Circle to ensure the preservation of classic films.

AFI: What are three movies you would like featured as part of the AFI Movie Club – films that inspire and entertain you?

Pete: It’s difficult for me to choose only three movies as I rate every movie that I watch on IMDb and of the 2,585 that I have rated, I gave 378 a 10. I also used to have a hard time managing my Netflix queue to keep it under 500 “want to see” movies – currently, it is at 443.  So, here are the three films that I’ve whittled my list down to:

First, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND because I love films that take me out of my comfort zone, make me think and surprise me with how they will end. The performances by Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson were all memorable, and I really love Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays. Secondly, I’d recommend ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. Princess Leia’s one line in STAR WARS about many rebels giving their lives for the Death Star plans leads us into the best Star Wars film of them all in my opinion. Felicity Jones is tough and unrelenting in completing her mission, and my favorite line is Chirrut Îmwe’s, “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.” And, lastly, I’d enjoy it if BREAKER MORANT was featured. I do like a good legal drama, war movie and foreign film, and this rolls all of those together. Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson are incredible in this story about three Aussie soldiers on trial for shooting Boer War prisoners in South Africa.

AFI: If you could have lunch with one filmmaker or artist alive or dead, who would it be?

Pete: If I could bring my wife, it would have to be George Lucas – we are both huge fans of his work.  If it were just me, I would want to have lunch with Michael Cuesta who directed ROADIE. I think that we have a lot in common to talk about. We are both from New York City, and the film features music from the Good Rats, a local legendary band that I was obsessed with in high school. Since there is no soundtrack album, I would also ask him to share the track played over ROADIE’s closing credits – a great version of Jackson Browne’s “Load Out/Stay” by Adam Duritz of The Counting Crows.  If possible, I would also invite his brother Gerald who co-wrote the film.

AFI: What was your experience like attending the Netflix Screening Series hosted by AFI?

Pete: It was awesome! The movies were top notch, and I really liked the Q&As afterward with the cast and directors – I watched every second of all of them. I really appreciated the opportunity to screen these films as a member of AFI.

AFI: Of the films programmed – THE PROM, THE MIDNIGHT SKY, MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, GIVING VOICE, MANK, THE WHITE TIGER, HILLBILLY ELEGY – which was your favorite and why?

Pete: There were a bunch of great performances by Viola Davis, Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Chadwick Boseman and Gary Oldman, but my favorite was George Clooney in THE MIDNIGHT SKY. I think that it was a very philosophical film operating on a couple of different levels. For me, it is an instant classic.

AFI: Our society turns to art to help us understand and process – or even escape – uncertain times. Why is it important to support the arts, especially new and emerging artists, as well as nonprofits like AFI?

Pete: I think it is very important to give back and pay forward the many opportunities that we have been given in our lives. The arts are so important in providing a creative outlet for talented people who tell stories that make us think. Through film, I am able to experience the rest of the world and empathize with others in different situations than mine. Organizations like AFI, with its mission to preserve and grow the art of filmmaking, deserve the support of film buffs and cinephiles like me.

Comments (1)

Liz Marx

I love Pete’s passion for films. I think he speaks for all of us when he describes how the arts have made him more empathetic to people living in different situations. I hope the Institute can help him connect with George Lucas and Michael Cuesta. That would be a story I would love to hear about!


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