Norman Bertolino Has Storytelling In His Blood

Written By Avery Zendejas

Norman Bertolino is one of those people whose love for film is immediately obvious even within a few minutes of speaking with him. The director oozes love and awe of great film and the art that a great director can make. To listen to Bertolino talk is to get a lesson in film and technique. He doesn’t have to tell you he is a filmmaker and director, you figure it out on your own.

Bertolino doesn’t make movies just to make movies. His desire is to tell memorable stories and create visual images that stick in the heads of those that see his work. He has already directed some successful short films, with one, “Roadside Fling,” just premiering at the Burbank International Film Festival this past summer. And he is preparing to take the reins on his first feature-length movie in the coming months. Bertolino is not one to just do any project, preferring instead to do only work that he knows is fitting with the standards of storytelling that he has learned from directors he admires. 

Bertolino knows that to be successful it means doing movies that are commercially successful at some point. But he also believes there can be a balance between movies that make money and are at the same time, works that stand the test of time because they are done well. He is not against directing commercial movies. He just wants to balance that with a lasting film that others will one day aspire to the way he looked up to some others.

Here, Bertolino fills us in on his dream and the art of directing.

HB: Why directing as a career choice?

NB: I’ve wanted to make films since I was five. My mom used to do background work when I was a kid and I remember seeing her in a movie called “Freaked.” She threw a tomato at Randy Quaid in medium close up and that just mesmerized me as a kid. Something happened that day seeing my mom on screen that clicked inside me, a desire to make film.

Photographed by Justin Angeloni

HB: You seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of film. Who or what would you say influenced your directing style the most?

NB: Robert Altman, Akira Kurosawa, John Cassavetes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, George A. Romero and Francis Ford Coppola have all influenced me in every aspect of what my style will eventually become.  

HB: Considering how many films you have watched over the years, what do you like the most and like the least about Hollywood films today?

NB: What I like the most about Hollywood films today is the ability to be transported to other times and spaces with astonishing visual effects. What I like the least about Hollywood films today is the cookie cutter format that everybody seems to use, yawn.

HB: Who do you most want to work with if you could?

NB: I’m currently collaborating with who I want to work with the most, my best friend and cinematographer Walter Diaz. I’ve known him for more than half my life and it’s a blessing to be able to be in this together, plus nobody else gets my “Simpsons” references on set.  

HB: What is your favorite movie?

NB: One of my favorite films is “M*A*S*H” directed by Robert Altman and stars Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and Robert Duvall. It showed me how to be able to use humor in the most serious of situations. I also studied under the film’s editor, Danford Greene, who was so influential in my career. 

HB: Anything else you want to say about yourself or your life?

NB: I’ve had moments in my life where I knew this was my destiny. When I was young, My parents and I had a chance encounter with Robin Williams. We met him outside a comedy club on Melrose and Wilcox one evening on the way home. He chatted us up for a moment and I had so much excitement that I darted across the street without looking. Just before I could get hit by a car, Robin yanked me back. When the times get tough and it feels like the needle isn’t moving, I think about that and I know that I’ve got to keep going. I can’t let that moment be wasted. 

Photograph By Justin Angelino

Twitter: @normanbertolino Instagram: @nor_mans_land

Watch Norman’s critically acclaimed short film, “Roadside Fling,” right here as our featured short film of the week.