2021 William F. DIPietra Film/Video Award Winner Uses Dance to Tell A Story

Steven Ruggiero  (Fordham University)


My film uses dance to tell a story instead of words. The protagonist finds a door which takes him from the exterior world into his own interior world where he interacts and grapples with his emotions, represented through a series of dance sequences.  The different scenes in the film represent a push and pull between the main character and his feelings: sometimes he embraces those feelings and moves in synergy with them, and sometimes he is at odds with them.. The journey that the main character embarks on is a personal one that doesn't necessarily conclude at the end of the film; rather, this work of "figuring out" oneself is ongoing. 


I'm originally from Annandale, New Jersey. I started dancing in second grade when my mother enrolled me in a weekly breakdance class at our local gym. I really fell in love with dance, and continued breaking through high school, at which point I started taking hip hop choreography and ballet. I also became interested in photography and film/video in high school, and I tried to find ways to incorporate my passion for dance into my newfound passion for visual arts. Dance is a very important part of my life and one that strongly influences my artistic taste and filmmaking practice. I'm currently a co-director of Mint Dance Company, a dance team in New York City that participates in competitions and showcases around the tri-state area.


I am a senior at Fordham, double majoring in Film/Television and Visual Arts. I'm also minoring in Psychology.   Post-college I'm planning on pursuing work in the film industry. In the past 6 years, I've done a lot of freelance videography, photography, and editing work for clients all around New York and New Jersey. I've shot promotional videos, weddings and bridal showers, dance content, music videos, and a variety of other video jobs. I also regularly shoot headshots and portraits for people, and I photograph events and campaigns, including some for students on campus at Fordham. During the pandemic when a lot of live events and recitals were cancelled, I ended up producing several virtual events that were pre-filmed and broadcast online so that people could enjoy them without leaving their homes. I think that I'll continue freelancing post-college, but I'd like to start breaking into the production world. My dream job is to be a cinematographer on large films, so I'm hoping to start working my way up the ladder!


If you're interested, you can see some of my previous work on my website at



Young Filmmaker Award (2020)


William F. DiPietra Project Finishing Grant Winners (2020)


                                           Sho Akita, MA 

                                           (Long Island University Media Arts Alumnus)

                                           Sho's project is a short, experimental documentary about the Japanese artist                                                                Teiji Furuhashi and his time spent in New York City during the 80's and 90's.                                                                  NYC was his inspiration, a place where he could be out as a gay man, but also where he contracted HIV.  Furuhashi is well-known, especially in Japan, and his solo work, LOVERS, is part of the MoMa's permanent collection.  Sho's documentary will focus on the missing piece of Furuhashi's narrative, his life in NYC, while telling a story from the AIDS epidemic, an epidemic which many of today's young people know only as an abstract idea.  (Late 2020)


                                           Maria Palacio, MFA

                                           (Long Island University Media Arts Alumnus)


                                           "Pay it Forward in Death" is a 4-episode thriller and web-based series.  It is about                                                          three  young women living in NYC who have suffered trauma inflicted by others.  The                                                    series forces us to question if the victim becomes a victimizer, if victims are justified                                                    in their retaliation, and if traumatized people who band together create empower-

ment or  toxicity.  "Pay it Forward in Death" is meant to entertain with the suspense of each story told but also to question  what it means to be a victim for too long.  (January 2021)


Rian Ferragamo

I am 14 years old and live in Chantilly, Virginia.  I first became interested in filmmaking in 2nd grade when I made simple shorts with my Legos.  I took a more profound interest in 5th grade when I made my first-ever series with my siblings called "The House."  I used apps on an iPhone such as iMovie to edit the episodes.


Throughout the past three years, my interest and ability in filmmaking has grown and I started producing a lot of mini series and short films. In April 2020, I got my first computer, which strengthened my skills considerably. Now I edit and

I produce my films using a variety of different software on my computer, such as iMovie and DaVinci Resolve.

I'm hoping to purchase one of the Adobe editors when I'm older.  I'm still uncertain about the future, but a career in filmmaking is high up on my list.  Here are two films that I submitted to film festivals:


Inside the Director's Studio:

Life with COVID-19:

William F. DiPietra Foundation Donates to EMS FDNY Help Fund (2019)

The EMS FDNY Help Fund was established in 2017 after EMT Yadira Arroyo was run over by her own ambulance.  The mission of the EMS Help Fund is to support EMTs and Paramedics and their families in the event of death, injury, illness or hardship.

During William's (Bill's) illness his EMS coworkers donated many months of paid time to him.  We were all touched by the generosity and kindness shown by so many.  Bill often said that he "hoped to do the same for others" when he returned to work.  Unfortunately, he returned for only three weeks before passing away in November 2017.  

Even though Bill was unable to help those who helped him, the Foundation will now do it for him.  In May 2019 the William F. DiPietra Foundation made a $10,000 donation to the EMS FDNY Help Fund. This is in fulfillment of Bill's wish to help those who helped him.

St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy Drama Club Grant (2019)

The St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy Drama Club presented an adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" on March 29, 2019.  The Drama Club students (Grades 5-8) wowed the audience with their costumes, singing and acting.  William attended St. Elizabeth School from 1981 to 1989 and the Foundation was happy to help fund this year's production.

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Holy Child Jesus Teen Drama Club Grant (2019)

The Holy Child Jesus Teen Drama Club in Richmond Hill, NY presented its 40th summer production, "Newsies."  The acting, singing and dancing were top-notch.  The Drama Group is open to teens aged 13-19 who audition, rehearse and present a polished production in six weeks!

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Kristi Gatto: The Promise: A Docuseries on Childhood Cancer (2019)





The 2019 recipient of the William F. DiPietra Media Arts Project Finishing Grant (Long Island University) is Kristi Gatto, for her documentary, “The Promise: A Docuseries on Childhood Cancer.”  Kristi earned a Master’s in Film and Television Production from Long Island University and is the founder of Risk It Productions.


“I am fortunate enough that my family has never been directly impacted by childhood cancer," Kristi says. "However, that is not the case for many families around the world. Initially, I came across the childhood cancer world when I began following a 4 year old stranger on Twitter. I had not known any statistics or facts about childhood cancer and simply followed her journey. When she passed away, I was surprised at how much it had affected me. 


“At that point forward, I threw myself into heavy research and was very disheartened to learn about the truths surrounding childhood cancer. I became an advocate over eight years ago and have been to many events and volunteered my services for varying organizations. I've met many people along the way, including children who have sadly lost their battle and I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever I could to spread the word about a topic that is so often ignored and pushed away because people are afraid of hearing the truth. No one wants to hear about childhood cancer until they are forced into that situation.

"We hope that ‘The Promise’ can spread this message and make change happen because children's lives depend on it.”

Kristi's documentary will premiere in December 2020.

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