When Alyssa Renzi saw "The Lord of the Rings" back in 2001, she was old enough to appreciate the acting, directing and screenplay components that made up the film, But what really amazed her was the cinematography.
Two decades later, it's that movie-going memory that continues to serve as inspiration for the 33-year-old town of Ballston native, who was busy immersing herself into the Hollywood experience before COVID-19 completely shutdown the television and film industry last month.
"That movie got me interested in film in general, and cinematography in particular," said Renzi, who got her master's at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in December of 2018. "I can remember watching something about the movie that showed a lot of the behind-the-scenes footage, and I learned what actually happened when you create a film. I really loved that film, but the images were what really sparked my interest."
She dabbled in the theater program at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Senior High before graduating in 2005 and heading to SUNY-Potsdam where she studied theater and business. After finishing up her undergraduate degree in upstate New York, she spent four years in New York City, sometimes as an actor and sometimes as a cinematographer and photographer. She then headed to the West Coast to further her education, and since getting her master's has kept herself pretty busy as a freelancer doing a variety of work behind the camera.
"I had two projects I was about to start working on and they both got cancelled," said Renzi. "I felt like I actually had some momentum going. I just had three weeks of good work and more on the way and then the coronavirus hit. It really shut down everything. Everything stopped in the movie and TV industry. The only people with work are the news departments."
Renzi has a pretty extensive resume on her IMDB (International Movie Database) page for a relative newcomer. She was the cinematographer for "Hanger's Limb," a short film which was a semifinalist for the 2019 Student Academy Awards, and she also worked on an independent feature film named "What?"
"I am definitely proud of 'Hanger's Limb,' and I'm also proud of the work I did as first assistant camera on 'What?' " said Renzi. "It was a collaboration between deaf and hearing cast and crew. I had a really great experience on that film and learned a lot throughout the process."
Getting in front of the camera again, says Renzi, probably won't happen.
"I've always had an interest in photography, so for me it's about getting the image right," said Renzi. "I was always leaning that way, and after heading to USC, which has a three-year program, I was really able to hone in on that aspect of film. The first year they have you do a little bit of everything, and then you focus on the area you want to, and for me that was cinematography.
"My goal is to become a cinematographer and work in the camera department for major studios and networks," added Renzi, the daughter of Steve and Leah Renzi of Burnt Hills. "I've done some low budget films, but what I'm really aspiring to is feature films and television. The time at USC was really valuable to me. That's where I learned that a career like this was viable."
Renzi, who returns home to upstate New York at least twice a year, is currently living in the Beachwood Canyon section of Hollywood.
"For the most part, I've been able to make a living since I graduated," said Renzi. "I've done some photography work and web site design, but only in my spare time so I haven't really done that much. Now, things are on hold so it is very disappointing. But I'm hoping once things get back going again the two projects I did have will reschedule. Then I go out and search for more work."
Her search for work will most likely remain on the West Coast.
"The work I want to do is generally either in Los Angeles or New York City," said Renzi. "That's where the industry is the strongest, and right now all of my USC connections are here. So, for the time being, my home will remain in LA."