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Where Are They Now? WMHS Graduate Thrives in Hollywood

David Venghaus, Class of 1983, has a career as an assistant director in the film industry.

David Venghaus loves the outdoors: things like going to the beach, hiking, biking, and camping. But he's also got another love: the film industry.

Venghaus, who graduated from Ward Melville High School in 1983, has made a career for himself as an assistant director in Hollywood, working on films like Forrest Gump, A.I., Minority Report, Catch Me if You Can, two Pirates of the Caribbean films, and more. He got his start as an intern and production assistant on The Cosby Show, and worked his way up from there.

While a student in Three Village, Venghaus said he had no interest in getting involved in theater, but longtime theater director George Loizides convinced him to work on the school's production of the musical Oklahoma, Venghaus said. From there, he said, he got "the bug," and studied television, film and theater at SUNY Oneonta.

On Tuesday, Venghaus visited Ward Melville and W.S. Mount Elementary to give presentations on the film industry and how students can break in via their education, and took the time to chat with Three Village Patch.

Patch: Do you have a favorite genre of film?

DV: Any good story telling, in any kind of genre. As an audience member I’m not a big romantic comedy kind of guy. … As long as there’s really good story telling, I think all films of all genres are really wonderful.

Patch: If years ago you had to guess where you’d be now, what would it look like?

DV: Honestly, probably where I am. I love what I do. I direct now, I produce now, I write now, and I’m also an assistant director. I’m lucky to work with some of the biggest talent in the industry, which I love. I’m exactly where I want to be.

Patch: What, if anything, do you wish could be different?

DV: That’s interesting. I wish the politics of filmmaking would kind of be pulled away for a little bit. I kind of wish we’d go back to real story telling. I sometimes get discouraged by movies that are being made that are all sequels, but then again I’m really encouraged when a movie like The Artist, who won the academy award Sunday night, can win and people still recognize really good story telling that’s not about 3D and all that stuff.

Patch: How has the film industry changed over the years you’ve been involved?

DV: I think technology has taken kind of a front seat. It used to be used as a tool to enhance a project, for instance FG is a perfect example. FG was great story telling, great acting, and the visual effects enhanced a great story. As opposed to now, in my opinion, visual effects have kind of taken a front seat and stories started to take a back seat. That disappoints me at times, but not all the time. Sometimes the marriage between the two is well worth it.

Patch: What advice can you share for graduates in Three Village?

DV: Work hard in your education and do internships. Do as many internships and get as much experience as you can. There’s a lot of experience you can get while you’re getting your education. Once you get into the business that will help you a lot. … The advice I can give students now is the availability of [technology] in making films is so much more prominent now than when I was a student. When I was a student you had to get access to film and editing was hard to do. Now you can shoot something on your iphone and cut it on Final Cut on your computer. … Making a movie is not expensive nor difficult anymore at all.

Raissa March 01, 2012 at 01:35 PM
This story highlights the influence a teacher can have in a student's life. The rest, of course, was up to Mr. Venghaus to follow through with hard work.
3VMOM March 01, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Great story Christine! Dave was inspiring and motivating to all the students and teachers who attended Tuesday at WMHS and Mount. He stressed the importance of education as well as hard work. Dave did a fantastic job and I thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule filming with Ben Stiller in NYC to come out and spend time with the students, it was greatly appreciated by all!!!

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