Long before LaVilla became a politician and even before he became a reporter for the Hudson Dispatch and Jersey Journal, as well as his own senior citizen-based publication called Seniors Today, LaVilla aspired to be an actor/director, both on the stage and screen.
About a year ago, LaVilla had the idea to combine all of his experiences in a documentary.
"After spending 25 years as a reporter, I wanted to do something about what it was like to be a reporter, what goes through the mind of a reporter," said LaVilla, who is currently a resident of North Bergen. "Like when a reporter asks a question to a political figure, what goes through their minds. They have so much authority and they're able to get responses. They get to know how a mayor feels and thinks. There's a sense of tenacity and audacity."
But LaVilla wanted to make sure that the documentary wasn't about him, so he had to enlist the services of some local journalists, including some who work for the Hudson Reporter newspaper chain that publishes the North Bergen Reporter.
The result was "Newsmakers/Noisemakers," a 25-minute look into the world of local politics and journalism.
"It presented the feeling you get from both sides, both the reporter and the politician," LaVilla said. "I just followed the exploits of the reporters and watched as they did the interviews."
For example, LaVilla went on the road with Tom Jennemann, who covers Hoboken for the Hudson Reporter newspaper chain.
"I followed Tom for a couple of days and went with him at different times and assignments," LaVilla said. "I also interviewed [Hoboken Mayor] David Roberts when he was elected."
LaVilla also included the victory party of North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco as part of his documentary, with excerpts of some Board of Commissioners' meetings in the township.
LaVilla also interviewed Lisa Goodnight and Alex Nussbaum of the Bergen Record for the film.
"I wanted to get all the different perspectives," LaVilla said. "I shot 11 60-minute tapes and had to hone it down to 25 minutes."
LaVilla then decided to enter the documentary in a number of film festivals and competitions - and the result so far has been positive.
LaVilla learned recently that he was the recipient of a Grand Goldie Film Award for writing and direction from the Goldie Film Festival in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Filmmakers constantly submit their stuff to competitions for the hope of getting recognized," LaVilla said. "I just happened to enter this documentary at this festival. It was shown and it won the award. I'm very pleased."
Other film festivals
LaVilla said that he has been invited to show the film at "about a dozen" other film festivals in the future and hopes to be invited to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and the Sundance Film Festival in Colorado in the coming months.
"The festivals are the entrée into film distributors," LaVilla said. "I've been working on writing, like fiction and stage plays for more than 25 years, but this just sort of happened. Before you know it, you're making documentaries."
LaVilla is busy editing two other documentaries that are set to be shown at film festivals in the future.
The first, entitled "Red Mike Band," focuses on the life of a 90-year-old Jersey City man who is still an active musician, playing at Italian festivals and Chinese funerals. The second focuses on the lives of homeless people in Hudson and Bergen Counties, including interviews with some of the homeless who live in squalor on the Palisades.
"It's what I do now," LaVilla said. "I make films."
For more information about LaVilla's movies, log on to www.eastcoastmotionpictures.bravehost.com.