Chris Cardillo and the Wild West of the Entertainment Industry

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Sam Morrison: You have Castle Windows, but you’re also heavily involved in various aspects of the entertainment industry. You’re a music artist, you act and produce films, and you’re a managing partner in the rebranded Coleco. From an entertainment perspective, which industry fulfills you the most: music, film, or gaming?

Chris Cardillo: Wow, I love all these things, so that is a very hard question to answer.  If we are setting the window business aside and speaking of entertainment only, I would say that the most fulfillment I get is during the creative process.  Film captures that essence the most.; completing a scene you know that you’ve effectively transferred an emotion and delivered the scene in a believable way, gives you chills.  

SM: How do you decide which venture you’ll be devoting your time to?

Chris: My energy is focused on the home improvement business where I have an obligation to my clients.  For those that have worked on projects with me know, I will work long intense periods of time at the home improvement company. Once things are set in motion on a sustainable level, I can switch gears and focus on a project from time to time. Projects like movies usually have a defined beginning and end. 

I’ve found that I can work on a project intermittently for up to two weeks before engaging in an intensive work session. I can work on the budgeting and project management and line production in the evenings while typically I try to complete most of my creative physical work during Castle’s off-season.  However, the real ‘Wizard behind the curtain’, is that  I have a tremendous support staff both on my creative projects and at my company.  It takes an army of people to create a movie or even an album.  I’ve been able to surround myself with other people who have a vested interest in shared creativity.  Without that support staff, projects would not be finished.  

SM: Would you consider yourself a serial hobbyist or an entrepreneur?

Chris: When it comes to collecting toys and games, I am strictly a serial hobbyist.  Music, Coleco, and film are on the entrepreneur side of things with well thought out business plans and anticipated returns.


SM: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’ve been involved in the making of all your albums, but your last project, Blue Curacao, is where you took things to the next level, from the music to the album cover and music videos. You would say Blue Curacao is your favorite music project as a whole?

I would say so.  I think that it is the project in which I became a true artist – a project where I deeply connected with the music and lyrics and developed the project from the heart.   I definitely took my time with each song and pushed myself to do things in the booth that I didn’t know that I was capable of doing.   I spent a good bit of time working alongside song writers to capture the essence of each song.   With songs that have meaning, the visuals (vidoes) come naturally. 

Will you be putting out another album or will you relaunch your record label Jersey Mint and develop other artists?

Albums usually start with a spark of a new idea for a song.  I will lay down a few songs to experiment with different sounds and styles.  After a number of attempts, something will just sound like a direction that we want to go in and then a project is born.  I’m not opposed to jump starting Jersey Mint, but it would look more like an umbrella entertainment company than a record label.   

What’s the hardest part about developing another artist compared to releasing music yourself?  

Marketing Direction.  For the most part, I give very liberal reins with creative control in the music itself.  I’ve been to a number of meetings where the label wanted to ‘package’ me.  The best artists deliver a product that they have a passion about.  So, I never wanted to box an artist in.  When it comes to marketing, promotion and performing, I feel as though that’s where the team should take over.  I have been in a number of projects where there is a difference in understanding on what is needed from the artist at that point.   

I’m sure you get bombarded with music and film investment queries, myself included, so from a financing perspective, do you have a criteria on how you decide what projects to get involved with?

     Yes, quite a bit.  I haven’t ever taken on an unsolicited movie project.  In order for me to work with someone on a project, I have to know them and have seen them physically work on a prior project.  Deciding to take on a film is an enormous undertaking, and it’s hard enough to complete a project when everyone starts off on the same page.  I have to see your work ethic and know that you are committed to completing the project. 

It’s very likely that we’ll be collaborating on the feature film Second Chance City in the new year where you’ll be making your debut as a director. What made you zero in on this project for a directorial debut?

     Man, where do I begin.  For starters, the script is a masterpiece and has already won ‘Best Screenplay” in the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.  I have always wanted to be involved with a movie that was a social drama or socially relevant.  I felt as though I could empathise with the characters.  Initially, I wanted to audition for one of the leads, but felt as though the story would be told better with a different actor.  This is a story that I want to tell and I trust myself in the ability to draw out the emotions and feelings that I had when first reading the script.  

You’re a huge toy collector, can you walk us through your collection?

 I am what’s called a ‘completist’ by nature.  I attempt to collect the entire checklist of items in its given series. 

My favorite toy to collect is GIJOE.   I am the only person to ever collect a complete run of the line graded.  This is every figure graded and sealed in its original package, every vehicle and playset in it’s original package and every card variation thereof.  GIJOE is a significantly large toy line and this was roughly 800 – 900 pieces.  

Currently I have 3 Graded USS Flagg Aircraft carriers with 1 unit waiting to be graded and 3 Defiant Space Craft and 1 unit waiting to be graded.  My last sealed acquisition of a Defiant was the original unit given to the designer which was featured in the TV show, Toys that Made Us.  When I picked up the toy, I was able to interview the designer and I hope to release that interview soon. 

Unfortunately, the majority of my collection sits in temperature controlled storage units.  Collections like this take up a LOT of space.  I hope that one day I can pick up a nice sized building to display everything.

I, along with James DeSimone, am co-author of Collecting and Completing your GIJOE figures.  This is considered the bible of Joe collecting.  Copies are still sold daily throughout the world and this is one of the best selling projects I have been a part of. 

I was the first to publish a visual collector’s guide of collecting sealed or boxed Nintendo (NES) games.  I completed this project with Tim Atwood who is a legend in game collecting.  There have been tons of books dedicated to Nintendo games that are very nice, but ours was the very first.  Needless to say, I collect sealed and loose video games from Nintendo, Atrari and ColecoVison.  I collect the ColecoVision consoles both sealed and loose.

I collect a number of lines including Air Raiders, Robotech, Legion of Power, and the list goes on.  I collect production animation cels that were used in the making of such cartoons. 

I began collecting PSA graded baseball and football cards around 2008. 

 Right now, I am into the restaurant retro – I guess since there is no existing name for what I am doing.  I recently acquired a complete McDonald’s playground set from the 1980s and I have been collecting vintage pizza hut pieces.  I’m also hunting large vintage playground pieces.  Right now I am trying to locate a playground peice called a ‘Moon House’ designed by Jim Miller-Melburg.  

What part of your collection do you get the most eye rolls from?

     I actually feel as though I have great support from the people around me.  Somehow I avoid the label of a toy nerd.  However, if there is one thing that people question it would be ‘army building.’   I may have literally thousands of one figure.  Multiples are not that odd of a concept with action figures, but I will randomly zero in on say five items in a line.  I extend this to other areas of collecting.  Maybe I buy every Zelda NES game that I come across.  I do the same thing with graded sports cards.    

Was it your love of collecting that got you involved with Coleco? Or was that purely a good financial investment?

Coleco was based on a financial investment.  I’ve written articles on the life cycle of retro collectibles and I knew that 80s retro would make a strong comeback at the time.  I was able to enter the market at the exact right time.  

What’s the state of Coleco? Years back there was talk of the Chameleon but that never materialized, what’s next on the horizon.

We are busy making licensing agreements.  Not a week goes by that someone wants to work on some project or another.  Since the termination of the Chameleon contract, we have resurrected the mini arcades and that project has been subsequently picked up by Arcade 1 Up.  We held our own Coleco Expo.   We were able to work with a Canadian company who created an FPGA based console where Coleco would guarantee the short runs on their system in exchange for a private label.   Thus far, we have delivered on everything that we have promised.  I do have a punch list of what is to come next but I’m holding it close to my vest this time.  Since the first Toy Fair, I have seen a number of my personal ideas on the toy shelves by companies that I directly spoke to and I refuse to make that mistake a second time.  

Coleco is a brand from the 80s that has a decent following, how do you bridge that generationally gap between retro brand loyalists and the next gen consumers? Or do you even attempt to do that?

Retro is in and I think that it is here to stay.  In order to bridge the gap, we have to market our product to adults who remember our brand with the goal of having them share those products and technology with their own children.  Our Blue Ocean strategy with the Expo was to cater to families as opposed to the same ‘old-guy’ retro market that most companies were targeting at the time.  I personally demand that all of our products are family friendly or as I like to describe them Disneyesque.  

We spoke once about launching Coleco Entertainment; with the creation of films and televisions from IPs from comic books, video games and toys all the rage. Will Coleco Entertainment see the light of day?

This would be something that you may see as a licensing agreement.   We are currently having talks with three different content creators on this matter.  I am sure that you will see something, but I definitely cannot speak on it at this time.   

What would be the first Coleco IP you would adapt into a film? 

Actually, I would like to adapt the company itself, or the resurrection of it.  There have been a number of scripts that have been written where one of the characters works as chairman of Coleco.  I have had one script idea called Joe White, where Joe White is a trust fund baby who must work on a project in order to gain his inheritance.  He has seven workers who brianstorm on resurrecting an old retro line that happens to be a Colecovision.  Of course, each of the seven workers has a different personality: one of them is sleepy, one of them is grumpy and so forth.  

Who emerges victorious? J. Fontaine the music artist, Chris Cardillo the filmmaker, the toy and gaming entrepreneur or do you find a way to wrangle in the time and continue with all these ventures?

 Much to the dismay of my publicist, I don’t view myself as three people, but three dimensional.  I try to follow my own team’s advice on how to differentiate the three.   Although, from my own perspective, I am just doing what comes naturally to me. 

When people ask me what I do, I have a hard time with that question.  People often confuse ‘who they are’ with ‘what they do for a living’.  

In terms of success, I would say that the entrepreneur thus far has been victorious, and that would only change if a movie or project suddenly gained some world wide attention or cult following  But even if that were to happen, I would be pulling up to my same office Monday morning ready to work on some home improvement contract.  In short, much like the Breakfast Club ending, you see me how you see me.  

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