Felice Cantatore is an award-winning writer and media executive. He was an extra on the movie set of Rocky Balboa, and he believes in the Law of Attraction, hard work, and faith. Born and raised in Queens, New York, he lives and works on Long Island. Today, Felice shares about his book, Rocky Spirit: The Rocky Balboa Connection to Success, his journey and link to Sylvester Stallone’s character.
Q) What impact has Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky Balboa had on your life, and why did you want to share your story as a memoir?
A) The character Rocky Balboa has been a part of my life since I was eleven years old. I immediately bonded with this character when I first saw the original Rocky on the giant screen back in early 1977. As a young boy, I discovered a piece of myself within the underdog from Philly. The character enhanced my ability to dream. Rocky taught me at this young tender age to never give up and always work hard in order to succeed.
Throughout my life, I connected with the film in many ways. In a way, I was destined to be a part of the franchise. I have experienced some uncanny events directly related to the movie and its sequels. The Rocky movies and character has impacted many of my life’s experiences.
I chose to share my story as a memoir to help others follow their dreams through my successful connections to the films. It is one of my goals to have readers be able to put themselves in my place to reach their own visions. I felt that my lifelong experiences would be a wonderful roadmap for others to achieve their personal success. I trust that my eye opening experiences will deliver the power, passion, purpose and perseverance to readers in order to go the distance in their own lives.
Q) You describe being on the set of Rocky VI; tease us with the journey of how you pursued the opportunity to be an extra during the filming and how emotional it was meeting the movie’s stars.
A) Throughout my life, I always wanted to be in a Rocky movie but the passion really set in around 1997. This was seven years after what was thought to be the final installment of the franchise in Rocky V and seven years before the idea of Rocky VI ever existed. In my first apartment at that time, I hung a framed photograph of Rocky and Apollo Creed from the fight scene of the second film. In the photograph there was one person sitting ringside that caught my eye. The extra looked like the famous singer John Denver. I always asked myself, how did he get that front row seat for this historic movie scene? It was at the same time that I made the statement as an affirmation that “if another Rocky movie was ever made, I would be ringside just like the guy in the picture.”
I was laughed at, told that I was crazy and that they would never make another Rocky film. Years later, I continuously believed they would and felt that someday I will land that front row seat. In 2004, it was announced that another film titled Rocky Balboa would be made and after the initial excitement, I went to work on pursuing one of my dreams.
I did everything possible to utilize all of my connections along with searching the internet to find an opportunity to be a part of this film. I didn’t have any luck but remained persistent. I told everyone within earshot about my passion and goal. One day a coworker received information about a Rocky Balboa casting call for extras in an email. He forwarded it to me and the rest was history.
Through some amazing chain of events, I would eventually land almost the same exact seat in the front row of the fight scene of Rocky Balboa just like the John Denver look-a-like. Two photographs appear on the homepage of my Web Site comparing each other as perfect examples of the Law of Attraction and its possibilities. I don’t mind sharing this success upfront because any reader will truly enjoy every detail about the journey.
Once the dream was landed, I was able to meet many cast members not only as actors but also while in character. At times, it seemed like an out-of-body experience where my two worlds collided. Sometimes it was difficult to tell them apart. You should have seen the look on my face when Rocky Balboa himself kneeled in front me to set up a scene in the audience during one of the days on set. All of the emotions of being connected to this event along with the journey came to a pinnacle when I had the opportunity to actually raise the arm of the Rocky character in victory. This happened during one of the alternate scene takes while filming. That clip or photograph has never appeared anywhere but the vision remains in my mind and spirit. I have another goal to someday obtain a photograph of that scene. The emotions ran very strong. I believe that everyone should live a dream situation like the one that I experienced on the set of Rocky Balboa.
Q) Tell us about your writing process: how long did it take, why did you choose the publishing path with iUniverse, and what suggestions can you share about promoting Rocky Spirit?
A) Could I ever become an author? In a way, I was destined to share my story. I was motivated by an amazing photograph of pure energy captured on film that led me to life changing events that pointed me in the right direction. One Sunday afternoon, I got up from my favorite chair and sat down by the computer to type the original title and first paragraph that would eventually lead me on a journey. It took me three years to write, produce and eventually live the ending of my story. Along the way, I learned plenty about myself, my connections to the Rocky character and the films. I received help from family, friends and even some of the actors from the original Rocky. I faced every challenge and hurdle. I had to persevere to reach my goal. I had to live the ending in order to complete the task which was to step into the boxing ring as a charity fighter and amazingly as an underdog.
Almost everyday for three years, I would write or tweak something in my manuscript. I worked very closely with one of my sisters. She completely understood my journey. Just like a boxing trainer, my sister motivated me to go the distance. She kept me on task and read and re-read every word over a hundred times. Once we felt that we had completed the manuscript, we turned to self publishing as the method of choice to deliver the book to the world. We felt that timing was important and needed to have a finished product in our hands as quickly as possible.
We began the search for the right self publishing company. We asked experienced people their opinion; we personally interviewed some self publishers on our own and did plenty of online research. In the end, iUniverse proved to have everything that we were looking for and we appreciated how easy they laid out their program on their website. One major hurdle for us was to make certain that we fully owned the copyright of the work. We needed to be assured that we were given the future flexibility to take it anywhere we wanted to including potential traditional publishers and iUniverse even met that goal.
After all of our extensive research of the self publishing industry, I must admit that iUniverse had the job from the first time that I saw their name in print. I live my life by the movie Rocky and the character received his “million to one shot” at the championship title because of his nickname the Italian Stallion. Apollo Creed said in the movie that it was “all about the name.” In a Law of Attraction moment for me, I had already selected iUniverse in my mind because of the name and its universal connection. What I didn’t know was that the decision would become the perfect choice. I received a thorough review of the book and a ninety minute telephone discussion with one of their professional consultants. This critique and powerful direction not only led to a rewrite but it also gave me the opportunity to truly understand my journey. I am forever grateful for the direction and professional service that I received from iUniverse throughout the process of becoming a proud published author.
Every aspect of my life has been a journey; it seems to always continue on. Every day, I continuously promote my book no matter how little the step. I seek help especially from professionals such as the PR Freelancers and utilize my communication skills that I have been blessed with in my life. The promotion of a self published book is not easy but I will always keep punching in an effort to go the distance and get my work mainstream simply because . . . that’s the Rocky Spirit!
This is so inspirational, Felice, thank you for sharing your story.