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  • NYS Writers Institute

David Shapiro discussing his "Untitled Pizza Movie"

"A professor had invited [French film director] Agnès Varda, so I just knew I wanted to get into her class. I'd seen her films. It was just one class, but you meet somebody inspiring on your journey to becoming you, it does make a difference."

-- David Shapiro, on his early inspiration during his college days at UAlbany

Edward Schwarzschild, NYS Writers Institute fellow and director of Creative Writing at UAlbany, interviews artist, author, and filmmaker David Shapiro to discuss his latest film, "Untitled Pizza Movie", which Ed praises as a "true work of genius." This conversation is cosponsored by the UAlbany Department of English.

The new documentary film series -- an exploration of the fault lines of friendship, memory, and filmmaking -- is making its New York premiere at NYC’s prestigious Metrograph theater. The full series will be available to stream for $5 through a Metrograph membership.

A “valentine” to a lost city, a pre-gentrified New York, the first three parts of "Untitled Pizza Movie" premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the “Best DocuSeries” award.

“Through the prism of pizza, the film tells a story of self-invention and friendship, set in the early 1990s,” said Shapiro, a UAlbany alumnus -- Class of ’85 -- and a part-time faculty member in the UAlbany Department of Art and Art History. At that time, under the guise of producing a TV series titled “Eat to Win,” he and his lifelong friend Leeds Atkinson set out to find New York City's perfect slice — and to eat for free. As the two filmed at pizzerias across all five boroughs, they captured a changing city — a chronicle they preserved on video tape.

In 1995, the two young men filmed interviews with pizzaman Andrew Bellucci, whose Lombardi’s Pizzeria became the toast of the highbrow New York food world. Shortly after, Bellucci was uncovered as a Wall Street criminal wanted by the FBI. Shapiro and Atkinson follow the story, filming Bellucci from his restaurant to his cell block.

Soon after, Shapiro and Atkinson abandoned the enterprise. Shapiro put the film in storage. The old friends drifted apart.

20 years later, after hearing that Leeds had died under mysterious circumstances, Shapiro began to piece together their lost footage, setting out, as he says, “on a road trip of memory” to discover what happened to both Bellucci and Atkinson.

Shapiro's works include the 2016 feature documentary "Missing People" (Altavod, 2016), which won the Jury Award at The Hamptons International Film Festival, and "Keep the River on Your Right" (IFC, 2001), based on Tobias Schneebaum’s book of the same name, which won the prestigious Independent Spirit Award and made the Academy Award shortlist for an Oscar.

For HBO in 2009, Shapiro wrote and produced "Finishing Heaven," an effort that earned him a 2010 Emmy Award nomination. His visual art has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including shows at MoMA, the Tate, the Norton, the Brooklyn Museum and the University Art Museum. Missing People was screened at the Writers Institute FiIm Series in 2016.

At UAlbany, Shapiro teaches both grad and undergrad studio art and film studies courses, with what he calls “a hands-on approach.” He has made collaborative films with some of his grad students.

More about Untitled Pizza Movie

How to watch:

SIgn up for a $5 Metrograph monthly subscription (can cancel anytime) through March 14th at

"Untitled Pizza Movie" trailer


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