"Maker of Things"
“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”
This site was created in the memory of John-Carlo Monti. Loving son, friend and colleague.
John-Carlo Monti was a man for others.
He was kind, passionate, giving, and honest.
He cherished life and always had a smile to share.
He was a working photographer, cinematographer, writer, and artist.
He was an explorer and adventurer.
He saw goodness in everyone.
Every soul was a brother or sister.
He was a mentor and educator.
He described himself as a “Maker of Things.”
What he made most was a better world.
His joyful spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew him.
He will be forever loved and remembered.
March 20, 1992 - October 18, 2019
John-Carlo Monti tootled into our world on the first day of Spring on Friday, March 20, 1992, at 4:08 a.m. With a twinkle in his eye, he smiled his first hellos to Mom, Dad, Donna Smith his delivering doctor and the staff at Saint Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, New Jersey. His first stop on his way home from the hospital was a bagel store—bagels subsequently becoming one of his favorite food staples—though they played third fiddle to his beloved ziti and cannolis.
John-Carlo had a fun-loving childhood replete with big family gatherings, kitchen table debates, little league baseball games, family camping trips and just messing around the neighborhood. He was proud of his New Jersey roots and as he grew, came to love the iconic New Jersey breakfast—a Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich. Indeed, John-Carlo grew up in a house where good food was cooked and savored and so John-Carlo’s adventurous palette was formed early in his life. He would go on to become an excellent cook and baker himself, a talent that endeared him to his many friends.
In his early teens he discovered a knack and talent for photography. Spurred on by the many likes his photos generated on social media, he soon enrolled in courses geared for young photographers at the International Center of Photography in New York City. He eagerly looked forward to Sundays when he would take a bus into New York City. He would make those trips to ICP for several years.
In summer months while in high school he attended a digital photography program at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and an intensive 4-week pre-college fine arts program at The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. And thus began two passions John-Carlo would embrace, relish, and cherish during his life—photography and adventure travel—both very much intertwined.
He soon began winning local and regional young photographer awards: A Drexel University Award for Outstanding Achievement in photography by a high school student; a Young Arts Award Winner from the National Foundation for the Advancement for Arts; an Essex County, NJ Award for Excellence in Photography. In addition to these and other awards, John-Carlo’s work was featured in Literama, a literary journal published by St. Peter’s Prep High School, and he was represented by Teak’s Unique Cards, a greeting card company specializing in greeting card art. He also sold a number of photos for display to The Farm2Bistro, a restaurant in Nutley, N.J. and he was retained often for free-lance photography commissions.
This early success, however, didn’t faze John-Carlo—he kept shooting and developing his photos in a basement darkroom he created from heavy gauge trash bags, duct tape and Velcro tabs. Without question, John-Carlo possessed the eye of a visual artist and the hands and mind of a mechanical engineer. He was thrilled when still in high school he convinced the singer Henry Rollins (former lead singer of Black Flag and The Rollins Band) to sit for a photo shoot.
While cultivating his photography skills, John-Carlo also fancied a good movie, weaned from his adolescent days when he would attend the movies with his mom and dad, and afterwards write a three-paragraph “review”—an exercise he enjoyed with pleasure. It wasn’t long before he began to stage backyard movie nights for his neighborhood friends, using a tied-down bedsheet, fastened to the side of a garage, standing in as the silver screen.
All these early-life activities brought him to the moment one November weekday, when he walked into a possible instant acceptance interview, with portfolio in hand, at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Encouraged by his high school art teacher and so focused on attending college there, it was the only higher education institution he had applied to. Much to his delight, he was accepted into SAIC and soon learned he had won a scholarship too.
His days attending art and photography classes at SAIC whizzed by, supplemented by working various jobs around Chicago, including as a barista at a local coffee shop. After the end of his sophomore year, John-Carlo decided to take a gap year, choosing to work at Washington Square Films, an independent movie production company in New York City.
While working at Washington Square Films, he juggled many other endeavors, including working as a butcher at Whole Foods in Greenwich Village, and attending film editing classes at the Edit Center/NYC, which broadened his movie production skills. While at the Edit Center he caught the attention of Debra Granik, an award-winning film director and documentarian. John-Carlo would go on to work with Ms. Granik on movie projects through the years.
John-Carlo returned to college after his gap year ended, enrolling into Brooklyn College’s screenwriting program. As he was finishing up his Brooklyn College days, he won a screenwriting prize for a movie script he had written and was asked to meet with a Los Angeles-based movie producer. But John-Carlo, being east-coast and indie movie-oriented, never made the trip to Los Angeles.
During the summer of 2014, he planned a month-long, cross-country rail trip, that included stops in Chicago, Montana, Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, New Orleans, and South Carolina. It was during this trip that John-Carlo fell in love with the city of New Orleans, its history, culture, music, and people. In June 2015, after graduating from college, John-Carlo packed up his car and moved to the Crescent City.
Soon after settling in New Orleans, John-Carlo landed a position with a movie production rental center, a firm that rented cameras, and movie set equipment to local and out-of-town movie production crews. Eager to move into movie production, a year later he took a position at New Orleans Live! a local-TV music video program, putting his camera and movie editing skills to use.
After working at New Orleans Live! for a year, John-Carlo decided to strike out on his own as an independent contractor and freelance filmmaker. He immediately began to accumulate many credits for working on shows that appeared on Netflix, Showtime, CNBC, Amazon, and many other streaming and movie production brands. In addition to working on big budget shoots, John-Carlo eagerly worked for many independent New Orleans-based filmmakers on productions that appeared on PBS and local film festivals. John-Carlo also was retained on shoots for his prowess as a drone photographer, as well as shooting set stills.
In the summer of 2019, John-Carlo began broadening his artistic horizons beyond film and photography, when he took time off from his schedule to attend a week-long sign-lettering workshop in Mazeppa, Minnesota. Studying under Mike Meyer, an internationally acclaimed letter painter, John-Carlo began immersing himself in mastering a new craft. He soon converted part of his apartment into a sign-lettering studio, tirelessly working on his new passion in his spare hours. His first commercial lettering opportunity was lettering a window for Tulane University’s 3-D Lab.
John-Carlo was on his way to forging a second career, when he suddenly and tragically passed away on October 18, 2019. He left behind an abundance of broken hearts in many people that loved his generosity of spirit, his smile, his passion, his curiosity, his humor, his adventure, his inspirational encouragement for others, and his love for life.
In recognition of his work in New Orleans, The New Orleans Film Society recently created the John-Carlo Monti Memorial Award, “an honor that will recognize a crew member recipient who, like John-Carlo, brings warmth, joy, and energy to every set they are part of, regardless of what role they are playing in the production.” The award further reads: “…his loss is felt deeply by our filmmaking community. The award highlights his contributions to our community, as well as the role filmmakers like JC play in independent filmmaking.”
Those of us that knew, loved, smiled, and laughed with John-Carlo will never forget him and the joy he brought into our lives. He was an inspiration and motivator to many of his fellow artists who he urged on with the same passion that motivated him to be a better artist.
About being an artist, John-Carlo wrote this:
“Like most artists, I am very critical about my artwork. I have found it to be quite beneficial. While I may not always be content about my art, these challenges greatly motivate me to new and exciting directions. The beauty of art is that the possibilities are endless, and when that awestruck photo does come, the reward is more beautiful. It is the main reason why I and other artists continue to make art. Anyone who has finished the last brush stroke, taken the last print from the wash, or written the last word, and had a grin of immense satisfaction, knows the feeling I am describing.”