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'Leap of faith' leads Briar Cliff grad, wife to produce first film, 'The Ravine'

'Leap of faith' leads Briar Cliff grad, wife to produce first film, 'The Ravine'

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Robert and Kelly Pascuzzi are about to make their debut as movie producers, but it wasn’t a career shift they actually entertained.

Instead, he says, “It was just being open to having big ideas.”

A 1986 graduate of Briar Cliff University, Bob admits he’d never even been on a film stage before cameras started rolling on “The Ravine,” a drama based on a murder/suicide that involved a family friend. “For 20 years I said I was going to write a book,” he says. “And people would say, ‘Well, what’s it going to be about?’ and I didn’t know.”

The book, however, led to the movie and, next week, a premiere at the Promenade Theatre.

“We felt like ‘The Ravine’ was a calling,” Bob says. “Some people describe it as a lightning bolt – a moment of consciousness. We were supposed to undertake this process.”

An entrepreneur in the financial services industry, Bob had coached others to be open to big ideas but he, personally, hadn’t taken a leap THIS big.

“We got emotionally involved with it,” he says. “If we could write this book and help one family, it would be worth it.”

Sioux City Journal editor Bruce Miller talks to Robert and Kelly Pascuzzi, the producers of "The Ravine." Robert Pascuzzi is a Briar Cliff University graduate.

The book looks at grief and how friends and family cope. “The ability to forgive is to actually surrender and let go,” Kelly says. “Bob was more focused on ‘How did this happen? How did we not see the signs?’ I was more focused on the grief, moving through the loss of my best friend.”

The book took three years of late-night writing sessions, involved four ghost writers and a lot of soul-searching.

The movie, which stars “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Erik Dane and “Meet the Parents’” Teri Polo as fictionalized versions of the Pascuzzis, was a natural “next step,” even though the Kansas City residents didn’t know how to make it happen. Instead of seeking investors, they decided to finance it themselves. “Like anything, you have to go all in,” Bob says.

“The only limitation we have is what we put in our minds ourselves,” Kelly adds. “Everyone is hard-wired for some gift in the world but few of us respond to it because we get so wrapped up and locked in the logic of how it’s going to happen. You don’t have to know the ‘how.’”

At Briar Cliff, Bob says, he majored in history, played baseball and didn’t see producing as anything in his future. “But my personality sprouted at Briar Cliff,” he explains. “I became much more confident, much more outgoing. I got out of school and immediately got my first sales job and it was ‘sink or swim.’ (Briar Cliff) helped me swim.”

Filmed around the world, “The Ravine” wrapped just before the coronavirus pandemic hit. “We were open to partnering with a studio, but we weren’t comfortable with letting the movie go,” Bob says. “So Kelly and I decided we would be the distributors.” That led them to rekindle connections in the Midwest and a premiere at the Promenade theaters April 2. “It’s set to stream in 66 countries but, when we had an opportunity to release the movie theatrically, we decided to put the streaming on hold and make a run in the theaters. That was really our dream.”

Both say they’re happy with the result and hope it will resonate with others.

“What you find is everyone in life has experienced some form of loss – maybe not death but, especially in this pandemic, a feeling of loss in terms of income or connections or relationships,” Kelly says. “Most people are dealing with grief but they’re really not sharing.”

While the Pascuzzis don’t openly teach these “take risks” lessons to their sons (ages 22, 20 and 18), they know the three have absorbed a lot of their philosophy. “Self-image is so important,” Bob says. “If we have low self-image, it’s impossible to do anything. Four years ago, we didn’t have the self-image that we were movie producers. And here we are now. We’re on to thinking about the next project. I always tell the kids, ‘Anything is possible.’”

"It has wings," Kelly says of "The Ravine." "I'm just ready to see it fly."

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