Woodstock resident Anthony Sant’Anselmo grew up in Los Angeles, California, with a love for movies. He works as a “South Park” animator, and he is a writer and director. His father is co-creator of the ‘80s toy Teddy Ruxpin and he would take Anthony to his office on weekends — that’s where he found his love of writing.
Anthony completed a four-year project: turning his basement into an ‘80s video “store,” Mondo Video!, equipped with a kids section, home gym, kitchen and more. Get to know Anthony and what inspired him to start the project in Part 1 and look for Part 2 in the March issue.
When we drove our 26-foot moving truck into our new neighborhood one evening in 2017, fireworks were being shot high into the sky from almost every driveway. We felt that it was quite the welcoming committee from Woodstock. Of course, it was the Fourth of July, but, nevertheless, it was like that scene in a movie where the main characters finally reach their destination and all is well. My wife and I searched far and wide around Atlanta for the right home, in the right town. We wanted that idyllic, charming Southern downtown, with a real sense of community, but with the spoils of, perhaps, a Costco nearby. Little did we know, one would actually manifest a few years later! Stumbling upon Woodstock, however, we knew we had found something special.
Cut to Flashback Sequence: I’ve loved movies as long as I can remember. I’m the kind of guy who would pause “Home Alone 2” and order, “a lovely cheese pizza just for me,” and eat it during the same time Macaulay Culkin ate his, to have a sort of 4D experience. (And, likewise, with the KFC scene in “Mr. Mom.”) As I’m writing this piece about taking a basement and creating something fun and over-the-top, it made me think back to the fourth grade, where I had to construct a volcano at home for a class project. My dad and I built the largest and, probably, most obnoxious volcano model ever made — complete with a surrounding town and residents being decimated by lava — like some scene from a ’70s or ’90s disaster movie. It took four people to carry it to the classroom.
Fast-forward to 2004; I commissioned one of my best friends, Martin Nilchian, to create a 360-degree “Goonies” mural on the bedroom walls of my apartment. As a massive fan, I had a specific vision of turning my room into a total cavern, where each wall would be dedicated to a scene from the film. The bedroom door was the bone organ, with the skeleton and piano keys — I still have that door! — and, upon entering, there were images of booby-trap boulders hanging from chains on one wall, a treasure chest and skeletons on another, a depiction of the pirate ship (The Inferno) and the waterfall chutes nearby. Shortly thereafter, I bought a black Jeep Cherokee and replicated the Fratellis’ getaway car in the film with “bullet holes the size o’ matzah balls” in the back. So, this fascination of getting as close to movies as possible, by using artistry and fabrication, has been an ongoing thing in my life.
Growing up on the West Coast, we didn’t really have basements, and it was important that our new house in Woodstock have one, so I could use it as a creative workspace. I’d had home offices before, but the thought of utilizing a basement was totally next level — and Fabienne wanted to take the lead on the direction of the main house, so it was a deal! I looked at the opportunity as a blank canvas to create something fun that would inspire me daily as a writer-director. But, the million-dollar question was, to create what exactly?
There are seven rooms in the basement, and I knew that certain areas needed to be functional: a production office, a gym and a home theater. Those became useful pretty quickly, but I had trouble figuring out what to do with the main room, initially thinking I’d use it as a movie prop area. Then, I pivoted to wanting to replicate “The Haunted Mansion” in that space. I started researching the proper wallpaper, lighting effects and items I’d need to help bring it together: candelabras, gothic furniture, even animatronic squawking crows. Still, it didn’t sit right, and simply would have been decor, rather than decor plus functionality.
When I got the idea to build an actual video “store,” it sounded like the most fun idea ever for the basement. When I was 5 years old, I knew I wanted to make movies — and nothing has changed. A lot of my earlier movie memories stemmed from the independent, mom-and-pop video shops that existed pre-Blockbuster Video. No two looked alike. They celebrated cinema, and there always was someone who knew something about the film you wanted to rent — no matter the genre.
The plan was to treat the project as if I were creating a movie set and really lean into the visual side of it. That way, my kids would know what a video store was kind of like, and I also could use it as a working set for my own film and video projects: ’80s tribute online accounts and a weekly movie podcast. (Because, there just aren’t enough movie podcasts already on YouTube!)
I wish I had footage of when I shared my glorious plans with Fabienne. Suffice it to say, she was supportive — with, maybe, a slight eye roll, ha ha. But, I could live with that, because I believed in myself! Even though I was embarking into the total unknown … OK, this is probably the part where I should cram in four years of building into a montage. (Cue super-rad ’80s song “Push It to the Limit” to pump up the underdog!) But, before I could take any sort of victory lap, I went through every DIY challenge — stay tuned for next month’s issue!
If you have a basement that is not being used to its full potential, ask yourself what your dream basement would be. It’s a blank slate to create something cool that inspires you daily, so make it count. Woodstock has the tools, materials and, if needed, craftsmen, to help you realize your goal. If you’re not sure how to achieve something, turn to YouTube, check out some tutorials, and learn by doing.