Poly on Film Features TV Series Producer and Editor

As a big Star Trek fan, producer and film editor Tom Costantino ‘89 was eager to be part of the popular sci-fi series The Orville, which he calls a “life-changing experience.” The Orville is the subject of our next Poly on Film virtual discussion on December 1. The two episodes our panel will discuss—Season 1, Episode 3 and Season 3, Episode 5—are available on Disney+ and Hulu. This is a can’t miss event for all sci-fi fans!

Ramesh Laungani, Chair of Poly’s Science Department, English teacher Laura Caldwell, and Michael Kimmel P’17, professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University, make up the panel that will be moderated by Robert Aberlin  ’62, P’00, ’03, Director of Arts Outreach.

Pursuing A Dream: From Poly to Television Production
Tom Costantino ‘89
Tom Costantino ‘89

Since he was four years old, Costantino remembers wanting to be involved in film production. At Poly, he says, “I used to do a few comedy videos with my friend Myles shot on a VHS camcorder.” They often used campus locations like the Quad. “But the real genesis of my desire to be in the arts came from Al Doyle, my Poly art teacher, and Jenny Jones (Cavenaugh), my Poly drama teacher. Not only did they provide me a safe space and place to flourish, which I needed since I was a bit of a late bloomer, but thanks to them I immersed myself in the theatrical arts, both in acting and set design and theater production. I’ll still never forget being a part of Catch-22 and The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang. I cherish the memories of those productions. Looking at you, Stellene and LaMura!”

After Poly, Costantino  graduated from Ithaca College with a BFA in Film, Photography and Visual Arts. “When I was at Ithaca College,” he said, “I spent a lot of time doing extracurricular activities at the college television station, ICTV. I also learned how to operate a Sony 910 tape to tape editing machine. In 1993, when I graduated during the recession, I obtained from a friend a very badly photocopied/faxed list of available production facilities in New York.” One was DMB&B, and even with the typo of DNB&B on his cover letter, he was hired.

Join the Poly on Film discussion of The Orville by registering in advance for the Zoom event on December 1 at 7:00 PM. Click here to register.

A Creative Career Takes Off

Coincidentally, Costantino recalls, DMB&B “had a Sony 910 editing machine in house that no one could operate, and the rest was history. I worked on new business pitches and in international corporate projects for the agency over the next two years.”

Tom Costantino ‘89 cartoon

The next phase of his career featured long tenures at MTV Docs and CBS. He received an Edward R. Murrow award in 2005 for his contributions to the CBS Evening News working for former CBS News president Susan Zirinsky.  He also took part in CBS News Productions, working on programs such as Survivor and America’s Top Model.

“In 2010, my boss at the time, Susan Zirinsky, aka ‘Z,’ took her daughter on a CSI Miami set tour in L.A.,” Costantino recalled. He had just moved to California. “My future boss was looking for an editor with nontraditional credits to work on the ninth season of the show,’” Costantino added. “A connection was made through ‘Z.’ I got the job at a Coffee Bean on Robertson Blvd., got myself into the union, and began my scripted career.” Since then he has also worked on such series as Amazon’s critically acclaimed One Mississippi starring Tig Notaro.

Costantino also cut the pilots for CBS’s Bull (directed by Rodrigo Garcia), Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville (directed by Jon Favreau), and Fox’s 9-1-1 (created by Ryan Murphy and directed by Brad Buecker).

In addition to serving as Co-Producer and Supervisor Editor on Season 3 of The Orville, Costantino is currently the Co-Producer and Editor for the upcoming Seth MacFarlane prequel series Ted, airing on Peacock in 2023.

Working on The Orville
The Orville key art

What was it about The Orville that made Costantino want to work on the project? “I’m a big Star Trek fan and a sci-fi fan in general,” Costantino responded, “so having access early on to the entire first season of The Orville, I had a good idea where the show was going both creatively and tonally over 14 episodes. It seemed as if Seth was going for something special and not just a parody as first advertised. In addition, getting the chance to work with industry titans such as SMF and Jon Favreau on the pilot was something I did not want to pass up. Also (guessing then, but knowing this now) after working with him for six plus years, Seth is always the smartest guy in the room, and I continuously learn new and interesting techniques to tell stories through his unending well of talent and stewardship.”

Tom Costantino ‘89 cartoon

“Seth and executive producer/director Jon Cassar are great collaborators,” Costantino continued, “and very trusting of my team and myself, including the complex battle sequences where we work in tandem with the super talented VFX department. We do edit like a feature, however, and take time to focus on performances and little details.”

The Art of the Edit

What mood do you hope your editing will create in the episodes we will be featuring?  “When I think of mood with editing,” Costantino said, “I really think of tone, and striking a healthy balance of comedy, pathos, and action in an allegorical episode, one that is effectively about LGBTQIA rights and gender identity is a tricky needle to thread. The ultimate goal always is to be entertaining, but if you can present a fleshed out story and the characters have nuanced three-dimensional personalities, then you’ve done your job. It’s easy for filmmakers like us to preach to the choir, but the idea is to get more people in the tent, and it’s getting harder and harder to do this as social media continues to calcify ideological thinking.”

“You definitely do need to love what you do in the film and TV biz since it’s not always for the faint of heart.”

Costantino has worked on a wide range of projects from Survivor to 48 Hours. “I’ve been fortunate that I have found joy in several of the projects that I have worked on,” he said. “You definitely do need to love what you do in the film and TV biz since it’s not always for the faint of heart. I will always have a soft spot for 48 Hours, as I have learned a ton from Susan and 48 had an incredibly talented group of editor/producers working there, including my lifetime editorial consigliere—Kevin Dean. Obviously, The Orville has been a life-changing experience.  I was able to expand my duties well beyond editing over the course of three seasons. Also, putting on a large-scale season of television during the pandemic for three years is an event that will probably never be replicated. I made some lifelong friends from that ‘adventure.’”

Alumni-in-Film Series

The Poly on Film series is a unique Poly event particularly for those who are interested in the creative fields of television, filmmaking, and theater. The intimate, conversational experience gives students and fellow alumni an opportunity to speak directly to filmmaking professionals, actors, and writers. The Poly on Film series debuted in 2020 and features a Zoom discussion with Poly alumni involved in making the film and other invited guests. The community is invited to view films or media at their leisure prior to the panel discussion. Register now!