A Monroe carpenter hits the TV airwaves

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:52

Joe Varcadipane stars in new HGTV reality program, 'Dina’s Party’ By Nancy Kriz MONROE — Move over Ty Pennington, there’s a new reality TV carpenter on the air and he comes from Monroe. Joe Varcadipane is a member of the cast of “Dina’s Party,” the new HGTV reality show starring designer and event planner Dina Manzo, who is well-known for her former role on Bravo TV’s reality show, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” The party-planning series, which had a preview broadcast this past Monday, will officially air on Friday, Sept. 10, at 10 p.m. And there’s been hushed talk in the Monroe area for many weeks that the first episode is spotlighting a Monroe couple who threw a nostalgic prom-themed party incorporating their European wedding anniversary trip. Manzo, with Varcadipane’s carpentry and set design expertise (as a member of Manzo’s Design Affair team) created a prom featuring extravagant balloon arches, sparkly back-drops, a European outdoor café, a high school gym dance floor and “the classic” photo-op area. HGTV’s Web site says Manzo “creates amazing, unforgettable events for her clients at their homes. Dina and the staff at her company, Designer Affair, work with her homeowners, transforming their space into something beautiful and unique to celebrate an important moment in their lives.” Varcadipane said he participates in the design planning for each episode with his lighting, rigging and staging expertise as well as carpentry work to make the house transformation happen with cost effective and quick methods. '”For every event we plan we design a special hand-crafted build that is something to be left behind for the homeowners to remember their special occasion,” he added. Answered an ad on Craigslist Varcadipane, who ran a successful contracting and furniture fabrication business with tri-state area clients, decided to take a career change in 2009 and enter the trade show and exhibit production industry. Working as a production shop leader and site installation manager, Varcadipane said he showcased his abilities as a master craftsman and site labor manager, traveling nationwide to work for some of the world’s top corporations in trade shows, product launches and corporate events. His break came when Varcadipane saw an ad on Craigslist looking for a New York area carpenter to assist “on a top-rated TV program” called “Color Splash-Miami.” While normally produced in the Miami area, the on-screen carpenter couldn’t film on location during the month-long project, according to Varcadipane, and the HGTV show sought “an experienced, well-groomed carpenter/set designer.” Varcadipane felt his experience working in New York City-area homes, combined with his new experience in the exhibit and set designing industry, qualified him for the job. After applying and sending a work portfolio, he was contacted by the show’s production assistant telling him he was one of two candidates. It took two weeks, but Varcadipane received a call asking him to meet producers in Jersey City, N.J., which resulted in him being hired and filming three Color Splash episodes. “It was a good fit with the team and they offered me a permanent job on the show, but unfortunately it would have required relocation to Miami,” he said. “I declined as I didn’t want to leave our family and friends.” But, as luck have it, a Color Splash production manager heard of another new series, “Dina’s Party,” which would be filming in the New York area and was in need of a carpenter. Varcadipane interviewed for it. He got the job, and as Irving Berlin wrote: “There’s no business like show business.” 'More reality than TV’ The show is now in the midst of completing 13 episodes for its first season and is screening homeowner candidates for what Varcadipane expects to be its second season of filming starting this fall. “’Trading Spaces’ was the trendsetter in this industry,” said Varcadipane. “Reality TV is a lot more reality than TV. There’s a lot not seen. It’s a lot of hard work for us and in the end, I don’t think we could imagine what we end up creating because it happens so fast. But this is fantastic. We laugh a lot but everything is dedicated to what we have to do and it has to be done in a very short amount of time.” Varcadipane also felt the show attempts to show its cast as “regular people.” “When people are just themselves, it’s the best TV,” he said. “We’re not actors and we only have one chance to get the best outcome. The camera is trying to capture that.” Even with just being themselves, the cast only has a few days to turnaround Manzo’s vision, he said. “She has a great fan base and it’s a tremendous responsibility,” added Varcadipane. “A lot of the things we do, you don’t see, because they are very repetitive and redundant and time consuming like painting. I do a lot when the cameras aren’t around. It’s a lot like going to work every day only in front of a camera. We try to create what’s possible and you have to think about the time constraints. My job is to physically bring her creative vision of the party to life.” 'Excited to come to work every day’ And in the TV world, the work must be finished on time. “In this business, to be successful, there is a zero percent failure rate,” he said. “It has to be a 100 percent success. You just never miss a deadline.” Though he declined to discuss the budgets allocated to each episode, Varcadipane did say “it’s a pretty good amount” and varies depending on what the Manzo is looking to do in each episode. Some homeowners add money to what the network provides. And the hours are long, too, ranging from 10 to 16 hour days depending on where the cast and crew are in the filming cycle. “They are long days and not banker’s hours,” Varcadipane said with a laugh. “There’s a lot of waiting time, and that’s why there’s a lot of food around.” In actuality, the 30 minute program is really only 22 minutes when commercials are factored into the mix. About 30 hours of filming time is required or about one hour for each minute of total program time. “If you were to ask me 10 years ago if I thought I’d be on TV, the answer would be no,” said Varcadipane. “I don’t know where this will lead me, but in the meantime, it’s a good run. I wouldn’t change this for anything in the world. I’m excited to come to work every day.”