Area transplant Vinnie Langdon is turning the phrase “lights, camera, action” into “lights, camera, Pittston.”
Originally from Vacaville, California, Langdon came to Pittston in 2015 when his parents decided to move closer to relatives from the New York/New Jersey area. Langdon admitted there was an adjustment period after his transcontinental relocation.
“I’m still trying to get adjusted to the culture,” Langdon said. “I’m not used to having a church on every corner and 50 pizzerias in each little town. it’s definitely unique.”
To aid in his acclimation, Langdon adjusted the lens on his camera to put Pittston into focus. Since arriving in The Quality Tomato Capital of the World, the 27-year-old has shot footage of the city’s Tomato Festival, Scranton’s Anthracite Heritage Museum and other landmarks throughout the Wyoming Valley and its surrounding communities. The scenery was new, but shooting video was commonplace for Langdon — he’s been filming since he was 14, often for an audience.
No business like show business
Langdon’s first passion put him in front of the camera, not behind it.
“I’ll admit, I wanted to be a big movie star one day,” Langdon said. “When you’re 14, you’re at that age where you’re trying to find yourself, find who you are. Acting was always that outlet because I was always known as that shy kid in class, but when the video cameras were on I was a complete goofball and people would see another side of me.”
A year into his acting classing at Solano Community College in Fairfield, California, 14-year-old Langdon’s trajectory was changed by a television commercial.
“They said, ‘Get your own TV show!,’ and I thought, ‘Oh that sounds pretty cool’ and maybe that’d be something to get my foot in the door to becoming an actor,” Langdon said.
His initial concept took on the format of comedy sketch shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “MAD TV” but Langdon quickly realized he didn’t have the actors or budget to produce something so ambitious. When it was time for his pitch, Langdon took inspiration from a ’90s cable television staple.
“I approached the public access station and said, ‘Well, I have this idea. It’ll be kind of like MTV’s ‘TRL’ format. When bands are in town, I’ll interview them and, if they want to promote their album or play their music video, I can do that,’” Langdon said. “They said, ‘We’ll give it a shot.’”
“The Vinnie Langdon Show” debuted in September 2004 on Fairfield Cable TV. Langdon said people started to recognize him at concerts, asking him what local band he was there to interview for his show. In 2006, Langdon began uploading his series to YouTube — and the national acts came calling.
Plain White Ts. Alien Ant Farm. Paramore. Langdon suddenly had access to some of the biggest touring acts of the 2000s, in addition to behind-the-scenes access at annual festivals like Vans Warped Tour. One of his favorite stories involves then-unknown family act The Jonas Brothers.
“Their tour manager was like, ‘Hey, guess what, you better interview this band because they’re going to be big,’” Langdon said. “Of course, every band says they’re going to make it big, so you kind of don’t believe them. You’re like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ Then a year later, they have their own Disney show.”
By the time Langdon graduated high school, he had 150 episodes of “The Vinnie Langdon Show” under his belt and his show was seen on Public Access stations in Sacramento, San Francisco and other California metropolitan areas. Despite it’s regional success, Langdon contemplated an end to the series on more than one occasion.
“At a more mature age. I felt like, ‘I’m 18, I don’t think this is cool anymore, or I’m 21, I should be an adult, married and have kids by now. Why am I still doing this show?’” Langdon asked. “I’d come to these points where, for some reason or another, I’d actually even write on my Facebook that I’m going to take a break and try something different. Then, all of a sudden, I’d get an email.”
New York, New York
In 2009, Langdon parlayed his experience into a backstage corespondent job with the singing competition show “American Idol,” which he said helped him get a foot in the door with the industry. His most personally fulfilling experience, however, occurred on the other side of the country, when “The Vinnie Langdon Show” was picked up by a public access station in New York.
“My family is originally from New York and New Jersey, and one of my goals was to either make a movie in New York or have my TV show broadcast in New York,” Langdon said. “It has nothing to do with New York, but they made an exception because the interviewees are mainstream stars.”
The show aired in New York from 2012 to 2015, when Langdon put the show on hold for his move across the country.
Today, the bulk of Langdon’s material can be found at vinnielangdonshow.com, including recent band interviews and coverage of Greater Pittston events. Langdon said he hasn’t resurrected the show in its full format because, since relocating to Pittston, most of his projects have been about getting to know the area and its history.
“In California. you’d be surprised and lucky if you found history that dates back past the American Revolutionary War,” Langdon said. “Then you come here and look at these churches and see, oh, 1756.”
The footage Langdon shot was among the imagery utilized in WVIA-TV’s recent “Our Town: Pittston” documentary. Our Town Series Producer Lisa Mazzarella called Langdon “a real asset” to the project.
“I did not realize the breadth of work Vinnie had already done for Pittston,” Mazzarella said. “He was just going around all points in Pittston. Sunsets, bridges, historical points; he had a bunch of stuff ready to go.”
Langdon was also interviewed for “Our Town: Pittston.” He offered an assimilated outsider’s perspective of the community, but the now-Pittstonian is starting to make his own impact on the city. Langdon is helping organize the first Pittston International Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 7 at Pittston Memorial Library, and is currently working to build a community of local actors and filmmakers to collaborate on future projects.
Mazzarella said she’d collaborate with Langdon again “in a heartbeat.”
“I think that he has got a lot going for him and he is a talent that has yet to really be discovered,” Mazzarella said. “He really made himself available to so many people. Whenever they needed help with their video packages, he was there. Even when the weather was bad, he’d take out his camera and say, ‘OK, let’s go, let’s do this, let’s get it done.’”