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Hill Climbers: Honda Staffer Is Storyteller at Heart

For some, a career in the film industry sounds like a dream. For Jack d’Annibale, it was a reality.

“I kind of had this crazy idea … that it would be cool to go to college and to watch movies,” the recently hired communications director for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) said.

After completing his undergraduate studies in film and American history at the University of Southern California, d’Annibale stuck around to get his master’s in screenwriting.

Before graduation, he had already secured his first job, at literary and talent agency International Creative Management. There he worked as a story executive, reading the many incoming scripts. “I would read, literally, like a thousand a year,” he said.

D’Annibale said it was his time at ICM, working for the late legendary agent Ed Limato (who represented the likes of Denzel Washington, Richard Gere and Steve Martin), that first taught him how to put together a great story, describing it as “kind of like the perfect job” for the insight it gave him. “I learned a heck of a lot about how to assemble a story and really tell it well,” he said.

After four years at ICM, d’Annibale took on a different challenge, creative executive at Jerry Bruckheimer Films. There, he worked on the second and third installments in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, the “National Treasure” sequel and “Déjà Vu,” starring Washington.

D’Annibale said his time working under Bruckheimer added to his storytelling education. “He’s an icon for a reason,” the staffer said.

D’Annibale left Bruckheimer Films to write his own screenplay about a gang in Chicago in the 1960s that abandoned violence for community outreach, but his career in film was stopped short with the writers’ strike in 2007. “As a good union man, I wasn’t able to work,” he said. “I was playing a lot of video games.”

That’s when d’Annibale got involved in politics, which had been an integral part of his childhood.

“Politics and campaigns and advocacy has always been a part of my family,” he said, explaining that he and his brother Robert were named after President John F. Kennedy and his brother, former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.).

He began volunteering for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in California.

“When I heard then-Sen. Obama speak about his vision for this country,” he said, “it really reminded me of things my mom had told me about Jack Kennedy.”

After volunteering, d’Annibale spent election night in Chicago’s Grant Park awaiting the results, celebrating the victory and hearing the president-elect speak. “The music they were playing was from a Bruckheimer movie,” d’Annibale said — the football movie “Remember the Titans.”

It was there that he decided to stay in politics. “Let me use my storytelling ability. Let me try to put it to good use,” he remembered thinking. His next move was to Organizing for America, where he worked on messaging for the 2010 health care overhaul. Then he became a fellow for the Truman National Security Project, where he worked on communications.

When d’Annibale, who was raised in Long Island but considers himself “an adopted Californian,” found out about the chance to work for the liberal Honda, he knew it was the right move for him.

“When I heard about the opportunity to come work for him, I just jumped at the chance,” he said.

Although he hasn’t sworn off going back into the entertainment industry, d’Annibale said that he plans on staying here for a while. “This is a job worth doing, and it’s worth doing well,” he said. And he plans on putting his storytelling
abilities to good use while he’s here. “Michael Honda has a really amazing story to tell,” he said.

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