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Elevating Asian Voices in the South

Story #8

Stefan K. DiMuzio isn’t at all what you might expect.
And that’s exactly how he likes it. 

He has a German first name, a Japanese middle name, and an Italian last name. His European American father was a missionary in Japan when he met Stefan’s mother. Stefan and his older brother, Andre, were born in Tokyo, where they lived until coming to North Carolina for college.

To see Stefan chilling in Greensboro, you might not expect him to speak English so flawlessly. But colleagues at the Japanese company he works for don’t expect him to speak Japanese so fluently when they see his American name flash across their computer screens.

With Stefan, what you see isn’t necessarily what you’re going to get. And that especially applies to his creative endeavors, whether it’s music or videos.

“My absolute favorite thing when creating whatever I make – is tricking people,” he says. “Seeing people’s eyebrows raise and their eyes kind of light up when I show them something I’ve made is just great. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life…I absolutely love subverting people’s expectations in the stuff that I make.’

More of Stefan's Story

From Tokyo to Greensboro

Stefan and his brother attended an all-boys Catholic international school in Tokyo, where their parents worked. They had classmates from more than 70 countries around the globe. Their Japanese extended family embraced them, and the siblings grew up fully bilingual.

As biracial kids in Tokyo, Stefan says their father described them as belonging to a third culture — not fully Japanese, but not fully American. It was a sort of otherness that allowed them to float between both worlds.

The DiMuzios spent summer breaks with Stefan’s dad’s family in Fayetteville, N.C.  Stefan recalls summer camps and trips to the beach. He even attended a Southern Baptist Bible Camp one year. Although they didn’t encounter many Asian-Americans in Fayetteville, both knew they wanted to attend college in North Carolina.

“I grew to like North Carolina,” Stefan says.

His brother went to Elon University, while he started out at UNCG to study film. Stefan, who turned 18 shortly after starting his freshman year at UNCG, recalls experiencing racism and culture shock for the first time. Having attended K-12 in an international school, it took him by surprise.

He’d never been treated differently because he was Asian. In Greensboro, classmates asked if he knew other Asian students simply because they were both Asian. People asked him why his English was so good if he was from Tokyo.

Even getting around in Greensboro without a car was an adjustment. In Tokyo, the public transportation system is efficient and reliable — the complete opposite of Stefan’s experience in Greensboro.

His dad, who taught anthropology, helped shed light on what he was going through: culture shock.

Stefan responded by writing what he describes as “pretty awful” gangster rap music. But it was an expression of how he was feeling at the time.

“It was really angry. It was charged,” he says. “I was actually pretty rebellious as a kid and I feel like that rebelliousness was expressed through music.”

He believes his brother also experienced it at Elon, but they never talked about it. Stefan transferred from UNCG to Elon after his sophomore year to join his brother’s band. Although he was disillusioned by his film studies, he did make some short documentaries in the early 2010s.

But there was never a point to his movies, Stefan says. Until now.

Bands, Breweries, and Finding His Creative Voice

He’s been writing music since he was a kid and has been in bands since his teen years. And although he’s been technically making short films and videos for most of his life, Stefan says he’s just starting to find his voice in filmmaking.

His music and film endeavors are so interconnected. He recalls mixing his own music with a tape recorder and a boom box when he was just 6. In high school, he was a Goth kid with long hair and a guitar. Then there was that short period of gangster rap. He’s been involved with numerous bands since college. He covered musical genres ranging from a post-punk grunge to country/folk. A lot of the projects would eventually fizzle or morph into other things. Prior to the pandemic, he experienced brief success with a four-piece band that was starting to gain momentum. But quarantine and turning 30 brought him to the realization that he didn’t want to pursue the lifestyle of a nighttime musician anymore.

But his involvement with a band did bring him — in a roundabout way — to his latest creative development: telling the stories of small business owners.

It happened like this: Stefan was performing at Little Brother Brewing, when he decided to make a short video for Instagram to promote his upcoming gig.

“At Little Brother, there’s a crazy black and white mural on the wall with Greensboro stuff on it. I decided, I’m going to get sucked into that mural.”

As he’s transported into the mural, Stefan is wearing a black leather jacket and rocks out with a guitar. There’s a real A-Ha, 80s band vibe to it, and it ends with show details.

Little Brother owners liked the video so much, they asked him to create one to announce the opening of a new location. He’s since created three videos for brewery clients through his production company, Radiant Roar Productions.

And this is where his creativity and attraction to trickery becomes an advantage. Viewers might initially think they’re seeing a typical beer ad, but quickly become transported into his completely out-of-the box vision of the unexpected and slightly weird, enhanced with graphics and special effects. Like a hop-shaped UFO that transports people into a magical beer garden.

That first video for Little Brother guided him towards this new creative direction.

“It was so much fun. That was when the light bulbs started clicking for the new creative path I’m on,” he says. “How do I start with one thing, then flip it on its head and turn it into something that no one would expect from an unknown filmmaker in Greensboro?”

This approach is also more rewarding. Stefan says there was never a point to his movies until now. He wants to hone his craft of storytelling through his unique perspective.

“Now I have the ability to tell those stories in my own way, involving motion graphics, special effects, and weird stuff,” he says. “It took a while to develop my own methodology for creating stuff. I’m still working on it. But I’m telling their story, not just pointing the camera at stuff. I can coax the storytelling.”

Want to follow Stefan or view his work?

Check out his Website/portfolio with all his videos at: vimeo.com/stefandimuzio or follow him on Instagram at @radroarpro

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Story Collaborators

Rob Brown, Rob Brown Photography

Rob Brown, Rob Brown Photography

Photography

I’ve been an award-winning staff photographer in Virginia, Greensboro, and Chicago. Working as a freelancer in Baltimore allowed me to also be a stay-at-home dad while shooting weddings, sports, and editorial photos for the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Football Digest, the Baltimore Sun, and Associated Press, among others.

I came back to Greensboro to be the Director of Photography at the News & Record, leading an incredibly talented group of photographers. A few years ago, I studied brewing at Rockingham Community College and made beer for Natty Greene’s and Foothills Brewing before returning to photography, which I realized I love more than beer (OK, I know that may be hard for some of you to believe). When not taking pictures, I like fishing, growing hot peppers, and tomatoes, kayaking, walking two rescue dogs my wife and I share a house with, and playing pickleball, a game I picked up to replace racquetball after COVID changed our world.

Dave Soper, Maunaleo Ventures

Dave Soper, Maunaleo Ventures

Video Production

Dave is an entrepreneur, leader, and builder, fixer, and protector of all things digital. He is a multi-talented technology triple-threat in architecture, innovation, and creative. Dave possesses a wide range of business and technical knowledge and skills that have benefited small businesses and Fortune 200 companies across multiple industries, including financial services, manufacturing, and military.

Ask Dave about Radio and Television Production, Digital Out Of Home Media, Digital In-Home Media, Financial Technology, Defense Technology, Marketing Technology, Solutions Architecture, Business Architecture, Enterprise Architecture, Application Engineering, and various forms of Media and Graphic Design.

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