The Wizarding World of Giancarlo Bernini

Getting to know a magical Forty Acres Scholar.

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The résumés of super-achieving high school students often look the same. But Giancarlo Bernini, a recipient of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship supported by Nolan Perez, always stood out in his hometown of Mission, Texas. At 19, Bernini, Class of 2019, is a professional magician, poet, amateur hypnotist, and a serious collector of Harry Potter movie-prop replicas. We sat down during his second week of classes at UT, where he is majoring in radio-television-film.

What is it like coming from Mission to Austin?

Mission is a relatively small city, so the university and beyond is a little overwhelming. I’m trying to remember that old adage: “You can’t make a small university big, but you can make a big university small.”  I’ve been meeting a lot of people and finding my way around but it’s definitely a big change.

Was there a moment when you realized that your life had changed?

Well it’s the silliest thing, but I realized I have to do laundry now. Also there’s a Wendy’s right across the street from Moore-Hill [my dorm]. I have to constantly remind myself: Just because it’s right there doesn’t mean you have to go there. I’m struggling with that! It’s all symbolizing the fact that I’m in control right now. I’m an adult.

You are majoring in RTF; what’s your dream career?

I’d like to go into directing or editing.

What kind of movies do you want to make?

I want to make family movies, comedies, and possibly documentaries. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter and other huge fandom movies. I think book adaptations is where I’ll find my niche.

You are the vice president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 269. How did you first get interested in magic?

My dad showed me a card trick when I was about 10 years old and I fell in love with the idea of putting a little spark of weird into a person’s day. For a moment there they are like, “What just happened?” My dad works as an oncologist at a children’s cancer clinic in McAllen, and I would do magic tricks for the patients in the lobby. That’s how I got my practice, and I got to really experience the power that magic has. These kids were going through chemotherapy. They were tired and really struggling. Obviously it’s not the most pleasant place in the world, but magic brought a smile to their faces. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just a cool hobby—magic is something that can impact people and brighten their day.

Who was your favorite teacher in high school?

There was one teacher who made a huge difference in my life—Mr. Martinez, my senior English teacher. He was very focused on the spiritual part of growing up and helping teenagers find their way. He emphasized the importance of loving other people and spreading joy and peace. That was a big thing he always said: “Don’t look for happiness, look for peace.”

What do you think of the Forty Acres Scholars Program so far?

The program has been absolutely incredible. It’s only the second week of school, and the opportunities presented to me have been phenomenal. There’s a calendar of events, and I can’t wait to attend everything.

How did you learn about FASP?

A college-admissions counselor told me that I should look into it. I wasn’t expecting much, but I just said, “Oh well, I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.” Then I made the semifinals, and I was like, wow, this could actually happen. Then when I went to Finalist Weekend and I got the call I was blown away. UT had always been one of my top schools—close to home and obviously one of the best in the country.

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Giancarlo Bernini defies gravity in his dormitory hallway.

I understand you have started dabbling in hypnosis. Tell us about that.

I went to see a staged hypnotist’s show one time and I saw people fall into a trance; it was weird. After the show, I went up to him and he told me that it’s just psychology, not magic or witchcraft or anything like that. He recommended a few books and videos, and I started reading. It’s relaxing your body into a state where you are kind of half-asleep and half-awake, but you are in control the whole time. I don’t like to talk about it too much because people tend to think it’s creepy and scary, but it’s really not. It’s entertainment.

Your bio says that you’re an avid collector of Harry Potter memorabilia.

Oh yes. I have this little corner in my dorm filled with my Harry Potter collection. I collect prop replicas from the films. I have a lot of the wands, the sword of Gryffindor, sorting hats, movie posters. Harry Potter is actually the reason I got into RTF. I had the DVD set, and after a while I realized I was spending more time watching the behind-the-scenes footage and commentary from the directors than I was the actual movies.

How does your roommate feel about your collection?

He likes it. He’s obviously not as big of a fan as I am, but he likes it.

If you were going to be sorted into a house at Hogwarts, which house would it be?

Oh wow. [Takes a deep breath.] I like to think of myself as a Gryffindor. I’m a Gryffindor at heart—I know I’m a Gryffindor. But all my friends are quick to point out that on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling’s official website, I was sorted into Hufflepuff. And I’m not too pleased with that.

What do you hope to take away from this
scholarship program?

When I first heard about the enrichment funds and everything else the scholarship has to offer, I told myself I would take advantage of every opportunity. I have four years to figure out what I want to do with my life with the scholarship backing me up. Four years from now, hopefully I’ll be working my way up in the world of film. The scholarship is giving me the foundation I’ll need.

Photos by Anna Donlan.

 

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