Filmmaking | Interviews

On the Other Side:From RI to LA

1 Jan , 2002  

Written by Josh Shea | Posted by:

For this month in the Los Angeles series, speaks with Rhode Island filmmaker and Emerson grad, Michael Grilli, on the road to Hollywood success.

After premiering his short film "Bedfellows" at AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island this past summer, filmmaker Michael Grilli got a taste of the possibilities that might lie ahead as he autographed copies of his film for some newfound local fans. But before he could even stop and enjoy the success of completing and premiering "Bedfellows," Grilli set out for Los Angeles to finish his last few credits towards his Masters degree from the Emerson College film program, and to start the process of making contacts in the Hollywood film community.

Grilli would one day like to set up base in Rhode Island but is happy with his decision to stay in Los Angeles for the time being.

"There are many differences in being a filmmaker based in Rhode Island as opposed to Los Angeles," says Grilli. "Opportunities are definitely growing in R.I. but in Los Angeles I’m finding it easier to contact producers and I’m able to establish the contacts that will help me get my films off the ground. Also, Rhode Island is home for me so the comfort level is a little too great. Here in L.A., I have to work harder — I’m one of many filmmakers. This motivates me to constantly write and brainstorm new ideas."

"Bedfellows" is a 30-minute dramatic fantasy which tells the tale of a dark cast of characters; a priest, an army colonel, a businessman, and a gangster, who come together for a board game in which the stakes become a matter of life and death as individual flashbacks tell the tale of a kidnapped young woman whose life is at the hands of the psychotic game.

"The concept began at a friend’s house while we were playing the board game RISK," explains Grilli. "Using the game as a base I added elements such as layers of suspense and consequence which eventually ended up having the main characters become strange bedfellows so to speak, hence the title."

With a budget of $25,000, Grilli faced many obstacles and views the entire experience as a tremendous learning opportunity and artistic accomplishment.

"‘Bedfellows’" was my favorite nightmare," says Grilli. "There were too many Plan B’s to even talk about. Ranging from script rewrites when an actress had to pull out of the project, to location changes, to scene and script changes (to accommodate the actors), you name it."

Grilli offers advice, which echoes that of many New England filmmakers who venture West — have material and plenty of it and make sure to have enough money in your bank account to cover more than just a few meals at Del Taco. "Make sure you have enough cash to hold you over until you can find a job and a place to live and have a few short films and scripts ready, you never know when you could make the right contact who will help you get your foot in the door," says Grilli.

Grilli feels confident that he’s honed his artistic abilities through his film school education at Emerson but he’s looking at his Los Angeles experience to educate him in regards to the business side of the film industry.

" I think the reflection of my film school studies on my work is evident," says Grilli. "By studying the works of others on an academic level you tend to see your work as fragmented parts of your influences until one day the visions become your personal style and you become more than the sum of your education and mentors. A film school education provided me with the tools, knowledge, and discipline necessary to be a filmmaker."

As far as the often-dreaded "business" side of the film business is concerned, Grilli is looking upon the necessary financial know-how to complete a film as a new challenge.

"I’m learning that filmmaking is a creative medium that does require funding and can’t only be about the art. I would still like to remain an ‘independent’ filmmaker but I don’t want to wear every hat on the production. I learned that with ‘Bedfellows.’ Juggling all the positions on a film yourself is difficult and puts the production at risk. Being in L.A will give me the chance to meet a large pool of people in all areas of the business who I can hopefully collaborate with in the future."

Although Grilli is fascinated by the big business aspect of film, the large paychecks and glitz of Hollywood aren’t his sole motivators.

"My dream project would be something that I wrote and directed. It would involve a subject that I feel strongly about, in terms of sentiment and meaning, which would add purpose to the project and give me a reason to want to slave over the film every day," says Grilli.

As Grilli wraps up his last semester and an internship at NuImage Films, he looks forward to the exciting road ahead as a filmmaker going for the ultimate challenge of spearheading a Hollywood career.