I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Masucci, the CEO of Secret Shadows Productions Inc. and director of American Sunset. Masucci has worked in every facet of the filmmaking process, both behind and in front of the camera. He studied at Lee Strasberg Theater institute before turning his attention to Writing and Directing. Masucci was born and raised in upstate New York. Keep reading to learn more about Masucci's transition from stage to screen and what it was like working with the late Corey Haim on American Sunset.
What was it like making the transition from theater to the big screen?
As an actor, it was a transition at first because film is very different than theater. Film is so much more technical and you shoot out of sequence, and sometimes standing next to a piece of equipment which doesn’t belong there, or you can’t move because you will be out of your light, where in theater obviously you start at the beginning and go all the way through to the end and don’t have those restrictions.
However, behind the camera wasn’t that big of a transition for me. My only experience in theater was as an actor; I had never directed or written anything for the theater. After I left Lee Strasberg I began working in Film and Commercials, so what I learned about the filmmaking process was from being on the set, and by the time I got to “American Sunset” I had been out of the theater and engrossed in film for awhile.
Which do you enjoy more, being in front or behind the camera?
Definitely behind the camera; in the director’s chair. I’m hooked. As a Director you get to be involved in every aspect of the creative filmmaking process. It was very fulfilling to me. If I am lucky enough that is where I see my career going.
Plus you don’t have to look good.
How did Secret Shadows Productions, Inc. get started?
Secret Shadows was founded a few years back for the sole purpose of producing Film and Television projects. To seriously speak to any financiers you need to be incorporated. So I incorporated and then the Company just kind of grew from there, to the point where I am proud to say we are now a small business that is making a solid profit for the last couple of years. In this industry and economy I have to count my blessing with that. I am very fortunate.
We have 3 divisions. Script writing and/or script doctoring, Film and TV Production and we are beginning to get into some form of distribution. The good thing is that Secret Shadows owns a lot of Film and TV Script content, in varying genres, so we don’t have to option material, which saves money.
I've noticed that a lot of your films have had actors like Frank Molina and Eric A. Leffler in them. Do you think that continuously using a cast and crew you are familiar can be an advantage or disadvantage?
Having said that it is always nice to meet and work with new talented people as well. We had some very talented people on “American Sunset” in addition to Frank and Eric, like Bernie Robichaud, Angela Cullins, Caleb Marshal , Ernie Tremblay and of course Corey Haim. I hope you don’t mind… I wanted to give a mention to some of the cast.
You’re working with people that you know very well, and that you know are going to show up and be prepared and dedicated to the project, and as a director they have your back. It’s like any field, the more you work with people, respect and trust their abilities, the better you get. If you look around Hollywood I don’t think it is that uncommon.
Yeah we have worked together on a lot of projects, including “American Sunset”. I do feel there is a definite advantage to working with the same people whether it is your cast or crew; starting with a trust and comfort factor.
As a director with acting experience, how do you think that shapes your ability to guide your actors performances?
It helps because you understand the actor’s process and what they are going through. It doesn’t matter where they studied or what method, every actor needs to get to an emotional level that the scene requires, and there is a process for the actor to achieve those results. As a Director with an acting background, and having been in front of the camera, I think it makes you more cognizant of what kind of help the actor or actress may need to get there.
What was it like working with Corey Haim on American Sunset, your first foray into directing?
Corey was a pleasure. What a tragic loss. I miss him. I am glad to have called him my friend. I did not know Corey before “American Sunset”. I met Corey about 2 weeks before we went into production. I did not watch his reality show. I knew of his work from “Lost Boys”, and the movies he made in the 80’s, and of course I knew of his past, so I didn’t know what to expect.
He was a very very gifted actor. Who (I may be wrong) but I don’t think had ever any formal acting training; he was just a natural talent. He was very professional, always on time, CLEAN AND SOBER and dedicated to this movie and getting his career back. Like I said… very tragic. My heart goes out to his lovely Mom.
What I found was a 38 year old man who had accepted responsibility for his actions in his very public past and person who just wanted to move forward with his life and work.
What was your favorite/most memorable moment while directing American Sunset?
That is another tough one. I don’t think we have enough space on this page. The entire experience was memorable.
If I had to pick one, it would not be when we were filming. It was at the premiere in LA. After the movie had ended, people were hanging around the lobby and I was thanking them for coming to see the movie. I approached this man in a wheelchair and he said to me “that he had not talked to his family in years since the accident; and that after watching this movie he was going to call them.” I don’t know if he ever did call his family, but it certainly moved me. Frank Molina’s character in the movie has some issues with family. Just in case you were wondering, that’s all I am going to say, you have to see the movie.
How can fans get their hands on American Sunset and other films that you have worked on?
As for my other work, you can find most of them available online as well.
The DVD also includes bonus features - the behind the scene making of the film, a musical tribute to the cast and crew and the theatrical trailer.
And I have been told that the film will be available for sale on Apple's iTunes app store before year's end. The AppFlik is a new cutting edge form of streaming technology. You have to go to the Global website to learn more about Appflik. It is really cutting edge technology though. It’s very exciting.
What current projects does Secret Shadows Productions, Inc. have in the pipeline?
Since we are now a profitable company, people are taking us much more seriously. We are currently in talks with a few organizations for a two picture deal. I can’t release too much info because the deal is not signed yet and I don’t want to jeopardize it. I will say one is a Feature Film in the western genre, and the other is a TV Drama. Both would be vehicles for me to Direct. They would be slated for 2011.
In addition to that we are always open to co-production deals and I would welcome the opportunity to work with Global Entertainment (the company that produced American Sunset), again. They are good people.
Do you have any advice to give aspiring filmmakers and/or writers trying to break into the business?
Yeah, take the time to learn the industry you are trying to break into. Many young writers, because they learned how to write in 3rd grade don’t take the time to study the art of screen writing. It is like any craft, you need to study and learn how to structure a story or the difference between writing for film and theater. Take a workshop, learn the craft of writing.
The same goes for filmmaking and acting. If you are a filmmaker, get a camera and just go out with some friends and shoot something. It’s how you learn in this industry. Oh and work for free… God knows I did.
And when you get your chance, PREPARE, PREPARE AND PREPARE some more. Be ready when your chance comes. Lastly you need to have perseverance in this industry. It takes time… never give up.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
YES! Thank you to YOU for supporting independent film and “American Sunset”.
They deserve a big THANK YOU!
I am very grateful to Eric A. Leffler, as well as Jackie Giroux and Gary Rasmussen over at Global Entertainment; this movie would not have been made without them. Also to the cast and crew who worked tirelessly on this movie. We had approximately 50 people on the cast and crew and this movie is a testament to their talent and hard work.