TAEM interview with Actor Michael Santi

TAEM- Hollywood is forever changing, both in context of films and additions of new faces to fill the screens. This is a good thing for moviegoers as variety, and changes, are the spice of life. One such new look for Hollywood is actor Michael Santi. Michael, please tell our readers what first interested you in a career in acting, and who was your greatest influence.

MS- Acting was always an “escape” for me. No matter what was going on in my life good or bad, when we went to the movies everything was just perfect. Watching the “Hero” save the “Damsel in distress” was a rush for me even at the ripe young age of 6.  I remember watching Chuck Norris, Al Pacino , and Robert De Niro and I would just be in awe of the presence that they bring to the screen. I was hooked and knew I wanted to be an actor.

TAEM- As we have many Students of the Arts who follow our magazine for tips in their careers what training did you undertake to reach for your dreams?

MS- It’s a lifelong process like staying physically fit; you have to make it a lifestyle not a seasonal thing. You have to always seek knowledge to condition your “acting muscle”.  I was told very early in this business that you have to have unconditional love for it. You have to be willing to do it for free. If you’re that passionate about anything in life and have complete respect for your craft, then you will find a way to become the best you can at it. Acting is a journey of constant self exploration….sometimes you find things that you never knew where inside of you, you just have to be willing to accept what you find.  I studied performing art, and took classes at reputable acting schools all my life. I believe that no matter what school you go to, or what “World Famous Teacher” you have, none of that matters if you don’t have a real passion to reveal the truth on Camera.  Its called being “Private in Public” and no school can teach you to allow yourself to be vulnerable.  To me acting is being able to show complete honesty. My motto is, you can never fool the audience. The second the audience sees an “Actor playing a role in a scene” your dead in the water and you failed to tell your story. You have to learn and be willing to learn, to give yourself unconditionally to the truth in every scene. Then you’re acting!

Photo Credit: Jonny Rosenbloom

TAEM- We first saw you in 2008 in not one, but three productions. You started your career with three short films: ‘The Big Blind’, ‘Havana’, and ‘Ladies Night’. Please tell us in detail about these films and the roles that you played in each of them.

MS-The Big Blind was a great film where I played Jonny (A Mafia Captain). It was a great experience very early off in my career, not knowing it would lead to other great projects with some very passionate and creative artist. I believe with every project you leave an impression with so many people. You have to remember that you’re in the public eye ,your work ethic along with your personality to get along with the cast and crew, can lead to future opportunities. Sometimes it’s not what you’re doing when the camera is rolling, but what you’re doing when the camera is not rolling that counts.  Havana and Ladies Night were also great opportunities early off that helped me learn a great deal. Both films I worked with leaders in the industry that admired my work ethic before my acting ability. The word sort of spread that this Brooklyn born Italian kid named ‘Michael Santi” wasn’t that bad to work with, and when it came to “acting”, he had something there. I just made sure from that point that I had to have constant work. No matter if it was a student film, or a large production, I wanted to work and find ways to improve. Sometimes you’re not aware of what you can do as an actor, till you HAVE to do it. Like they say, “one day on the set is worth more than one month in any class room”.

TAEM- Playing in three productions in one year must have been quite exciting for you. Please tell us about the confidence that you have derived from them.

MS- Well, as an actor, any “call Back“builds confidence. For me I decided a long time ago that even when my phone wasn’t ringing, I wasn’t giving up. You have to have that commitment and that conviction in anything that you do. You have to have thick skin in this industry just like any. You’re always being evaluated and judged, so if rejection is new to you, it’s going to be a long career. I was very Blessed to have the success early on, but either way I was not going to turn back because of ‘Any” setback. If you decide that right away  in your career, your confidence will always be there even when nothing else is.

TAEM- The next year saw you perform in ‘In the Blink of an Eye’. What was the theme behind this picture and who were the other actors that you played alongside of?

MS- In short, a father tries to save his daughter from a traffic bomb threat that has the potential to harm and kill all that are trapped in its distance. Great performance by the very talented Richard William Lord. Very fast paced short film that had a great response.

TAEM- In 2010 you played in a spate of films starting with ‘Subprime’ and ‘Echoes’. What were these about, and how did your character in them affect the story in each.

MS- 2010 was a very busy year. I was getting more opportunities to auditions and seeing my name really spread across the Orlando area. Echoes is a film based on a man that travels back in time to change some things in his life. The power to change anything consumes him and things get out of control. He is chased by two other men, who will stop at nothing to apprehend him. Echoes was a film where I was lucky to be approached by a very passionate and dedicated Director, John Aniu from California. I was called in and asked to read for the lead role of Matt. I was actually very surprised to be offered the role on the spot. John said to me “I knew you looked like the part, but I was hoping you could act…and when you read, I knew I found the lead, Matt”!! That was a blessing that I still hold close to my heart and a great memory. From that film Echoes, I received the best compliment any actor can receive, he asked me to lead the way in another future film that is now titled ‘Present Tense’ soon to be released in 2012.

Subprime was another great feature that had great writing behind it. The talented and award winning writer, James Repici.  I play the role of Michael Banco, a shady mortgage broker that will do anything to corrupt the minds of the people that he trains. The synopsis goes like this,” The year is 2001 and both David’s life and the mortgage industry are in balance. After the attacks on 9/11 the stock markets shut down for over a week marking its biggest decline since the great depression. America’s economy is in the tank and the mortgage industry’s response is easy lending and easier money. It was the dawn of the biggest boom in the mortgage industry’s history and a young and naive David Martin was interviewing at a chop shop brokerage called Empire Funding. Once hired, David joins an unsavory group of unethical mortgage brokers led by Empire’s manipulative and controlling owner, Michael Banco. It is here where David is exposed to the mortgage industry’s veritable group of crooks, cons and cheats – Realtors, Appraisers and Investors – and they all have a con of their own. David is soon faced with the decision of abandoning what he knows is right”…A very powerful story that is still getting great responses and feedback from festivals everywhere.

TAEM- ‘Wayward’ and ‘Doomsday County’ were next on the agenda for that year. Please tell our readers all about these films.

MS- Wayward was a great experience with yet another great Director Carmen Treffiletti. Wayward took us out into the woods for a few weeks and really put us in an environment that was challenging yet motivating at the same time. I love to use the environment as another character or an extension of any character in any film. Your surroundings can be and should be telling a story just as much as you are. The way you react, or your emotion state of mind etc. Carmen uses the heat and the confusion of the never ending depths of the woods, extremely well in this film. Wayward tells the tale of four friends who decide to carry out a crime that will change their lives forever. As they set out to fulfill their plan; things begin to unravel in ways no one could have expected. And as they all will learn… No one is beyond retribution.

Doomsday County was my first attempt to Horror. I played the Character of Detective Montgomery Kilgore, the “Rookie on the beat”. Winning the Spooky Empire Film festival for best “Horror Short film” was definitely a confidence builder. Doomsday County is a new feature length Grind house style film of four intense short horror films based around the area known as Doomsday County. In a town overrun with zombies, vampires, and a melting mad scientist with plans for an impending alien invasion, it’s up to a select few to try and keep order.  I love the horror film fans! I have learned with any horror film, the fan base is some of the most dedicated groups of very passionate people. So, be ready for a very warm welcome if your film is accepted by horror critics and a very strong reaction if you missed the mark. Either way, you will get the most honest feedback of your life. We were the lucky ones.

TAEM- You just completed the short film, ‘Oh What a Tangled Web We weave’ and completing the work on ‘Legends 2″ and ‘Grave Reality’. Can you give us a sneak peek behind the scenes of these productions?

MS- On all of these films, I was again very fortunate to work with some very credible and respected Directors that were also making a name for themselves. On “Oh what a Tangled Web” I was able to work with the very Talented James Hunter, an inspiration as a person as well as a professional.  A very emotion driven film that the whole crew respected the actor’s state of mind. The crew allowed us to stay in a certain state of mind even when the camera wasn’t’ rolling. The crew knew  that with their support, the story would later translate on film even stronger, and as a whole I think we accomplished just that.Without the mutual respect of the cast and crew, nothing can be accomplished.

Legend II was my second attempt at horror,  and being asked to work with Emmy award winning Director/ Editor , Gerald Godbout III only made the decision that much easier. The Fan base was at one Million with the first Legends, and I was excited to see what we could do with part II.

Grave Realty was yet another award winning film with the Visionary efforts of Oliver Tosh. This film was a mix of scanner darkly and tales from the Crypt. Grave reality was a unique experience because a lot of the film was digitally enhanced in post production. When things are added in at a later time, all you can do is trust your Director and base your performance on his “interpretation” of the scene. I learned to trust my instincts and my cast members that much more. I think you learn and take away tools that make you a better performer on any project. If you’re willing to learn and know that you “Don’t” know it all, you will go a lot further in this business.

TAEM- Michael, what new productions are on the drawing board for you, and what genre of films would you like to appear in for the future?

MS- Well, I just wrapped “Against the Wall, a very fast paced action packed film with our very hard working and fast growing production company, Left Digital Media here in Orlando Fl. I’m seeing that I’m getting known more and more as an “Action Hero” type. I very open to the label and hope I can be welcomed along side of so many great action franchised stars that are out there today. Statham, Stallone, Willis, Johnson , are stars that I admire and respect a great deal, and to think of the possibility  that one day I will be added to that elite group is not only mind boggling but I’m honored.  Thoughts and statements from the fan base like that is what keeps me focused and determined. I work for the audience. They are my boss, my employer and I will never let them down….or call in sick.

TAEM- Michael, I want to thank you for your time with our interview of you in The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and know that our readers will be thrilled to learn all about you. We wish you much luck in your career and hope that we will hear more from you in the future.

TAEM