Perennial favorite Ralph Macchio is best known as an actor - perhaps most notably for the Karate Kid flicks and My Cousin Vinny, as one of the "two yutes." Ralph has some serious directing chops, and he recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his new film "Across Grace Alley" which is premiering at the Los Angeles Shorts Fest September 5th.
Tell us about your new film, "Across Grace Alley."
"Across Grace Alley" is a slice of classically told heartfelt cinema. A young boy struggling with his parents’ divorce seeks solace in his infatuation with a captivating woman he discovers through a neighboring window. Infused with music and dance, the piece thematically touches upon coming-of-age, the purity of infatuation, fantasy and hope...on its journey to enlighten and find the answers. I set out to tell a poignant story that was grounded in the heart of human emotion and inspired by artistic expression -- themes that often resonate and move me personally.
Films such as "Cinema Paradiso," "The Artist," and "Rear Window" influenced much of the visual design and tone I used in the storytelling. I found a wonderful young actor, Ben Hyland, to play the Boy, the protagonist in the film. His face combines the perfect balance of innocence and pathos to support his emotional journey. The dynamic Karina Smirnoff, plays the troubled Woman "across the way" in a beautifully understated performance, in her screen debut. And the legendary, four-time best actress Oscar nominee, Marsha Mason, plays the Boy’s Grandmother with discipline and great wisdom. We are all excited to share the film with audiences.
Can we expect to see "Across Grace Alley" in wider distribution?
Yes, we can! The primary investor in the film comes from the distribution world. Once we launch and Premiere at our target Fall Festivals and gain more traction and press attention we have a game plan that will be bringing the film to "a screen near you." There are never guarantees, but there are more outlets than ever for short form entertainment. Ten years ago I made my first short film, entitled, "Love Thy Brother" - and at that time, after our Sundance premiere, we were fortunate to have it licensed by HBO and then distributed through Shorts International and on iTunes, etc. Today with the Netflix of the world and other Shorts compilation scenarios I am excited about the possibilities!
Lots of independent filmmakers are using sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to fund their films. How do you feel about this? Does it help or hinder the craft?
The bottom line is these projects do cost money. And depending on the level and the budget... whatever it takes to get it done... I would support getting it done. Within the legal boundaries, of course. But the Kickstarters of the world and the Buffy-like movie finance stories do lend themselves to misconception and blurry lines... I just always worry about scamming and dishonesty and how to monitor that. But ultimately, it’s an avenue that can help certain projects get off the ground.
When you make a film are you more interested in telling a story or sending a message?
I usually focus on telling the story. If you are not able to genuinely tell the story... the message (if any) will most likely be convoluted. In the case of "Across Grace Alley," we set out to tell an emotional story... the fact that there is a message in there that reaches and touches people, well, that is the icing on the cake.
How do you feel about making films for the short format?
I believe that there are certain stories that are best served as short stories. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I am watching a mainstream feature, wishing it had ended 15 minutes ago. That said, I have now made two definitively different types of short films - "Love Thy Brother," a comedy, concise with a surprising hook that delivers a satisfying button on the end. And "Across Grace Alley" - a "short-movie" type film that hopefully engages the audience emotionally - leaving them wanting more.
On what side of the camera would you rather be?
Do you feel being a success as a young man has helped or hindered your career?
Again... both. But as I look back - I would sign up for "the cards I was dealt" any day of the week. How I handled every chapter? Perhaps I would come from a more seasoned point of view. But it has certainly helped far more than hurt. The challenges it presents -- well that’s all in how you deal with them.
What can we expect next from you?
More directing is a good part of the plan. I really enjoy it - and have taken much of what I have learned from the many great storytellers I had the privilege to work with as an actor. I hope to continue to use the experiences in my own ventures. Whether my film projects or TV directing scenarios... I love collaborating, creating life, working with artists, actors, and visually creating a world and story that will effect the audience on a human level.
As an actor, I have an indie film with Olympia Dukakis, Rachel Dratch, F. Murray Abraham, and Janeane Garofalo called "A Little Game," I shot last year in NYC. And I just completed an All-Star Episode of "Psych" that was a blast to do. Some writing, co-hosting, and developing of various projects in my back pocket as well. It’s always a very challenging adventure, boredom is not an option....