“Last Days Of Summer” Seeking First Place This Winter

Los Angeles: October 27, 2016

Festival circuit darling,  “LAST DAYS OF SUMMER” produced by British born OLIVER RIDGE, is going for another win at the upcoming Whistler Film Festival. Having taken the grand prize for best feature at the Rhode Island Film Festival, the acclaimed drama starring WILLIAM FICHTNER next goes into competition at the prestigious Canadian event, which starts Nov. 30th.

Getting great buzzOliverRidgepic (1) ahead of an anticipated theatrical release next year, the film offers the kind of role we’ve never seen before from Fichtner, best known for “ARMAGEDDON” and “PRISON BREAK” and currently starring in CBS sitcom “MOM.” In Last Days of Summer” he  plays a suburban husband whose quiet life is turned upside down when he becomes obsessed with the beautiful young woman who moves in next door.

“It was an honor to work with such a talented and dedicated actor and make art with him” said producer Ridge, whose Last Days team also included director AARON HARVEY.

Ridge made his directorial debut recently and managed to pull of a coup by being able to recruit Academy Award nominee ERIC ROBERTS to star in Ridge’s “BLUEBIRD,” a poetic short film based on one of the works of the late Charles Bukowski.

We caught up with Oliver Ridge to to talk about his experiences in Hollywood.

Hollywood Revealed: How hard has the transition beenlastdaysofsummerposter (1) for you, moving from the UK to L.A? What were some of the challenges you faced?

Ridge: Driving was pretty scary! Away from that I think media has united us recently in western culture, but certainly when you’re moving five thousand miles away from home, it can be daunting. There are so many people in Los Angeles, but I think the biggest challenge was finding like minded people who I could drink whiskey with and talk movies.

Hollywood Revealed: How did you transition from producing to directing?

Ridge: I loved producing Last Days of Summer, but it certainly made me impatient to be in creative control again. I think that desire made my pre-production for Bluebird even more detailed and thorough, so that helped smooth the transition.

Hollywood Revealed: What kind of genres interest you as a producer/director?

Ridge: Can I say all oliverstepsof them? Because they all do. I want my films to have a universal feel and tone that you can see, but I also want them all to have an emotional weight. I like exploring the darker emotions, because I want my audience to feel something. But specific genres? My next film is a revenge thriller, but I’ve also just finished writing a science fiction film and have plans for a western. So I am all over the place!

Hollywood Revealed: Who are some of the directors you look up to? Who has been your biggest influence?

Ridge: David Fincher and Denis Villeneuve are two of my all time favorites, but Nicolas Winding Refn has certainly had the biggest influence on me.

Hollywood Revealed: Thanks for chatting with us, Oliver.

Ridge: It was a pleasure.

 

From TV To Indie Films, Michael Grant Is Doing It All

by Peter Hughes

Young actor, MICHAEL GRANT  pulls his black Mini Cooper into a parking spot at the same time I am trying to find a place to park myself in a dark garage below a Beverly Hills cafe.

“Hey, Michael,” I call out, never having met the man in person, but having recently seen his acting chops in the fine, new, currently unreleased drama, “Fair Haven,” he looks much like he did in the movie.

We shake hands and head 10659095_520949571370766_6154814187858732891_oupstairs to order breakfast, finding ourselves relegated to an outside table where not even the hot, high octane coffee I am sipping keeps me warm on this unusually brisk morning in March.

My early rapport with Michael also seems just a little bit on the cool side.  He is soft spoken and seemingly introverted, but as we play the get to know you game his sweet side begins to seep through and it doesn’t take long to warm up to this kid.

His backstory is not all that unusual. The son of a doctor in Tennessee, he and his sister Stephanie, along with their mom, Anna, made the move to California five years ago, initially to launch Stephanie into the world of acting.  A classically trained pianist and lifelong musician, then 14-year-old Michael also decided that, since he was in Hollywood,  he too might give acting a try.  He soon landed an agent and his early auditions quickly gave him the confidence that he was looking for.

“It was when I came very close to landing a lead on a Disney show called, “Kickin’ It” that I 10456086_478567745608949_7788342373032352340_nrealized I can do this,” he explains.  Now, five years and many acting workshops later, Michael is on an upward trajectory with strong supporting roles in the features, “Where Hope Grows” in which he plays a cruel bully, and “Still Life,” an indie film dealing with high school kids figuring out their future.  “Where Hope Grows” recently premiered at the Dallas Film Festival and has since been picked up for theatrical distribution by Roadside Attractions.

Perhaps his most valuable credit to date has been as a series regular on seasons 4 and 5 of “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” a show that has not only given him some financial stability, but has also brought him some fans.  He has since guest starred on various other TV shows,  slowly building an impressive resume for a young actor who has only just turned 19.

But the purpose of our meeting today is to talk about “Fair Haven,” a film where Michael gets to do the heavy lifting.  He plays the role of “James,” a musically prodigy who has been sent by his father to ex-gay-conversion therapy where they try to scare the gay out of him and return him to his family full of Jesus.  Stopping in to see his father on his way to study at the prestigious music academy, Berklee, the character discovers that his old man has spent his college fund, virtually trapping the boy in the narrow-minded confines of his small town.  James goes to work for his dad on the farm and begins the charade of dating girls.  Along the way he runs into his best friend and one time boyfriend, “Charlie,” well portrayed 10387167_487170941415296_5077640384864648015_oanother young actor, Josh Green.

So what was it about this project that appealed to him, I ask?

“The story by the film’s director Kerstin Karlhuber and the script by Jack Bryant was so well written that it immediately spoke to me.  After reading it I put myself on tape. I read some scenes and played the piano and sent it off to the casting director.  As luck would have it I landed the role and soon found myself in the town of Victor, New York making this movie.

And how was the shoot?  “Short and fast paced.  I was in most of the scenes.  I had very little down time and when I did I kept mostly to myself.  This was my first lead and I knew the responsibility I was a carrying but truthfully, by the end of the film I was emotionally drained.  I remember calling my sister from my hotel room and telling her I don’t know if I can muster the energy for my remaining scenes, I was that exhausted, but somehow I did and we got it done.”

Having seen a rough cut of this film, I can say that Michael’s portrayal MG (1)of “James” is poignant and vulnerable, a trait that he was now allowing me a glimpse of as our outdoor breakfast chat continued.

We switch gears to talk about his life in L.A.  How does he spend his time?

“I study.  Watch a lot of classic movies.  My parents recently gave me a boxed set of films from the 50s and 60s.  I loved them, especially enjoy foreign films.  Truffaut, Godard, Andrei Tarkovski.  Brilliant directors.”  What about hobbies or pastimes?  “Basketball.  I’m a big NBA fan.”

So what is it about acting that made him put his classical music training on the backburner for now?  “Acting is a craft of the heart,” he tells me.  “It’s my chance for real artistic expression.   Although the television work I’ve done is important, I hope to be able to continue my current momentum as an actor in indie films.  I think features give me a chance to be a part of perhaps more meaningful stories. I’ve definitely grown as a person doing these last three films.  On “Still Life” in particular I made some amazing friends.  People I hope to know for a long time to come.”

So whose career would he likeFairHaven_Poster_03 to emulate?  Which directors would he love to work with?  “Terrence Malick for sure.  I loved “The Tree of Life.”  Wish I could have been in that one.   Chris Nolan, David Fincher, those are probably some other favorites that come to mind.  As far as actors, I really admire Ryan Gosling’s work and the way he has managed his career.  Andrew Garfield is another actor I admire and reaching back a few years, Timothy Hutton who was so brilliant as a high school kid in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.”

With the temperature dropping we pay our bill and stand in the parking lot to warm up in the sunshine as we say our goodbyes.  I’ve enjoyed this interview.  Michael’s turned out to be a cool guy who is setting the foundations for a long lasting acting and music career.

I climb in my car and follow him out of the garage.  He zips away in his little Mini Cooper, perhaps to continue chasing the dream.

From where I’m sitting I’m willing to bet he finds it.

Visit Michael Grant’s Facebook page HERE.

Learn more about FAIR HAVEN on Facebook.

Director of “The Artist” Snags DGA Nomination

Los Angeles: January 9, 2012

French director Michael Hazanavicius was selected as one of the five DGA feature film nominees confirming that his film, The Artist is on an unstoppable march toward numerous Academy Award nominations.

Hazanavicius joined directors Woody Allen, David Fincher, Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese as DGA nominees for 2011.

Far more surprising than those nominated, were the two big names left off: Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick. Considering that both ‘War Horse’ and ‘Tree of Life’ were thought to be primarily “director” films, Spielberg and Malick’s failure to earn DGA nominations provides strong evidence that their Oscar chances could be fading out. ‘Moneyball’ director Bennett Miller was another notable name left off the list.

Here’s the full list of the DGA nominees:

Woody Allen – ‘Midnight in Paris’

David Fincher – ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Michael Hazanavicius – ‘The Artist’

Alexander Payne – ‘The Descendants’

Martin Scorsese – ‘Hugo’

TOBY MEULI: The Adventure Has Just Begun

Los Angeles, October 4, 2011

Up-and-coming actor Toby Meuli made his feature film debut in David Fincher’s “The Social Network” where he portrayed one of Mark Zuckerberg’s friends. Meuli also played a strong supporting role in the Lifetime TV movie, “The Craigslist Killer.”

Hailing from Parker, Colorado, he has been in Los Angeles for only 6 years but has already managed to carve out a solid reputation for himself. On television he has been a guest star on shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Cold Case,” and “Bones” and “NCIS” and most recently he landed a co-starring role in MTV’s new hit show, “Death Valley” in which he plays a young reporter covering the Zombie invasion that is the subject of the fast paced series.

The actor however might perhaps be most recognizable for his part in the award winning Aretha Franklin “Snickers” commercial in which he is the ‘diva’ complaining in the backseat.

We caught up with Meuli (pronounced My-Lee) to talk about what’s it’s like being a young working actor in Hollywood.

HR: When did you first realize you’d have to move to Los Angeles to pursue what you love?

TOBY MEULI: My high school, Ponderosa in Parker, had a fantastic theater department and Kim Moore, the director, encouraged me early on. Then my senior year in high school I studied at a professional acting studio in Denver (The Acting Studio) where I was introduced to acting as a craft AND a possible way to make money. It really opened my eyes because I didn’t know anybody who was a professional actor and here were people saying, “I think you can do this.” So I decided to major in theater with my goal being moving to L.A. My parents also consistently encouraged me to do what I loved.

HR: In a recent Q&A, Anton Yelchin (star of “Star Trek” and the Sundance winning film, “Like Crazy”) said that he never studied acting, just dove in professionally at the age of nine, learning tons by being on sets. You got a B.F.A. in Theater Performance from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Where do you stand on the” to study or not to study” question? Has it really made a difference in your career, or do you think jumping in at an earlier age might have been a more beneficial career move?

TOBY MEULI: Great question. In my experience, acting is an experiential art form, meaning you have to do it to get better. The danger with studying acting is that you become really good at talking about acting and disconnected from the play of it. The danger of going straight into the profession is that you don’t get to act very often because the actual work can be scarce. Baylor Theatre does a great job of always putting their students on stage using great texts—it was as close to an acting boot camp as you could get. It’s the best way to learn. Whether it’s formal or not, the key for me is constantly being in a posture of learning. Nobody has ever mastered acting and I think doing good work (paid or not) and then learning from it is the real joy of this craft. I’m not taking class right now but a couple times a week I rent a theater in Hollywood and work on various scripts. Some of them are for auditions or jobs, but some are not. I want to play leads in a great movies so I’ll get good screenplays and prep the roles. It’s invigorating. Maybe I’ll get the call, maybe I won’t, but I’m ready and I’m learning.

HR: Does acting come easy for you, or do you agonize over the roles you play? How do you prepare?

TOBY MEULI: Acting is fun. That’s why people love to do it and why it’s fun to watch. Inside of action and cut or from lights up to lights down is my favorite state of being. The prep can be a long process—often not conducive to an LA actor’s life, but my process is essentially trying to see into the world of the story. Meaning I try not to look too much at my lines and more at what’s happening from a story perspective. Then it’s just about igniting my imagination in the context of the story so that when action is called you can just hop in and play.

HR: You still study?

TOBY MEULI: See above. Posture of learning.

HR: What was the first thing you did once you officially moved to L.A?

TOBY MEULI: Sent letters to agents announcing my arrival. They weren’t as excited as I was but I eventually got a meeting with a commercial agent. I told him I was a “damn good actor”. He said it didn’t matter in commercials (not true) and he couldn’t rep me because I wasn’t in SAG. I told him I’d be in SAG soon and he shouldn’t be so shortsighted. He told me to leave his office. I was initially discouraged then I went to the Griffith Observatory and in an overly sentimental moment, looked over the city and ultimately felt good about joining a group of people pursuing their dreams. A few months later I booked a series of national commercials, joined SAG, and the agent I ultimately signed with bought a car with the money from my commissions.

HR: Think that original commercial agent you went to see knows he blew it?

TOBY MEULI: Maybe. If he watches TV he does. That said, there’s a culture of bitterness and cynicism here in L.A. so I try to let that kind of stuff go. It’s a good story but I came out on top so I’m not going to hold a grudge. I try and forget the rude people like that guy and focus on the people I’m grateful for along this journey. I keep a running list (close to 150 people) who have encouraged me, invested in me and kept me going. Whenever I’m feeling cynical I like to look at that list and think about those people. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

HR: Nice. So what kind of kid were you growing up? Jock or a creative type? Outgoing or shy?

TOBY MEULI: Total jock. I played football, basketball and baseball in high school. I have 3 brothers (and a little sister) and we were constantly competing and giving each other shit. Football was my favorite and planned on playing in college but after a knee injury my senior year I found my way over to the theater department.

HR: What was your first acting role?

TOBY MEULI: I was in the ensemble of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” at my high school. At first I was just looking for an opportunity to be goofy on stage but then I got a taste of the camaraderie of the creative process and the intoxicating drug of a laughing, applauding audience. I was hooked.

HR: Who from the entertainment world were your influences back in Colorado?

TOBY MEULI: Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura” and “Dumb and Dumber” were definitely two favorite movies for my buddies and me growing up. So much so that my middle school drama teacher said I imitated Jim Carrey too much in every scene. I took it as a compliment. As I grew artistically, I started admiring a bunch of great actors and stopped saying “Alllll righty then…”

HR: What was “The Social Network” set like?

TOBY MEULI: Really fantastic. Everybody was focused, professional and knew their job. Every single person seemed to have a confidence and mastery of their specific role. It was inspiring.

HR: Was Fitcher intimidating?

TOBY MEULI: No, he was just focused. I loved it. I was there to do my job and make this movie the best it could be and so was he. I do well under that sort of leadership. Playing sports growing up I had some tough coaches and my Dad is a US Marine so I wasn’t at all intimidated by David’s focus. He’s one of the greats.

HR: How did the leads interact with him on the days you were there?

TOBY MEULI: Everybody was incredibly professional and committed to doing his or her part in telling the story.

HR: What was your first big break here in Los Angeles?

TOBY MEULI: From a moneymaking perspective it was a Taco Bell commercial where I danced around with a burrito. It was really goofy and made me an instant celebrity amongst my friends and family. From an artistic perspective, which probably meant more to me personally, I was cast in Eugene O’Neil’s Mourning Becomes Electra at A Noise Within Theater Company here in LA. They’ve got a great reputation around town and it was an honor to be around a great group of classically trained actors.

HR: How did you land your role on “Death Valley?”

TOBY LEULI: The auditions were a lot of improv, which is right up my alley. I’m an alumni of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy program and still perform there occasionally. The producers described the show at Reno 911 meets Zombieland—and like most people who watch our show; I got the essence of it right away.

HR: Tell us about your character on that show.

TOBY MEULI: My character, Jamie, is fresh out of film school and the only guy in the Death Valley world who is unarmed and untrained in how to deal with the undead monsters. Jamie is scared a lot but still trying to be professional. Following the Undead Task Force may be what Jamie gets paid for, but staying alive is a full time job. Also, the cops can be terrible at their jobs so it’s a lot of me looking at the camera and going “what the?!?”

HR: What’s the vibe like on “Death Valley?” Is it a fast paced schedule?

TOBY MEULI: Everybody involves knows that we’re a part of something original; both funny and scary, which is a terribly difficult balance to pull off. There is an excited energy about it. It’s fast paced but tremendously invigorating. There is a lot of improv so the producers and directors work hard to cultivate an atmosphere conducive to that type of comedy–not an easy feat in the 16th hour of a night shoot.

HR: Is the show coming back for a second season?

TOBY MEULI: We don’t know yet. We’re 5 episodes into our 13-episode season and viewers of all backgrounds, not just typical MTV viewers, are enjoying it (including my Mom). MTV is known for creating innovative TV so I’m hoping they give us a second season and let this show help define their scripted programming for the future.

HR: Did you get any respect from Aretha Franklin? Was she cool or a diva?

TOBY MEULI: She was very cool. At first I was kind of in awe but then we all just became actors working together. She did a great job.

HR: Name three actors or actresses you’d like to work with?

TOBY MEULI: Man, there are too many to name…Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Matt Damon, Steve Carell, Thomas McCarthy, Paul Giamati, Patricia Clarkson, Viola Davis, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo. Everybody. Basically, if your movies come out around November, I want to work with you.

HR: What do you think about the current trend where people like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians have become famous for doing little to nothing, launching careers by doing porn.

TOBY MEULI: If this is a veiled offer to do porn you’re going to have to call my agent. I’ll need to read the script. That said, being famous as a career choice has become increasingly popular and I don’t so much blame the individuals who are famous as the consumers, including myself, who put them there. Celebrities are the one people group where everybody feels like they have to have an opinion. I long for the day when the paparazzi can’t sell their pictures because everybody, me included, is so engaged in their own lives that they don’t care.

HR: If you could pick a past decade in which to have been an actor, which decade would it be and why?

TOBY MEULI: Maybe in Shakespeare’s time when troupes of actors traveled from town to town doing shows. I did a national tour a few years ago and it was a blast, traveling around to different cities and playing different venues.

HR: What celebrity have you met out here that has left you speechless?

TOBY MEULI: Nobody really comes to mind. The past few years I’ve mentally made a transition to viewing famous actors as colleagues in the same industry. We’re all professionals. Pro athletes however, will leave me speechless pretty quickly. I met Adrian Peterson and I wanted to kiss him on the face. He’s a specimen.

HR: Are most of your friends in the entertainment business?

TOBY MEULI: It’s a mix of both. I love to hear what my artistic friends are up to– what stories they are excited about telling, what they are dreaming about, how we can collaborate. But I get tired of the who-do-you-know fame culture of Hollywood.

HR: Do you have a career game plan or still waiting to see what gigs show up on your doorstep?

TOBY MEUIL: I’m a planner. I’ve always had an idea about where I want to go. That’s not to say that I’d alter my plan based on what showed up on my doorstep. It’s all an adventure. Long term though, I want to do great movies.

HR: What have you seen lately that you’ve loved?

TOBY MEULI: Some great movies so far this year: Win Win (probably my favorite), Tree of Life, Crazy Stupid Love, Midnight in Paris.

HR: We understand you are writing a feature film script.

TOBY MEULI: Yes, I’m writing several things right now. My management company has a production company arm so I’m developing a really exciting original TV show with them right now. I’m also writing a feature based on a true story of a 27 year old car salesmen who runs for US Congress. Its sort of a Moneyball set in the world of local politics. The other feature is about a copywriter who develops an algorithm that guarantees a successful ad campaign. More on both of those soon. Maybe our next interview will be during the press tour for one of those projects that I just completed as an actor and writer. Stay tuned.

HR: Describe your perfect L.A. weekend.

TOBY MEULI: Hiking, beaches, new restaurants, cool bars, hanging with my wife and our friends, watching football, reading a great book, seeing movies, maybe catching a band, finding fun. Nothing too original—L.A. is a great city if you can get past the traffic. The perfect thing would be a trafficless L.A. That’s heaven to me.

HR: What’s the worst thing about being an actor?

TOBY MEULI: The isolation. I’m a people person so moving from gig to gig or audition to audition can be tough. That’s why I like to create my own projects, if only to work with my talented friends.

HR: And what’s the best?

TOBY MEULI: First, the work. Hands down. The actual acting is the best. Second, the people. Collaborating artistically is the fastest way to become friends and share your life with somebody. It’s a special bond.

HR: When can we next see you on “Death Valley?”

TOBY MEULI: Monday nights at 10:30 on MTV. Get excited.

Learn more about Toby at www.TobyMeuli.com