Michael Rissi has been making films since about the age of 10 when his parents gave him a second hand 8mm movie camera. He persuaded his friends on Seville St. in Placentia, CA to help with his stop motion animated shorts.
Michael received his first professional recognition at age 15 when his hand-drawn cartoon short “Have A Ball” was shown on a nationally syndicated Saturday morning TV show called, “Kidsworld” on CBS. The producers paid him a license fee to use his cartoon on their show, and thus began Rissi’s professional career.
One year later, Rissi wrote and directed his first feature film, “Teacher‘s Pet,” starring his high school’s homecoming queen. The premiere was covered by CBS News and many local publications.
After graduating from El Dorado High School in 1982 as the Top Male Scholar of his class, Michael was accepted into the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television and was awarded the George Cukor scholarship, which was presented by Randal Kleiser (“Grease“). Along with fellow student Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”) Michael was also awarded the USC Associates Scholarship presented by Howard Kazanjian (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”).
As a graduate student, Rissi wrote and directed the thriller short, “Snake Eyes,” acclaimed by the entertainment industry’s most prominent trade publication, “Daily Variety,” which lead to his being hired to take over the reins on the 35mm feature film, “Soultaker.” Shot entirely on location in Mobile, Alabama, “Soultaker” went on to win the prestigious Saturn Award for Best Video Release of 1991 and is now regarded as a cult classic.
The USC School of Cinema and Television, which has since been renamed the USC School of Cinematic Arts, commissioned Michael to write and direct the official orientation film for the school entitled, “Make It Happen.” “Make It Happen” features Michael’s interviews with George Lucas, David L. Wolper, John Milius, Laura Ziskin, Sheldon Kahn, Randal Kleiser and Robert Zemeckis among others.
As a screenwriter, Michael’s original screenplay, “Borderline” was optioned by the Walt Disney Company with Michael Rissi attached as director and Randal Kleiser as producer. After a shuffling of executives at Disney, the option on “Borderline” expired, and Rissi has since re-obtained the rights to the property, which he hopes to produce in the near future.
In 2000, Rissi wrote and directed the low budget thriller feature, “Up Against Amanda,” which became a film festival favorite, and which caught the eye of world famous producer Roger Corman, who went on to distribute the film. Corman is known for having discovered before anyone else such marvelous directing talents as Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, James Cameron and Ron Howard, to name just a few.
Michael Rissi’s most recent feature film is “Edgar Allan Poe’s ANNABEL LEE.”