Across Grace Alley
Director Ralph Macchio
Famed child actor Ralph Macchio takes the helm of this sweet short film about a boy growing up in a high-rise apartment who finds solace and sadness in watching his dancing neigbor across the alley.
How long have you been directing?
I have directed sporadically since 2001. My first film, Love Thy Brother, premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. I have written/developed film/TV more consistently over this time, which is very process-oriented, but I thrive on the results-oriented element of directing. It’s a comfortable fit for me and I plan to continue on a more consistent basis.
What inspired you to tell this particular story, which I believe you also wrote?
I have always been drawn to stories that are told through the eyes of a child. In this particular case I was looking to create a story for Karina Smirnoff to showcase her talents and introduce her as an actress. I found the concept of innocent voyeurism a wonderful angle to draw the audience in to the film. I wanted to explore how lives can be enhanced through brief encounters. Infusing music and dance within the storytelling was always a component from the start.
How much of it is based on your own life experiences?
It’s not based on any specific event in my life. However, there are pieces of both of my grandmothers in the film. Marsha Mason play’s the Boy’s Grandmother. Some of the poignant scenes have been drawn through my friendship with Karina. There are also elements in the early stages of my relationship with my wife (when we were teenagers, before we dated) when I had an open and opinionated view in my infatuation with her. Not to mention my first teacher crush in grade school.
The boy is a great actor. Where did you find him?
The youth department at the agency that reps me sent me his headshot once I explained I needed a pure and innocent face that drives the story through expression. So much is played in the silences and when Ben came in and I talked him through what he was seeing. His ability to subtly tell the story through his eyes and facial expression was unparalleled by any other actor I saw. He does a beautiful job and he is just a great kid. He also worked very hard and took much pride in his big dance sequence in the film.
Do you think having been an actor, especially when you were young, helps you communicate better your cast as a director?
I do think it has a hand in it. I know what it feels like to be one of the youngest people on the set. I also have had the opportunity to learn from some of the finest filmmakers of my generation. I use those experiences and implement them into my directorial work and communication. Often there is a shorthand and trust when actors direct actors.
Do you have plans for directing a feature film at any point?
Yes, I do have two screenplays (one in particular) I would like to make though I have some television projects as well. Timing and financing always come into play but yes, for certain, that is in the plans for the near future.
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