1)Why did you decide to work in this industry?
I started performing when I was very young: classical piano, dance, acting, modeling, and singing. I devoured books and was intrigued by film and television, innately loved anything involving the imagination and the oneness of humanity, so working in this industry was just a normal progression. I made the paramount decision to become a professional actress at the age of 15, when I began my serious studies (at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York) and went on to major in Acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After working for many years as an actress and model, I challenged myself with writing, producing, directing, and acting in a short film, on location in Italy. It was a way of exploring my Italianness and recording, so to speak, my family’s history and ancestral language, as my parents were born in Italy and I in New York. I “got bit by the bug” and after that first film premiered at AFI and won awards, the decision path was laid out for me.
2) What’s a defining moment in your life?
As far as cinema, early on, acting for Spike Lee. “Summer of Sam,” in which I acted opposite Mira Sorvino and John Leguizamo, was the biggest motion picture I’d been part of. Working with Spike and DP Ellen Kuras twice (Spike subsequently cast me in a European Finlandia vodka spot) led to my appreciation of aspects of filmmaking that, because I’d always focused on acting, I was not aware of, from a director’s POV. When I showed him my first film, “The Cost of Bread,” Spike was very encouraging. It meant a lot. I completed that film in 2004 and still screens and sells today. It changed the trajectory of my career. I went on to make two more narrative shorts, some short form content, and music videos in Italy and the US, two feature-length documentaries, and to produce a TV program for over ten years.
3) What is your biggest concern with the future?
In general, that we will continue to live in a society that thrives on most humans being considered and treated as lesser than others and less than human. Presently, many around the world are righteously speaking out against the Fascist regime in place in the US. One of my concerns — second, at this moment, to the imminent danger — is that people want to go back to the kind of pre-Trump system, when it would behoove us to start thinking critically and fight for something even better, going forward. RefuseFascism.org has the strategy and steps people should get with if they are also concerned.
As far as cinema, I’m concerned women and other people who are not white males will continue to be underfunded and underproduced. Women are 51% of the population. How is it that people who live on this Planet are not represented in our storytelling? Preposterous.
This is a crucial moment, by all counts. It matters how we’re thinking and what we’re actually doing about it.
4) What is a successful moment in your career so far?
Oh, so many. I get to do what I love every day. It takes different forms, and keeps me driving towards my goal, to keep creating and build a body of work that I can look back on and be proud of. I’ve worked with such talented people — from New York to Los Angeles to the UK to Italy and other stops along the way — as a filmmaker, actress, model, and TV producer & correspondent, that each and every moment I get to do any of these is a successful moment.
5) What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
To the makers: Do! Do do do! Let’s keep creating, building, helping each other, encouraging — and even more. Create stories and roles for girls and women, of all ages. I don’t care if you shoot on your cell phone. Make it!
To the enablers: Give! Give to women filmmakers. Give as you would give to a man — even more. We need it — not only women, but all humanity. We’ve seen women create great films and struggle to make their next, while males can make one short or even a couple flops or disasters and still get millions or billions to helm projects. Let’s change this. Give financing to women filmmakers!
6) What, if anything, do you collect?
I have a sensory treasury. This is from being a Method actress: a treasure trove of memories, places, sights, smells, tastes, and sounds tied to situations and the emotions or feelings they evoke that can be used in creating a role, writing a scene, developing a character, directing someone, etc. — invaluable.
I collect stories and observed moments, construct entire screenplays in my head. I remember all the scenes and dialogue verbatim. Give me some paper!
7) Where can people find out more about you on social media? What is next for you in your career?
IG: @LuciaGrillo_CalabrisellaFilms Twitter: @LuciaGrillo Website: CalabrisellaFilms.com
I’m producing my first narrative feature from an original screenplay I wrote and adapting a book for a TV series.