Franklin — A Franklin native already has his foot in the door to Hollywood, but he hopes his latest film project will burst that door wide open.
Michael Maize, 39, grew up in Franklin, where he attended Robinwood Elementary and later Forest Park Middle School.
Maize, now a character actor living in Los Angeles, traced his passion to the performing arts in sixth grade.
"At Forest Park, the sixth-graders would always put on a play," Maize said. "I was the tallest kid in my class, so I think I played Paul Bunyan. That was when the arts first sparked my interest."
Maize later attended Pius XI High School in Milwaukee and studied music theater at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.
He then followed a trail of opportunities straight to the city of angels.
Maize has been a supporting actor in advertisements and a guest star in television shows, such as "CSI: NY," "Justified" and "The Mentalist."
He has also been a supporting actor in several movies, including "Saving Lincoln" and "National Treasure 2."
Maize's family, who once owned the George Webb Restaurant on South 76th Street, is extremely supportive of his career, he said.
"When (National Treasure 2) came out in theaters, my family threw me a red carpet event at Showtime Movie Theater in Franklin, and we had an after party at Hideaway Restaurant," Maize recalled. "It was great fun!"
Maize currently has a recurring role as a guard in HBO's "True Blood."
"I originally wanted to live in New York City, but the response I was getting in L.A. was very strong and I decided that if the response was strong, I'd stay," Maize said. "But it's time for me to jump to the next serious level (of acting)."
But to make that jump, Maize is going to need some help.
In the "Doghouse"
For several years, Maize has wanted to produce his own independent film. Thanks to modern fundraising methods, he now has that chance.
Maize originally pitched the idea for a movie to his friend and fellow Millikin graduate Gina Monreal, a television show writer, earlier this year. Monreal, originally from Muskego, is a writer for CBS' "NCIS."
Monreal's work transformed into "Doghouse," a dark comedy about two estranged siblings who are called upon by their oppressive, dying mother.
The film will be shot in northeast Los Angeles.
"Gina turned my idea into a really strong script," Maize said. "And then we had to go looking for a strong director that could carry that script."
The strong director, it turned out, lives in Poland.
Borys Lankosz's first feature film, "Reverse," won several awards at the Polish Film Festival in 2009. The film was later chosen as Poland's official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Maize knew Lankosz from previous correspondence, and soon the director agreed to join the project. "Doghouse" will be Lankosz's first English-speaking film.
Movie friends and other theatrical acquaintances were quick to fill roles of the small cast after Lankosz signed on to the film, Maize said.
"Once we had the director on board, that's all you need," he said. "I reached out to them and said, 'this isn't much money, but if we work together, we can make something really great.' My goal was to keep the cast in the family, in our friend circle."
And Maize won them over.
Even with the discounted help of his friends, the "Doghouse" will cost $15,000 to produce.
To get the film rolling, Maize is using the crowd funding website www.RocketHub.com to reach potential investors.
RocketHub is an online platform that allows innovators to pitch their ideas to a vast audience. Contributions to a project come attached with incentives for the donor.
Maize allowed himself 30 days to raise the $15,000, and the deadline is quickly approaching. As of July 23, "Doghouse" had raised $6,000 with only a few days left. Filming is slated for July 31.
The funds "will be used for feeding our hard working crew, hard drives, location fees, a special effects crew, international travel for director and equipment rentals," the RocketHub website states. "In the postproduction phase, the funds will go toward fees for composer, editor, color correction, sound mixing, sound editing and festival submissions."
Maize said every time he comes home to Franklin, friends and neighbors ask about his film career.
"I've heard from many people back home that it would be great to be involved with the moviemaking process," he said. "Now, they can."
For more information about "Doghouse," visit www.rockethub.com/44508.
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