Melinda Prisco: Filmmaker. Actor. Writer. Producer. New York City. 2011.
AP: Tell me about yourself, Melinda.
MP: My name is Melinda Prisco. I just turned 24 earlier this summer. I work on many things – the question of “What do you do?” always leaves me puzzled, as well as “Where are you from?” Let’s start with where I’m from.
Most people call me a mutt, my friends call me eurotrash (even though I am not eurotrash). I was born in Switzerland to an Italian father and a Hungarian mother. Soon after that we moved to Holland, and when I turned 6 we moved to Madrid, where I stayed until I graduated high school. Most Christmases were in Budapest and we speak Italian at home. My education was always in English. I have an accent in every single language I speak.
What I do… I love acting and I love writing. Even though I have had success in both areas, I have realized that my biggest talent lies in producing. So yeah, I’m a producer who likes to act and write. I produce shows for a German theater company here in NYC; I also helped start a Brooklyn based film production company. I have produced several short films and public access shows in the past couple of years, and I am now producing the feature film MOM, for which we have received a lot of support.
I am very well read, very curious, very smart (not modest, as you can see); I will never take “no” for an answer. I didn’t have a regular 4 year college training, degree, whatever. I’ve done screenwriting, playwriting, fiction writing, digital filmmaking and in depth production courses at NYFA and the New School. I’ve been doing guerilla independent filmmaking for 6 years – this is pretty much where I learned all I know. Now, I’m living in Brooklyn (have been for quite some time), and “home,” where my parents are, is currently Hungary, even though last year it was Italy, and two years before that it was Spain. She laughs.
AP: What’s “Mom” about? What’s it like to produce a debut feature film?
MP: MOM, is the first film by Lonely Christopher, a young poet, novelist (and now a screenwriter), who has had a lot of fame with his latest collection of stories “The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse”. It’s a story about a young man named Try who hires a rag-tag detective agency to locate his biological mother in Brooklyn. In this fish-out-of-water situation, it soon becomes apparent that Try is hiding important details about his life and masking his confusion regarding his true motivations. A funny and profound adventure ensues as Try confronts his most repressed problems and desires, whether he likes it or not.
I’m not just a producer on this of this film; I’m also acting in it! Lonely Christopher wrote one of the roles especially for me, as we have known and worked with each other for a couple of years now. A lot of times I get the question, “What does a Producer do?” Many people think it’s the “money person.” I wish. I’m constantly broke. A producer, in my own very special words, is the mother of a film. It’s the person who works right by the director. And it’s the person who works right by the interns. It’s the person who makes things happen, from the very early development stage to the festival circuits. There’s hiring people, casting, getting funds, overseeing the location scouting and the production design, budgeting, scheduling, making very daring last minute decision that can change the entire course of the project. It’s a lot of logistics and administrative duty, and that’s why you need a lot of heart to do it. Especially in a very low budget indie film. I’ve been devoting most of time to MOM since January. That was seven months ago, and we start shooting in September. Which is scary and exciting and nerve wrecking, all in one.
AP: Why is this project so special to you?
MP: It’s all about the people. Right now, I’m working with a writer whom I respect above all. He impresses me every day, and I hate the fact that him and I are the same age. He’s a beautiful writer and has become a very close friend. The other producer and the executive producer of the film, Jakob Abrams and Jose Cavazos, are also my closest friends, and are the people who I have always worked with and leaned on. We can’t bullshit one another. It’s kind of amazing. I’m working with people whom I love, on a project that I love. Going to work and socializing becomes the same thing. We work very hard, very well, and are lucky to have a lot of support from different people in order to make the best possible movie that we can.
AP: What are your hopes for this project?
MP: My hopes is that a lot of people see this. That everybody sees this film. That when they see it they’re left in awe by it. That when they then look at the budget of the film are even more blown away by it. That we are then given more opportunities and resources to make even more movies in our own way, without people looking over every move. That this movie puts us on the map, and sets Lonely Christopher as one of the better writers of out time. Oh, and to make money. Huge smile and giggle.
AP: Why is being a young artist important?
MP: I think being a young artist is very important. I think making art is better than talking about art. I think that making a film with one hundred dollars is better than sitting on your ass and waiting for something to happen. I feel like now everybody just wants to be “famous” immediately. Someone wants to make it big in three seconds. Instant gratification. The process of being a young artist, the process of being constantly broke and surrounding yourself with people who make you want to create is very important. You learn how to do things the hard way, you learn how to get over your shyness, or unwillingness to ask for favors, to stalk people, to make a fool out of yourself.
I don’t know what I’m getting at. Let me try to explain this better.
Doing is better than not doing, no matter the outcome. I did a show for Public Access TV a couple of years ago with Jakob Abrams called “Lifecoaching”. We had no money. We got a camera for a window of 24 hours and had to shoot a whole episode. That was one of the most fun times of my life. It put me back in the creating process. I think many people concentrate too much on school now. Undergrad, Grad school, whatever goes after that. I’m not saying it’s bad, not at all, I’m jealous at times. But I am saying that sometimes people forget to “do”. You need to be a young artist in order to figure out the ropes of your business. You need to be an artist who can think for themselves and make things happen. I’m rambling. I’m happy to see that “art” is again very much alive. Most people I meet are artists. Or want to be artists. For a time more people were conforming and going more into finance and business. I don’t think it’s that way any more. Now I wish there were more scientists, I really do. Another huge smile.
AP: What are the challenges you face working as an artist? Does being from another country help or hurt you when faced with these challenges?
MP: Most of the challenges are either financially or competition. There are a lot of people with good ideas. There are a lot of people with a good community of friends that can make it happen. I don’t think that there are a lot of people with enough brains to make it out intact. Luck. That one’s important too. Who you know. I wish I new more people, were less of a loner, or wish that big crowds made me less uncomfortable.
I don’t know if being from a different country per se makes it less challenging or not. I’m not just from a different country. I’m a very big mixture of ideals and ways. I grew up in a very Mediterranean and liberal atmosphere. My mother is very Eastern European. My Dad is one of the smartest people I know, and taught me from a very young age to do it all on my own without asking for unnecessary help. I don’t have a big family, I’m an only child – I’ve relied on my imagination ever since a little girl. My school was international, I knew people from all over. And most were Embassy kids, so they came and went very often. I can love and let go very easily.
I think it’s these things that help me when facing these challenges. I can adapt to many ways of thinking, I can see every single situation through from a different perspective. I’m not judgmental. I speak a lot of languages and can carry myself in different cultures, even in different social or class circles. I never feel like the outsider. However corny it sounds, my upbringing has made me a citizen of the world, and I think that helps me. Oh, and brains, those help too. It surprises me how much people forget to use them. And the fact that a lot of people don’t dare to simply ask for things. I swear to God, a lot of times people fail just because they didn’t dare to ask for something. I’m very spoiled, I don’t have a problem doing that. I’m also very independent. It’s a mixture of cultures, I would think.
AP: What are the positives (benefits) and negatives of working in the US, as opposed to Europe?
MP: Well, let’s start with the negatives. I miss my parents and I miss my Dog. I miss Europe. I miss being able to go from country to country, as people go from Sate to State here. I miss the food. I miss the streets. I miss the language. I miss it a lot. And flight are expensive, so I stay here a lot. The biggest negative is being able to work here legally. I’ve never done anything illegal, so I’m good to go. I am, however, looking for a more permanent way to stay. That part is always hard, and it really shouldn’t be this hard. I understand that a lot has changed in the past ten years with immigration, but it’s really ridiculous how much you have to prove yourself to stay here. I’m doing it though. And I will do so until I get to go through the fast line at customs.
The positive of working in the US… I’m going to change this question to the positives of working in New York. This is my favorite city in the world. I’m in love with it. I don’t see myself anywhere else long term. I want to work in other places, but always come back to New York. I moved to Budapest for 8 months. That as three years ago. The day I came back was magical. That ride, in the cab, from the airport to wherever it is I’m staying is always breath taking. It’s very movie like. No wonder why that moment, the leaving or coming back to NYC is overused in cinema. I’ve met great friends who have become great collaborators. I’ve made “a collective of artists,” as my friend puts it.
Another benefit of NYC, I think, is that if you want to shoot something, you can shoot it in a heartbeat. You will know someone with equipment, or someone you know will know so. You will know great locations, you can get a bunch of extras, you can find all the props in the world. It’s a very accessible city. It’s not for everyone though. I’ve seen a lot of people leave as they couldn’t take it any longer, but I can. And I plan on making much more of my art in New York for a long while.
Melinda Prisco currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, after having spent her childhood in Madrid. New York Theatre credits include assisting in productions at The New Stage Theater Company and at The Galli Theater, where she also acted in several children’s productions. She has written, produced and starred in several short films and public access shows, like “Lifecoaching” (2009) and “Playmates” (2010). She is currently producing Lonely Christopher’s feature film debut, “Mom.”
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