One thing that comes from sitting down to chat with actor Michael Santi is that he’s everybody’s cheerleader. Most people when interviewed will talk on and on about themselves, but not Michael Santi. Oh he will talk on and on, but he rarely talks about anything being just for or about himself, it’s all about the bigger picture for him. It’s not because that’s the way he talks, but rather the way he thinks, the way he conducts himself and most importantly, what he truly believes.
He doesn’t view his success as an actor as being just good for him, but good for everyone around him, including other artists and even the city he calls home, Orlando. He wants to make a difference for everyone, not just himself. “Orlando’s got this reputation for being a failed market in film. A lot of people have expressed that you need to be in LA and you need to be in NY or Louisiana, all these places. I believe that’s true. I believe that opens up more opportunity. I think my main goal is just to show that Orlando, Florida in general, has got a credible market of talented actors. Everywhere I go, if I’m in LA or if I do something in NY, everybody keeps saying that Orlando is in a wanna-be state in film. I have to kind of bite my lip sometimes trying to be a positive person. I want the reputation to be that Orlando’s got some really good talent, and thank God there are things happening for me, but that’s not enough. There have got to be opportunities to show the rest of the world, if not show the LA’s and NY’s that you can get actors from Orlando and can be successful, but that only starts with everybody believing that’s a possibility.”
It’s easy to believe that becoming a successful actor would mean a struggle against other actors for parts, but Santi doesn’t see it that way. “I don’t feel that there’s competition. I think there’s room at the top for everybody. I’d rather lose a part out there to one of my best friends than to somebody from LA or NY that’s already a named person. If you’re an advocate of everybody that means your name is in different places at the same time so if I’m an advocate of Fran [Rafferty (a Central Florida based actor)] that means that if I’m at an audition, it means Fran is there with me. If we are fans of each other, then we are advocates for each other. If you support each other, you’re actually opening up opportunities for yourself versus just not having support from others. I’m not afraid of any competition in Orlando, and I mean that in a very positive way. It’s because I’m excited for the opportunities because more people are getting out there. I just don’t like it when people are just for themselves and that’s when you get this negative image. It’s so important to be an advocate of someone else more than for yourself because your opportunities are coming. You might be the light for someone else.”
He went on to say, “Everybody’s got their obstacles. Someone’s got a sick mom or a sick dad, or can’t pay the bills, so why would I be selfish just because I want it. No, I want to help them pay their bills and chase a dream. To me, that’s more success as a human being than as an artist. You give out what you expect back. It’s Karma. If we all have an image of that and think like that then a lot more would come our way.”
He backs up what he says through his actions. On Facebook, he not only has his professional page but another page titled Santi’s Spotlight Artist. It’s a place where everyone can come together to learn about and support other artists, one at a time. It’s new, so there have only been a couple of artists chosen so far, but the plan is to spotlight artists from all creative areas, giving them a chance to shine and promote current projects.
Santi hasn’t always been surrounded by positivity. It grew from the reassurances he gave himself about his big dream and how to achieve it and spread to include others around him who see things in the same positive way. “I come from a world that was negative and so I try to stay positive. I think even from the self-talk that I do on the web and internet a lot of it’s kind of just stuff that I need to hear for myself, it’s stuff that I need to tell myself and I’m just fortunate that other people can relate to it.”
Santi has been seen in a variety of roles in films so far and hopes to keep it that way. “I just like being diverse,” he said. “I never want to be stereotyped. I think I’m getting pulled into a direction more people are accepting of the bad guy or the guy saying curse words all over the place or Mr. Positive or the tough guy kind of thing, the action kind of thing, which I love. I love action films and I don’t mind doing that for the rest of my life. My goal is if you go see a Santi film you see a bad guy in one film and in the next film you see me as something else. But the most important thing is be believable. If you stereotype yourself and I go in and I’m mister tough guy like Mr. M in ‘Against the Wall’ where I’m this crazy, crazy individual and you only see me as that character for so long and I go do this [film] where I’m a sympathetic dad you’re not going to believe me. My goal is to captivate the audience no matter what I do and that’s just respecting acting in general. If I’m typecast, then I’m typecast and I’m hurting myself. I want to do everything. Diversity is the key to longevity in acting.”
The Orlando based actor looks for quality projects. “I think that should be important to everybody,” said Santi. “I think that when you first start out in this business, you build a relationship with people. You kind of have to take everything to build up your experience. You have to be bad before you’re OK, you have to be OK before you’re good, and you have to be good before you’re doing pretty well. You have to qualify who you’re working with just as much as you’re being qualified as an actor. You have to audition for someone that you feel is going to ‘die behind the camera’ like I’m willing to ‘die in front of the camera.’ You have to qualify them because once you do their film, you’re unemployed again. What are they going to do to get your face out there? You need to go off and do something else.
“I always tell everybody that it doesn’t do me any good if I’m going to do an Oscar Award winning performance in my closet. It’s the same thing as doing that film and no one sees it anyway. So you have to qualify what are you shooting on from the quality of the camera the quality of the people, what kind of passion do they have about this, how much do they have for promotions. This is your career.
“It’s kind of like walking on a blanket of ice across a lake. Every step you take could be your last. So you have to make sure that you’re not walking into a project that you’re going to sink on because you’re going to spend all that time on something that someone else is going to get out there. If it’s a crappy film, you’ve got to be careful too because you may get tons of exposure but it’s still exposure on a crappy film. I’ve seen that. That’s the thin line.”
He currently doesn’t have any solid plans for branching out beyond acting, but there have been a few projects that have come up. He has a producer credit on a film in the works “Dakota,” but he’s happy “just” being labeled an actor. “I’m just lucky that I have a credible name in acting and I think because of that it pulls you in different areas of film,” said Santi. Later he added, “Let me be a master of one trade before I’m a master of a few. I’ve done some writing for certain films to help out, but acting is where my love is, my passion is, as much as I respect those other things. It’s pulling me in those directions, but I don’t want to insult the industry if I haven’t earned it yet. I want to earn it before I can do it. If that opportunity presents itself, I will be prepared for it at that point.”
Santi has several projects in the works. There is the James Repici film “Dutch Book” which has an Indiegogo fundraising campaign under way and acclaimed actor Robert Miano in the cast. Santi will soon be off to New York as part of the cast of the feature film “Concrete Jungle.” For that movie, he will join other notable actors as William Forsythe (from the Showtime series “Boardwalk Empire”), Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down”), Robert Davi (“Die Hard”), Kevin Gage (“Heat” and “Blow”), James Russo (“Donnie Brasco” and “Public Enemies”) and Michael Wright (from the HBO series “Oz”). He has another feature film project lined up after that as well.
It hasn’t always been easy for Santi, but he’s got the drive to make things happen. “I’ve been through some extraordinary circumstances that said ‘Look Mike, just give it up dude,’ but my passion is bigger than my problem.”
Movie fans can find out more information about Michael Santi on his IMDb and Facebook pages. They can also be part of team Santourage on Twitter. Fans can also see and help support other up-and-coming artists on Santi’s Spotlight Artist Facebook group.