"An actor by chance - a producer by profession - a passionate player by belief"
MovieScreenMagazine (März 2007)
Who is Michael L. Reiseneder?
An actor? No! Hardly anyone has ever looked at his career in film. Why? Living and shuttling between continents for almost three decades, he succeeded in keeping an extremely low profile throughout the years. In fact, he is a globetrotter, a cosmopolitan, a humanitarian … His private library (considerably above-average in size) reflects his great passion for film, music and the fine arts. He has always preferred a position not typical in the omnipresent, glamorous world of entertainment: watching from a distance, learning from the very Best in their trade, transposing profound knowledge into operational and administrative skill. On one hand, often called a "Grey Eminence" by people who failed, trying to uncover the true person behind the facade - hence, pretending to know him - on the other hand, a "Patron" by young film entrepreneurs and working professionals inquiring for and receiving advice.
Having learned the trade from the bottom up - as an editor, cinematographer, author, director and producer - he gladly passes on "nuts and bolts" about the trade, gathered along a tough winding road in rapidly growing and ever-changing global Media. His hands-on mentality, instinct and judgment made him to what he is: Someone with rough edges … a no-nonsense professional.
"Willst du etwas wissen, so frage einen Erfahrenen und keinen Gelehrten."
While just about starting studies in film production at the Academy of Film and Television in Vienna / Austria, Michael L. Reiseneder - by chance - made the acquaintance of director Richard Quine ("Columbo") and was invited on location of his current feature film. The production Quine helmed and Walter Mirisch ("West Side Story") produced back in 1979 was "The Prisoner of Zenda", starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer and Lionel Jeffries. Upon Quine's request, Michael was hired by a casting agent for Universal Pictures, dressed-up in a black tail / white tie costume to appear as Young Count in London's exquisite "Café Royal" setting, then staged at Europe's equally prestigious and historic Wien-Film Studios.
Intrigued by this crucial experience and motivated by winning an earlier film competition for Best Documentary in France at the age of just 16, Reiseneder was determined starting a "behind the camera" - career in Motion Picture production.
Getting established in the industry...
Zinn Arthur, critically acclaimed big-band Leader during WWII (touring with famed composer Irving Berlin) and later - after the big-band era ended - famous celebrity photographer to Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Humphrey Bogart (to name a few), close friend of director/producer Joshua Logan ("South Pacific") and - last but not least - fond admirer of Michael’s mother, Inge, became a dear friend, teacher, advisor and confidant to his “adopted son” until Zinns death in March 2003 at the age of 91. Zinn Arthur, master of photography, refines Reiseneder’s skill in camerawork and sharpens his eye for detail. Convinced of his striking creative talent and driving force behind his passion for film and photography he encourages and persuades Michael to give up Europe and to relocate to Los Angeles, heart of the entertainment industry.
A few, intense but nevertheless most inspiring years later, 1982 - meanwhile residing in Hollywood and continuing his studies in producing and directing at USC (University of Southern California) - he was admitted as a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild(former Los Angeles-Hollywood Local 776), gratefully accepting advice and helping hand from the outstanding, 5 times Emmy-Nominee, Jeanene Ambler.
The road to hollywood...
Earlier in 1981 he was introduced to the Friars Club of California's most distinguished dignitaries Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra by his dear fatherly friend and mentor, star-comedian Henny Youngman. By invitation, Reiseneder became the youngest member of the illustrious Friars Club of California at Beverly Hills. For years to come Reiseneder takes pride in being listed on the membership board - alongside many other Friars legends - next to yet another prominent "Brother-Friar": Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States.
Eager to absorb even more knowledge about "The Bizz", he quickly found his way to key industry and society representatives at the corridors of power. Late Lisa Trumpler - journalist, renowned correspondent and member of The Hollywood Foreign Press Association - was a much admired friend and teacher. Trumpler gradually gives him an insight into journalism and Public Relations. Reiseneder remembers: "On one side she was very strict and persistent particularly with regard to training my ability in film analysis. We didn't miss a Screening and Lisa made me study tons of filmscripts at the Margaret Herrick Libraryof the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. On the other side she enjoyed taking me to almost every major Social Event in town. Particularly our nights at the Annual Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards are unforgettable. Just as our Saturday's round of golf and subsequent lunch with Arnold Schwarzenegger at "Schatzi's on Main" or "Zucki's Delicatessen" in Santa Monica. Precious moments, I shall cherish!". It was through her, that additional doors opened to other industry players. Amongst them film producers, agents, composers, actors - many of European descent: First and foremost Film Producer and prominent Hollywood Agent Paul Kohner, representing Motion Picture’s "crème de la crème", including Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Maurice Chevalier, Henry Fonda … as well as filmmaking legends Ingmar Bergman, Billy Wilder, John Huston and many more. "Due to Paul Kohners guidance, ever present sympathetic advice and trust in my capability, I entirely focused on a career as Film Producer. Clearly a fundamental decision, that proved to have been the right one. I'll always be grateful for his most generous, encouraging support" says Reiseneder.
"In my early years in Hollywood, I've been very fortunate and privileged: Henny Youngman, Zinn Arthur, Lisa Trumpler - wonderful mentors, confidants and true friends - opened a window into a new, glamorous, exciting - though surreal – world. Introducing me to numerous highly esteemed entertainment icons like Elisabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Cary Grant, Richard Widmark, Red Buttons had lasting effect on my life. I had the pleasure to witness memorable Show events in Palm Desert, Las Vegas, New York, privately meeting performing legends Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis jr., Joel Grey." Equally unforgettable are Reiseneder's meetings with Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Lee Strasberg, Paul Henreid, Oskar Werner or Gottfried Reinhardt. "Their success taught me humbleness and patience, their careers and advice truly being motivation and most valuable inspiration."
Asked about whom he considers of great influence in his life, Reiseneder instantly and enthusiastically answers:
"Persönlichkeiten werden nicht durch schöne Reden geformt, sondern durch Arbeit und eigene Leistung."
"The person undoubtedly most influential - especially during but not limited to my learning process in this business - is Sherry Lansing. In the early 1980s, I had just moved to Southern California, she became President of 20th Century Fox - the first woman to head a major studio. I thought, this was quite impressive ... but it was even more impressive having had the privilege meeting Ms. Lansing personally. I am still fascinated by her personality. Her dedication to education, art and culture inspired and made me a humble admirer. After more than 12 years as CEO Chairman of Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group Sherry Lansing retired from her position to commit even more to The Sherry Lansing Foundation, improving and supporting public education, art and culture. What an outstanding Lady! ".
Today, Michael L. Reiseneder in his 25th year as an industry professional continues his career, serving the Entertainment industry as Producer / Executive Producer. He is President and CEO of Refos International Group, Inc., Refos Productions Film & Television, a seasoned filmmaker, who has worked in front and behind the camera of major motion picture studios, gaining extensive experience on all facets of development, financing, production management, marketing and distribution, an Advisor of international feature film productions and - his latest call - as a Film Journalist. Reiseneder is the Founder of MSM MovieScreenMagazineand currently also the publication's Editor-in-Chief.
Although asked several times, he never again stepped before the camera as an actor - with exception of a brief appearance for friend and colleague, director Walter Bednarik, in his film "Showdown (2001)."