Today I’m welcoming actor and producer, Marty Schiff. Thank you, Marty for stopping by!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Well… I don’t really know where to start. I’ve had a pretty interesting life… much of it is public knowledge. I have been focused on a career in entertainment since I was 10 years old. I started doing regional theater when I was 14. Sometimes working on three shows at a time, acting, building sets and rehearsing was common for me. By the time I was 20 I had already done two dozen shows in some capacity. Some things that are not as public are: I was a volunteer fireman for many years. I learned to drive a stick on a 1956 American La France fire truck. I have two wonderful children, both who have interests in production. My daughter works as a Production Manager for PBS and my son is finishing up college. I’ve survived some pretty serious health issues…. and you’d never know it. As the song says…”ain’t found a way to kill me yet”.
What was the initial spark that inspired you to go into the film industry?
I think, and believe, it was in my DNA. I was a TV junkie at a very early age. I can still tell you what was on the air on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh during the early 60s. It started with a test pattern. My family was also very into going to movies. I was never a noisy child in a dark theater. My grandmother would take me to the Warner Theater on Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh nearly every Saturday. Drive-ins were big for my parents and siblings.
When I was 12 my father gave me a Kodak Brownie 8 mm movie camera. I shot hundreds of hours of film… most lost in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. But it was my joy at a very early age. Again, without any formal training I knew how to set up shots, light, direct and edit short films. I was always daydreaming about shooting something and never paid attention much in school. My imagination was… and still is… off the hook. My goal was always to get to Hollywood… and did just that after getting my theater degree at the age of 23.
There is a very real possibility that a past life connected me to Hollywood. When I moved there in 1979 it felt extremely comfortable… not many people say that about Los Angeles… and I knew my way around without maps. I have a particular fondness for The Hollywood Cemetery and used to take my daughter there for “Picnics with the Demilles”… next to Cecil and Agnes DeMille’s burial plot.
Some of your earlier work include great titles such as Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow. What are some of the other films that you’ve worked on?
I think the one film I’m remembered most for is CREEPSHOW but my favorite film to work on, also a Romero work, was KNIGHTRIDER. It’s a non horror film but still great. Some lesser known are CHILDERN OF THE LIVIND DEAD and PARTY ANIMAL. I also worked on BLANKMAN, CAN YOU FEEL ME DANCING, THE ASSASINATION FILE and others.
As an actor my career was very heavy in television. Most people don’t realize how many times they’ve seen me in commercials and shows from the 80s and 90s. I’m very proud of OUT OF CONTROL which was Nickelodeon’s very first show they produced for themselves. Until then they had been buying shows produced for other networks. We started it all. OUT OF CONTROL starred Dave Coulier who would go on to do FULL HOUSE. OUT OF CONTROL had an ensemble cast that I loved. It was still the most fun I ever had going to work. A close second was the two seasons I spent on DALLAS. I did many shows and still get residual checks for 12 cents when one of those shows runs somewhere in the world.
What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played and why?
In film it was probably Trashman 1 in CREEPSHOW. It was so much fun making most of that performance up. Of course working with George Romero is always a treat and acting alongside my on screen partner Tom Savini is always a blast. We’ve been partners on screen 5 times. (DAWN OF THE DEAD, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW, EFFECTS, CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD)
On TV it was HERN from OUT OF CONTROL. We had a lot of creative freedom with that show and my fellow cast members, directors and producers were just awesome to work with. An actor’s dream come true. If you search the show on Youtube there are many episodes there.
You have your very own production company called, SCHIFF MEDIA. Tell us about that.
Schiff Media was one of the first all digital production companies in the Pittsburgh region. It was started by my brother Bill and I with four XL1s and Final Cut Pro 2… we were early adapters. We did lots of commercials, a documentary or two and some special projects. We had a studio set up in the back of Schiff Printing Company and it was a lot of fun. I would move on to other projects and a new company called Jeffrey Martin Global Media. JMGM is more of a distribution company but we still do production from time to time. Recently, we produced a pilot for TV called THE ODDS… focusing on gambling.
What’s next for Marty Schiff?
I have some shows I’d like to get off the ground. A few game shows, some magazine shows and a film or two. I’m teaching directing for the Cinema Department at Point Park University, where I graduated from way back in the 20th century. I have some interests in non production businesses and I might even slow down a bit… no… that’s a lie… I’m happy working… I will sleep when I’m dead.
How can fans follow you and your updates about current and upcoming projects?
Fans can find me on Facebook and if they are professionals on LinkedIn. If they are interested in the film program at Point Park I’m always available to discuss that.
Words of advice for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?
It’s not easy… but so worth it… and obviously not impossible. The key to success isn’t so much talent as perseverance, practice, commitment and believing in you. And … most importantly… be passionate about it.. live it… breathe it… love it. Never give up, make interesting and smart choices and be brilliant.