Originally from Fresno, California, Michael Hagerty studied International Business Marketing in Chicago. During that time, Michael saw a stage production starring actor Gary Sinise, and quickly decided to pursue his first love, acting. He moved to Los Angeles, quickly found work in commercials (one of his early jobs was the Sunny Delight kid) and took acting lessons. The classes clearly paid off when Michael garnered a Best Actor nomination while starring in Questa with Wendie Malick, Doreen Harwood and Dan Lauria. If Michael looks familiar, it’s because he has acted in over forty films and television shows since his Sunny Delight days.
Michael’s various and extensive acting experiences allow him a unique perspective, through which he sees the bigger picture of what makes a movie or show memorable. “I am a better listener because of acting,” Michael said. “It has taught me patience and it allows me to add creatively.” It also led Michael to pursue his true passion in life, producing.
“It’s all about producing – I love it!” Michael told me. “I miss acting, but it’s allowed me to have a different perspective.” He lit up as he described producing and how much he enjoys “problem solving” with a genuine passion behind every word. “Producing is collaborative and it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. It’s a different type of satisfaction than being an actor.”
His first producer credit was 1998’s The Last Big Attraction, which Whit Stillman hailed as the “best independent comedy in twenty years” and earned him the Kodak Independent Vision Award. Eternally humble, Michael said that one of his biggest takeaways from the project were the “three lifelong friends that he made”.
Michael also helped launch the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugituck, MI. Named one of the “top festivals in the world” by SagIndie, the festival is celebrating its sixteenth year. Michael described it as, “summer camp for filmmakers. It’s a non-competitive environment where we celebrate filmmakers!” The opening night festivities alone attract 4,500 plus film enthusiasts and Michael beamed with pride as he explained the event gives back the local economy of Saugituck as well.
Michael’s career is unquestionably moving quickly. Films in development include Turkey Bowl and the horror film Chill. Filming is set to start in June for Will Gardner,a production close to Michael’s heart that he will co-produce with writer and star Max Martini. “We’re involved in a lot of veteran’s charities… you really see how you can help people.” He hopes the movie will raise awareness of what veterans are going through. “We're saying it’s okay to come forward with PSTS (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and we’ll help you.” Fifty percent of the profits from the film are going to charities for veterans.
Michael Hagerty uses everything that he has learned and is continuing to learn to passionately pursue his dream. He has his head, but more importantly, his heart in the right place. Michael’s goal as a producer is simple: “To make movies that everyone enjoys and we can all be proud of.” Interview by Chris Hlad.