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Snyder: Filmmaker Michael Schilf goes from Kenosha to epic fantasy series

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A short film called “SWORN” had its world premiere last month at the Mammoth Film Festival in California.

You may be wondering why we’re interested in this particular film.

Here’s why: The film’s writer and star is Michael Schilf, a Kenosha native.

He and the rest of the production team are hoping to turn this film into an eight-part TV series.

“I co-created the series and wrote the pilot episode,” he said during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “The irony is: All of Hollywood would die if there was no writing, but nobody reads anything. You have to find a way to get people excited about your project, and we’re long past the days when you could just write a pilot. Now you have to create something they can watch in nine minutes and get excited about.”

He wrote a “bible” for the proposed series, which maps out the eight proposed episodes and what happens to all the characters.

Schilf is “thrilled with how the film came out. It’s an epic fantasy set in the mythical land of Nath and was inspired by heroic struggles from both fantasy and history.”

He stars as Jarl Vallon, king of Fendholm, in the film/series. His character tries to save his lands from annihilation.

The plot, he said, “is based on true events. England was invaded; the Vikings came in and conquered the entire island. The only kingdom outside Viking control was the southern part of modern-day England. We created this fantasy world there, based in reality.”

When he isn’t battling barbarians, Schilf is a professor at Glendale Community College near Pasadena, Calif. In 2010, he also co-founded The Script Lab, a screenwriting resource and entertainment news outlet that was specifically designed for writers, filmmakers and creators. Outside of his academic work, he is a screenwriter, script doctor and advertising consultant.

He describes “SWORN” as “visually like ‘Braveheart’ meets ‘Lord of the Rings’ meets ‘Game of Thrones’ — it’s that kind of world. We’re dealing with swords and all the spectacle that comes with that world.”

The short film was shot in a studio on what he calls “one very long day,” with all the special effects added digitally after filming was complete.

“It had to look high quality but without a huge budget,” he said. “It was the biggest production I’ve personally been involved with.”

Now that the film is complete, the real heavy lifting goes on.

Schilf and the rest of the “SWORN” team will be taking the film to film festivals, working to get people to look at the project.

“Only 10 percent of projects in Hollywood get made,” Schilf said. “I’ve worked on so many projects that just die. I’m amazed that anything gets made. Projects involve so many moving parts and so many people. It’s like trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner with every single person in your family crowded into the kitchen — so many things can go wrong.”

If the project does move forward, Schilf envisions it as a series for a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.

“We would shoot it all at once,” he said, “and people could binge it in a weekend.”

Until then, he keeps busy with other writing projects and continues teaching classes.

“I teach screenwriting and literature. Teaching helps me, too, because working with my students on their writing keeps me working on the fundamentals.”

Teaching also fits his lifestyle.

“I’m a very structured person, and teaching gives me a steady income and schedule,” he said. “I schedule all my projects.”

That includes a passion close to his fifth-grade heart.

“I even schedule in ‘play Legos with my son.’”


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