Hey there, I’m Michael Racanelli. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. I would enter the school art fairs from first through sixth grade, mostly winning 2nd place or an honorable mention with my crayon or colored pencil renditions of a landscape. My parents bought my my first personal computer, a Commodore 64, when I was eight. Not only did I use it to create digital art, but also began programming in Basic. From this point forward, both art and technology would run parallel throughout my life.
I had been bullied throughout elementary school and didn’t want that to continue, so although I had always had an interest in performing, joining the drama club in an all boys Catholic school wasn’t an option. Instead I got my first guitar, a Fender Stratocaster and learned to play by ear. Eventually I joined a few cover bands and I was able to create and perform. Also heavily into C programming, I worked in the computer lab at school running their Bulletin Board System, and eventually set up a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) on our UNIX SysV system for all of the kids hanging out after school. At one point, I started leaning towards a computer science major at a state school, but the lure of the arts was too much for me.
After high school I spent 5 years playing music and working random jobs. I worked as a law clerk, clerked at the Chicago Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange, and worked in retail before deciding to go to art school. Having made a few album covers, I thought a degree in graphic design would be a good “Plan B.” However, I ended up getting a job doing graphic design 25 hours a week while I was in school. I eventually switched my major to arts management, stopped playing music, and started an artist management company and record label.
For 5 years I managed artists, tour managed, and traveled the country. After ending up in Los Angeles in 2007 by chance, a fire started burning in my belly. I had a few brushes with the film industry later that year back home in Chicago. Working 18 hours as an extra in a small scene for a Neil Burger film called The Lucky Ones starring Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams, I was completely enamored in the process of filmmaking. After that, it was only a matter of time.
Finally in 2010 I made the plunge and loaded up my old 2002 Chevy Cavalier with 171,000 miles, three suitcases, and the acoustic guitar my mom bought me years ago, and drove 2,000 miles to Los Angeles. Within the first year I had enrolled in a scene study class and stopped playing music completely. However due to some family illness, I had to head back in 2013.
Shortly after this point, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away in early 2014. I had whispered to him after he had passed that I was going to head back to work towards winning an Oscar. He had left me a very small amount of money, and I used that to buy a new camera, some filmmaking equipment, and start my production company. I made my way back to Los Angeles in October of that year to set out on the path of restarting, even though I hadn’t completely finished grieving.
Eventually I took on screenwriting, which led to producing and directing. In 2016 I won an Emmy award for producing a PSA for an anti-hate organization. It wasn’t the Oscar I promised my dad, but it was a start. In the same year I wrote eight episodes of an original comedy webseries, and in early 2018 I starred in, directed, produced, and edited the pilot episode. Currently I’m working on developing more original content, as well as host a podcast, and continuing to hone my craft as a filmmaker.
My interests are also wide and varied: I rebuilt a DJI Phantom drone I found stuck in a tree for two years, currently working my way through the original Metroid games, watching countless hours of YouTube videos on quantum mechanics, and deeply into politics (I am hoping to run for office someday in the future).
That’s not the whole story, but it’s a good start.