The Coast News Group
Young filmmaker Michael Gallagher II, is a Torrey Pines High School grad who's about to release his film "Smiley" next month. Courtesy photo
Arts Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

For young director, bringing film to life was ‘ethereal’ experience

RANCHO SANTA FE — The film “Smiley,” a psychological thriller, will open on Oct. 11 in area theatres. 

What makes this film special is that it was directed by Michael Gallagher, 23, a 2007 Torrey Pines graduate.

“I feel great,” he said. “This has been my dream since I was 12 years old. Now at 23, I feel like I’m 40 or 50 and that I have been working on this since I was 12.”

He said the script, by Glasgow Phillips, was sent to him about two years ago.

“I read it and loved it right away,” he said. “I worked with him a year or so making changes and developing characters.”

He said the story is about a young girl who enters college and learns about an urban legend that if you type a certain phase three times while chatting online, the person with whom you are chatting will be killed.

“It is the digital age version of Bloody Mary or Candy Man,” he said.

The girl goes ahead to try to disprove the legend, but the people with whom she has been chatting begin to disappear one by one at the hands of a serial killer who has a bizarre smiling face.

Cast in the movie are a few seasoned actors and some new faces. The cast includes Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen and Roger Bart.

The actors who are doing the movie love the script, too.

“No one is doing it for the money,” he said.

Still, seeing the movie come to fruition is almost ethereal to Gallagher.

“It does feel like a dream,” he said. “It is exciting. I am focusing on marketing and distribution. It’s a big undertaking, but rewarding.”

He said his classmates at Torrey Pines High School would probably not be surprised at his directing a motion picture, because he has been making films forever.

“I think they would expect something silly and a lot of comedy, not a psychological thriller. That might be the shocking part,” he said.

Gallagher, the son of Michael and Elaine Gallagher of Rancho Santa Fe, said he originally wanted to be an actor or comedian.

“I learned how the business works that when you are cast, your destiny is left up to a lot of other people,” he said. “Taking the reins and being the director or writer gives you so much more control.”

He always had an interest in the business, said his mother Elaine.

“Since he was 3, we would go see a movie as a family and on the way home he would have the dialogue memorized verbatim,” she said.

“He would use the camcorder and make spy movies or James Bond movies since he was 8,” she said.

He had his own after school film club where he and his friends would discuss movie making, she said.

His short film “Flat” made it into the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

“He has an interest in everyone and everything. He can do it all,” she said.

Next, Gallagher said, he would like to do a comedy.

“This is fairly heavy, so something lighter,” he said.