Michael Hess is a writer and filmmaker from Northern Illinois who lives in Toronto. He recently completed his first feature film, Illinois, the story of a Midwestern family told from multiple points of view with, what some have called, a prairie noir style. The film was shown at the NYU Directors Series at Tisch School of the Arts (followed by a conversation with industry liaison Jeremiah Newton), the Kansas International Film Festival, and the Beloit International Film Festival.
Michael’s professional film career stretches back to his completing a B.F.A. in film and television from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 1992. His first short film, There Are No Sharks on the Desert was released in 1997 with assistance of a Build Illinois filmmaker grant, and played at the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles. The film was based on a short story by Michael, which placed in the top ten out of 500 at the Colorado Review in the First Stanley Elkin Memorial Prize for Short Fiction.
Michael has taught film and video production to inner-city youth in some of the most troubled areas of Chicago and New York. The work resulting from these endeavors has appeared on PBS’ Image Union and the Chicago Filmmakers’ Kino-Eye Cinema, among other places. He has worked for such non-profit organizations as L.E.A.P., Rheedlan Centers for Families and Children, Creative Alternatives of New York, Community Television Network and the Chicago Dance Medium, to name but a few. In 2002, Michael created a video installation for a dance project on 9/11, In Between, which premiered at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. Michael has also been repeatedly selected as an artist-in-residence in Illinois under the media arts category.
Michael completed his Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) from Columbia University in the policy practice method. He also directed the trailer for a documentary, The Bryce Project, which presents the history of the Bryce State Mental Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a pioneering institution in the treatment of mental illness in this country. Michael worked for many years at Goldman Sachs in the Executive Office and in Internal Communications. He was previously a columnist and editor for AlleyCat News.
Michael is currently working on Tigers in Love, a play about gay men dealing with their sexuality; also, he has just completed a short film Home Movie, which is a meditation on the home movie. Two of his poems were recently published in Glitterwolf Magazine (UK). His collection of essays, A Man without a Camera, is seeking publication.