SHINE: 14-Yr Old Filmmaker Cruce Grammatico’s “Michigan Uncovered”

Posted by Anthony - March 22, 2012 - Education, Film Books, Filmmaker Spotlight - 1 Comment

A few weeks ago the Grammatico family of Michigan reached out to me to share their filmmaking experience with my Shut Up and Shoot series of filmmaking guide books.  I was so impressed with the story and work of 14-year old filmmaker Cruce Grammatico that he inspired me to start a new case-study blog segment on Down and Dirty DV filmmakers entitled, SHINE.

So every month from here on out I want to shine the spotlight on those that have benefited from Down and Dirty DV books, DVD’s, seminars or podcasts.  So if Down and Dirty DV has helped you in your filmmaking in anyway, please drop me an email explaining how and a link to your work and you just might be the next person to SHINE on this blog.


PART ONE: 10 Questions with Cruce Grammatico

1.    What made you become a filmmaker?
Living in the country, there really isn’t a lot to do, so when I was about 9 or 10, I picked up the family video camera and started messing around.  It turned out to be a lot of fun shooting video and learning to edit.  I remember some pretty rough films from those early days…I seem to recall something involving sleds, duct tape, and BB guns.  Of course, those movies are locked in the vault.

2.    What’s your favorite part of filmmaking?
I really enjoy the shooting, it’s the part of filmmaking where you finally get to put all of your planning and equipment to the test. It’s hands on and fun.  You spend all this time preparing and this is when your research and vision finally come to fruition.

3.    What do you find most difficult about filmmaking?
I would say the most difficult part of filmmaking is the editing process.  Especially in documentary work, this is the part where you make the story happen.  There’s no script, you have to find a way to create your story by cutting through hours and hours of footage.

4.    What’s the worst/most expensive mistake you ever made while making a project?  How did you resolve it?
My biggest mistake has definitely been cheaping out on media, like tapes, discs, and cards.  Losing hours of footage because you used a dollar store disc…you can’t ever get that back.  You can save money on batteries or lights, but NEVER cheap out on media.

5.    Who helps you make your films?
My friends and family have been my best support.  Let’s face it, a 14 year old can’t go out and hire support staff.  My friends unwillingly became lights, camera, and audio guys.

6.    What’s your most memorable moment from a project you’ve produced/directed?
A couple things come to mind… last year we entered our first film festival, and sitting in a dark theatre, watching my movie play on the big screen was pretty cool.  A little surreal.  Then, last winter, we did a shoot up north camping in the woods.  I remember sitting by the campfire with my crew, getting a great shot, thinking to myself, ” this is just the best…”. I can’t imagine not making films.

7.    What role did Down and Dirty DV books, DVD’s or podcasts play in helping you with your project?
I have read both Down and Dirty DV books and I have to say they are the perfect reference for an aspiring filmmaker.  Everything you need to know is in there, like for me, I can have it in my bag on a shoot, and easily look up anything I need to know.  Right now I’m working on my first commercial shoot so I’m using the books to help with all the preproduction work, storyboards, lighting, working with actors, etc.

8.    How large is your crew?
My crew includes myself as the main camera and editor, my three friends who all alternate doing camera, sound, and lighting.  Then there’s my mom…producer, driver, craft services and anything else we can get her to do.

9.    What type of projects do you want to do in the future?
Documentary work is my passion, and what I really want to do for a career.  Of course, freelance work also, to pay the bills and gain experience.

10. What advice would you offer to other young people who want to become filmmakers?
My advice would be to make whatever kind of crap you can at first.  You don’t learn filmmaking by thinking about it, you have to do it.  Even if your first efforts are terrible, you will improve over time.  Get out there and learn some knowledge!


PART TWO: CASE STUDY – “Michigan Uncovered: Witchy Wolves of Omer Plains”

How did you develop the concept?
This is an episode of our show, Michigan Uncovered, where we travel to Michigan’s most haunted locations to  investigate claims of paranormal activity.  I got the idea the for the show a couple years ago when I became interested in some of the paranormal shows on tv.  I always wondered if those shows were real or fake, and I kinda wanted to see for myself.  The idea of making a documentary of our investigation seemed cool.  We had so much fun on those first few trips and gained so much filming experience that it just kinda grew from there.

What was the most difficult aspect of shooting this episode?
The most difficult part of this project was definitely the shooting conditions.  Camping out in the middle of nowhere, during winter, surrounded by “ghost” wolves and real wolves…absolutely made filming difficult.  Also, the time constraints. We only had two days to shoot the whole thing.  This was definitely a time where we had to check and double check all of our equipment beforehand because there wouldn’t be a second chance.

Camera Equipment Used:

  • Sony HDR-FX7
  • Sony HDR-UX5
  • Sony DCR-610
  • Canon FS200
  • GoPro HD HeroCam

Audio Equipment Used:

  • Rode Videomic (which I’ve since upgraded)
  • Azden SGM-X
  • Zoom H1 & H2.

Days it took to shoot:

  •  2 days

Day’s it took to edit:

  •     30 days

Crew Positions/Names:

  •  Cruce Grammatico:  camera, editor, director
  •  Colton Caron:  camera, sound, lights
  •  Jake Sherman:  camera, sound, lights
  • Mom: Deb Grammatico

Final Budget:

  •      $200

Post Production Tools / Days to Edit:

  • Final Cut
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Soundbooth
  • Garageband

See more of Cruce’s Work Here:



(*If Down and Dirty DV has helped you with your filmmaking please drop me an email via the “CONTACT” link above, tell me your story and and include a link to your best video work and you just might be the next budding filmmaker to SHINE on

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