Island Prey
Island Prey is currently airing on the Lifetime Network nationwide and can be rented at video stores nationally as well as on Netflix.

The Letters

Other Features - Island Prey Article 2

Los Angeles Filmmaker Makes New Movie
on Catalina Island
By Michelle Fisher
News Staff Writer

Longtime filmmaker Bill Riead of Rolling Hills has numerous award-winning documentaries under his belt. With the upcoming release of his feature film "Island Prey," he is hoping for both commercial and critical success.

Long before the top-rated show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" ever aired, Regis Philbin helped one budding local filmmaker get a start in the movie business and become a millionaire. Rolling Hills resident Bill Riead, who is buried in post-production on his latest film "Island Prey," relied on such contacts years ago when he was a broadcast journalist eager to break into the weird and wonderful world of filmmaking.

Riead met Regis on the set of a video he was filming for Gloria Marshall Figure Salons - Regis was the host - and the two clicked, exchanging numbers. Three days later Riead's phone rang, and on the other end was an executive from Columbia Pictures who'd gotten a tip from Regis that Riead was both a director and a journalist. Columbia was looking for someone to write, direct and produce "The Making of 'Midnight Express'."

"They hired me away from CBS to do something that was so much fun, I was embarrassed to take the check," he recalls.

This documentary marked the launch of Riead Productions and the start of a 34-year career that would include films on the making of "The Goodbye Girl" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" among others, as well as documentaries about tobacco advertising and heart disease prevention that won numerous awards. For his work on the latter, entitled "Change of Heart," Riead became the first director for the Discovery Channel to be nominated for a CableACE Award.

On the film, he worked with and became friends with Walter Matthau, who died earlier this month from heart disease. "I just loved him," Riead says of Matthau. "We were great friends."

Riead decided to make "Dying For A Smoke" after reading a Los Angeles Times article about how the tobacco industry was spending $2.2 billion a year on billboard advertisements targeting teenagers and women. He enlisted the help of Chuck Norris, Gregory Hines and Charlton Heston to make the film a success.

Though Riead is reluctant to boast, he has also received awards from the World Health Organization, the John Muir Medical Film Festival and the Council of International Non-Theatrical Events. Since then, Riead has contracted with five of the seven major movie studios and two major television networks.

"It's a real passion for me. I love what I do," says Riead. "As long as I'm doing it, I'd like to get a good message across."

Learning from the Pros

Riead's commitment to public service no doubt arose from his years of working in the New York and London bureaus of CBS News. Fresh out of college, Riead secured a job at a local TV station working as a news cameraman apprentice, and worked his way up from there. "I studied with one of the best, and I took to it like a duck to water," he recalls. "It wasn't just easy, it was something I loved to do."

It was the ideal time to work for CBS News, he says, because "60 Minutes" was just getting started and faced little competition without cable TV and CNN to contend with. Walter Cronkite drew high ratings and budgets were "plentiful," Riead says, so CBS sent him to work in its London bureau with Charles Collingwood.

Switching from TV reporter to filmmaker was "a natural transition," says Riead. "Once I became a reporter, then I understood both sides of the camera," he says. Although Riead had already filmed several documentaries, he still needed a key industry connection, and Regis was that connection. After Regis' recommendation, Columbia stole Riead away from CBS and he spent the next five years doing "behind-the-scenes" films on the making of several high-profile movies. Working with stars like Paul Newman and directors like Herbert Ross ("The Goodbye Girl") exposed Riead to the rigors of filmmaking and gave him the contacts he needed to break through.

Another important contact he made was actor Ed Asner, with whom he remains friends today. Asner stars in his upcoming film "Island Prey," along with veteran actress Olivia Hussey, who is best known as Franco Zeffirelli's Juliet in his 1968 adaptation of Shakespeare's fateful tragedy.

Hobnobbing with the stars hasn't fazed the humble Riead, who counts famous actors as well as musicians, such as David Benoit, among his friends. "I'm not impressed with myself. I'm surprised when others are impressed with my work," Riead says. "I'm no more important than a plumber. We're all doing something. Just because I'm doing something that's viewed as more prestigious in our society doesn't make me better."

The most important thing, he stresses, is doing what you love. "I pushed myself to do what I really love, and that I am proud of," he says.

Stalking Success

"Island Prey" represents Riead's first foray into feature films since he made the action-adventure movie "Scorpion" in 1986. He wrote, directed and produced "Scorpion," which starred international karate champion Tonny Tulleners. It was distributed by Columbia nationwide and by Warner Bros. internationally. Though the film raked in the bucks overseas, Riead found the experience "unpleasant" and not at all rewarding. So he returned to documentaries. "I found it wasn't nourishing really. I wanted to do work that was more meaningful," Riead says. " I felt that movies were just entertainment, and that wasn't enough for me."

Now, more than a decade later, Riead has learned that entertainment can be meaningful, as well as fun. When he gushes about his latest project, or another film he plans to begin shooting this Fall, his enthusiasm is infectious. He says he feels lucky to have such wonderful people working for him, on both his cast and crew. He enlisted Jack Green who has worked as Clint Eastwood's director of photography for 30 years to come on as co-producer. Lisa, his wife of 13 years, is the film's producer.

After completing the screenplay, Riead says he knew he had to get Hussey to play the lead. "I wanted to get her in this film because she was so absolutely perfect for the role. I always wanted to work with her," he says. "She was just a consummate professional."

Riead was thrilled to work again with Asner, who plays the lawyer helping Hussey's character, Catherine Gaits. Feeling neglected by her filthy rich husband, Catherine has an affair that leads to blackmail and stalking. Essentially, Riead says, the story begins as a love triangle and ends as a suspense thriller. Such triangles, he notes, are at the center of such classic movies as "Casablanca," "Dr. Zhivago" and "Titanic." "I like to make the type of movies I want to watch," he says. "The best movies involve that kind of dynamic. I wanted to do the kind of movie that will keep people on the edge of their seats," he says.

Riead says that despite the draw of special effects and action movies, audiences are primarily interested in human interaction. "With the stalker storyline, everyone is rooting for [Catherine]," he says. "A veteran director (Herbert Ross) once told me, 'Make your audience either love your characters or hate them with a passion'."

He also believes a film's backdrop plays a vital role in its success - take "The Talented Mr. Ripley" - so he opted to shoot the entire film in the South Bay of Los Angeles and on Catalina Island. Simon's Restaurant in San Pedro is featured, as are various locales in Palos Verdes Estates. Adding more local flavor is music by Peninsulan David Benoit.

Though most films take at least three months to shoot, Riead says they shot "Island Prey" in 19 days. As the film's director, however, his job is far from finished.

"I'm in the editing room every second of every day. Directing doesn't stop after you've left the set," Riead says, explaining that he must review the score, sound effects and dialogue, as well as oversee the editing process. "It's a business. I want it to be good. I want it to be a quality motion picture. Quality is very important to me," he continues.

To ensure the highest level of quality, he used the same type of camera utilized to film "Titanic" and the same lenses as in "Saving Private Ryan". "Watching it, I'm very satisfied with the end result," says Riead, who is quick to credit the entire team that made this movie happen.

When he watches the movie now, he says he does so with the eye of a technician, or critic, checking each and every piece of the puzzle to make sure it fits together perfectly. "I am a perfectionist," Riead says. "That is the best thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing."

Palos Verdes Peninsula News / Thursday, July 20, 2000