Erik Gandolfi (left) and Drew Crocker
Erik Gandolfi (left) and Drew Crocker are betting on themselves with a move from Santa Cruz to Hollywood.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
The Here & Now

Living the dream: Santa Cruz filmmaking duo makes the break for Hollywood

Before heading south to take their shot at Hollywood glory of one kind or another, Drew Crocker and Erik Gandolfi will show all of their comic shorts in one program on an outdoor screen at the Tannery.

Two guys aspiring to bigger things — one talented, confident and good-looking, the other experienced, savvy and two decades older — head south from their comfortable perch in sleepy Santa Cruz to Los Angeles, the land of development deals and SAG cards, where they seek to make a dent in the entertainment industry, learn to use “the” when referring to a freeway, and vow to never complain about Santa Cruz traffic again.

Is it a pitch for a new Netflix series, equal parts “Don Quixote,” “Sideways” and “Easy Rider”?

Maybe one day, but for now it’s the current life plan for local actors and filmmakers Drew Crocker and Erik Gandolfi, who have spent the past two years making zany, absurdist comic short films, and have decided to have a go at Hollywood to see if they can get some attention.

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On Thursday night, Crocker, Gandolfi, and others in their merry band of comic storytellers will host a free event at The Tannery Arts Center, showing all of their comic shorts (20 total) in one program on an outdoor screen.

“It’s not a goodbye,” said Crocker, “it’s a thank you to all of those who were part of these projects, and maybe family and friends, to just come together and watch the dang things we did together.”

If it’s not a goodbye, it’s at least a “so long,” because sometime in the next few weeks, Crocker, 37, is relocating to the Los Angeles area to continue to make short films, find some artistic representation, maybe score an acting job or two, and generally be in the ballgame.

“It’s all just really beginning,” he said.

Crocker is a professional videographer by trade who two years ago began writing and making his own short films. When the pandemic hit and disrupted his business, he doubled down on his filmmaking. Gandolfi is also a professional videographer who experienced a similar downturn in business. The two filmmakers had known each other for a decade and found themselves simpatico as creative partners. Now, Gandolfi, 58, is making the leap to La-La Land as well.

Gandolfi said that he had long planned to move to L.A. to take advantage of some contacts there to pursue voice-acting work. So, he figured, why not jump into the deep end of the pool with Crocker?

“It’s exciting,” said Gandolfi, who has a long track record in local theater. “It’s kind of a rebirth for me in a way, having gone through the career I’ve gone through, and knowing some of the pitfalls and having to give up the dream to get a practical job.”

Crocker and Gandolfi have worked with a company of fellow actors in their projects, and Crocker hopes to continue making short films with a much wider pool of actors, writers and technicians.

“I’m one of the only people doing this kind of stuff (in Santa Cruz),” said Crocker, “so it’s been really fun seeing people being inspired to do stuff with me. But when I’m down in L.A., I only assume there’s going to be more people that are similarly inspired or eager to do projects. Until I’m proven wrong, I don’t think it’ll be much of a challenge to build a new team down there.”

Erik Gandolfi (left) and Drew Crocker
Drew Crocker (right) will have a bigger pool of accomplices to draw from in Los Angeles, while Erik Gandolfi is aiming for a rebirth of sorts.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Crocker Creations imprint has been used on a number of different styles and themes, from parody to satire to cringe comedy. Crocker has done films with only voice-over narration and even with no dialogue or narration at all. He’s aimed his satirical sword at TV commercials, science-fiction, TV-cop-show gore, and sexual relationships, all of it in the service of creating something more ambitious, like a TV series.

“He’s going after the big picture,” Gandolfi said of his younger friend. “It’s not just a pipe dream. He’s dedicated to being a filmmaker.”