How did you get into directing?
I first got excited about film directing when I realized that it combines all the media I love to work in: performance, photography, design, sound, and music. Then I specialized in animation when I discovered that you can be a total control freak. Making short films was a great way to break into directing, and I still create independent work in my spare time.
What is your most recent project?
I’m currently in production on a three-spot campaign for Case-Mate, a smartphone case manufacturer. We’re creating a God-like character with a man’s body and a little girl’s oversized head who conducts case designs through her hand gestures, a man with hands made of steel wool, and a rendition of Ave Maria using the screams of people dropping their phones.
What is the best part of being a director?
I love creating problems to solve. Every idea is a riddle, requiring a lot of thought and experimentation to figure out how to make it come to life on the screen. Watching a piece on loop the night you finish it is pretty sweet, too.
Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons)
and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates most with you?
One of my favorite mentor moments was freshman year at RISD, when I was doubting one of my ideas because it was too “out there.” My professor, Lee Dejasu, grabbed a scrap of paper, scrawled “Michael’s Official Creative License” and a little barking “official seal” on it, and thrust it into my hand. I’ve been as weird as can be ever since.
Who is your favorite director and why?
Norman McLaren was a Scottish experimental animator who founded the animation department at the National Film Board of Canada. I love his work because he found so much joy in experimentation, and shared his passion for it with the world through his films. He pioneered a huge number of animation techniques that we still see today, and never stopped taking risks.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial?
My favorite short film right now is David O’Reilly’s Please Say Something. It is truly brilliant. If forced to pick a favorite feature, it’s probably Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part One. Favorite commercial might be the original Budweiser “True” one with the “Whassap” guys on the phone. As much as I love crazy techniques, it’s hard to beat that spot.
Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, but I was born a Damn Yankee from Rhode Island. Went back for the Rhode Island School of Design, then came out to San Francisco to shoot ads and short graffiti documentaries for Upper Playground. After two years I had a few hundred videos under my belt. I parlayed the film festival success of my film “Doxology” into directing commercials, then signed with Mekanism, where I’ve happily been ever since.