Way too many people in many different ways. From indie filmmakers to established professionals, there’s always so much to get out of watching the work of others. I hope to one day have the command of craft like a Spielberg, Kubrick, or Scorcese though. I look at films I love like Amelie or Almost Famous or Good Will Hunting and think “Man, I wish I’d made that film” so I tend to look more at specific films for inspiration or knowledge.
Michael Howard is an actor and filmmaker in North Carolina and his newest feature film “Where We’re Meant to Be” is winning awards on the festival circuit and was just picked up for distribution for later this year. He’s currently acting in a film called “Going Down Slow” and directing a documentary on grief entitled “Black Hole of the Soul”. We sat down with him to ask a few questions about where he started and how things are going.
What was your first film?
It was a dialogue-driven feature film, super low budget, focusing on three central characters. It was a great learning experience but is kinda tough to watch now. It’s not good enough to release anywhere but there are some really strong scenes that I’m still happy with and I can see where a lot of my vision started to form with certain shots and moments. You know, we made it for experience and that’s exactly what we got.
How did you get started in film making?
Uh, I did it kinda backwards. So I made that first feature film before making any shorts or actually taking any film classes. I was fortunate enough to know two filmmakers before my career started named Kevin Smith and Vincent Pereira and they were the ones who inspired me and got me to make my first film. Vincent is a technical genius in regards to filmmaking and can look at a film and tell you that they matted the 2.35:1 framing incorrectly and that it was really 2.34:1 and there was also a visual mistake due to a mishandled 35mm transfer etc etc… So he’s the friend that really opened my eyes on looking at films from a technical standpoint. Kev was more of the creative force and after I wrote my first screenplay, he’s the one that told me to just go make it. That I shouldn’t “want” to be a filmmaker, that I should just “be” one. So the summer of 2001 is when I made that first film with little money and very few of us really having much experience. And then that fall I took my first film production class and started making short films and such within there.
Who do you look up to as a film maker?
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety of projects and people I get to meet. I get to work in the industry full time so that alone is a plus but then getting to act in film too and have so much fun along the way can’t be beat. When not doing that, I’m working from home as an editor so the flexibility is great. I have continuing friendships with people I’ve met on all sorts of different films and sometimes that alone has led to being a part of other films — it’s a win win. And then just getting to create and be a part of work that moves or entertains people is huge.
If you had a magic wand, what film would you do next?
Um, a really interesting sci-fi film like Gattaca or Moon would be awesome as would something for Pixar. I think ultimately I’m best suited for lower budget films though. I’ve said before that I don’t need to make films at the level of Spielberg but it would be great to have an Edward Burns type of career.
Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
Acting and continuing to make more films, hopefully just at a higher level. It would be nice to be in a position to get offers on high-caliber projects for acting and getting larger budgets for my own films. It would also be nice to have access to great scripts and come on as a director at times. But I enjoy so many aspects of this industry that I’ll just be happy to remain involved in one way or another.
What’s your message to the youth of today’s generation?
Well at the ripe age of 38, I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the youth experience and what the hell they are going through but I think it’s safe to say that it stays pretty universal in general. The best advice I can give is to pursue your passion. Don’t keep putting it off until it’s too late and then just never happens. Don’t get yourself in crazy debt but take those chances and don’t be afraid to get out there and do what you wanna do. It’s easier than ever to make a film right now and nothing will prepare you better than being on set and actually going through it. Seeing the mistakes and discovering all the places you could have done better is glaringly obvious after-the-fact. You know, sitting in an editing room and watching a scene not work because you didn’t plan it enough or didn’t get enough coverage or whatever the case may be — that’s the best lesson you can get for the next one. But whatever your passion is, just go for it and give it the proper chance. Even if it doesn’t work out, you at least tried it or it might lead to something else. Don’t “want” to do it, go do it.
– You can follow Michael and his work at www.facebook.com/