Interview with Michael McCallum Jury Prize Winner


1. What was your first conscious memory you’d be making films at some point in your life?

 I've always been a huge movie buff. I started out wanting to act. My parents struggled to make ends meet and a lot of my free time as a child was spent at "game night" at our house. I was surrounded by adults and would end up on someone's team for Scrabble, Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit. It was during these nights that I would do impersonations of actors, characters in current films and the people playing the games.

It was only after I had started college and was taking acting classes that I took a film class. I originally took the class to have some understanding of what a director went through to better be able to relate to and work with them. 

I then auditioned for and acted in some of the worst movies made in Michigan. It was after these experiences that I began writing and ,asking my own films to give actors a better experience than I had at that time.

2. Why did you want to tell this particular story?

Confidence Of a Tall Man started, like most of my films, as just a loose story. I saw these two brothers stuck with their Father's failing bar. It truly came from this initial idea and then working through the story with a long time writing collaborator, Juatin Muschong. Once there was something more concrete there I mentioned it to a talented actor friend, Johnny DeMarco, and was amazed by how many things in the story correlated with his own life. I know we had something special at that moment.

I also think the film is a reflection on how tough things are for the little guy and small Mom and Pop businesses that continue to struggle and will continue to under the current administration.

3. Where was it made?

The film was shot entirely in Lansing, MI. In the downtown area and mainly in a section of town called, Old Town. Most of the film was shot in a really cool bar called Zoobies. I love utilizing the flavor of Lansing. It's a city most people just drive through from Grand Rapids to get to Detroit. I see it's hidden treasures.

4. Who contributed the most to the success of your film?

Well, this, like most films it's really a team effort to make it all come together. I can't really give one person more credit than another. But a few distinct names comes to mind. My co-editor, Andrew K. Tebeau, who really helped pick up the slack in post with not only editing the film with me, but also coloring it as well. Johnny DeMarco, our lead actor, who not only gave his all in his performance, but has been a great friend through the tough process of getting this film completed. And of course my Father, William C. McCallum, who is my best friend and rock through every film I make.

5. If you could give advice to a filmmaker hesitating on picking up a camera to tell their story, what would it be?

Shit or get off the pot. No one is going to hold your hand to help y tell your stories. If you're afraid, get over it. The only mistake comes in not trying at all. Once you start, don't let people discourage you and don't take criticism too personally. Also, once you finish the film, don't let the compliments go to your head. Make great work and let whatever happens happen. 

6. What films or filmmakers most influence you in your lifetime?

There are too many films to name. I think of maverick filmmakers. Orson Welles, Sidney Lumet, Elia Kazan, Jules Dassan, Ida Lupino, Martin Scorsese, Brian DePalma, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. People that fought every second to make the work that they wanted to make and sometimes paid the heaviest costs to tell the stories they needed to tell. They didn't want to, they NEEDED to.

7. What’s your next project going to be?

I'm currently working on my first documentary and in post on two short films. Reverb, which is my first sci-fi film, and Deadbolt, which is a crime noir. I'm also in preproduction on a new feature. Polar, which is a post-apocalyptic story.

8. Your acceptance speech for this film, what would you like to let people know about the film, about you, or about those who helped you in your journey in life?

That it's a constant battle to make films. Art as a whole is difficult, but film especially. No one promised us a rose garden. It's meant to be tough and difficult. It separates the ones that want to do it from those that NEED to do it. I'm grateful to everyone that has contributed to this film and any I've made in the past. It couldn't have happened without them.

9. Where are you from? (what city, what's it like in your city)

I'm from Lansing, MI. I still live here currently. It's in the Midwest so the weather is constantly up and down. There is a lot of really kind, hardworking people here and a vibrant local music scene. It's a place I love, defend and sometimes get easily annoyed with. It's home.

What editing software did you use, and have you ever used Pinnacle before or heard anything about it?

 We used Adobe Premiere. I have never used it, but am excited to try it on a future project. It's truly an honor to have not only been accepted, but won at the DIY Film Festival for three of my previous films, Buffalo, Two For the Show and now Confidence Of a Tall Man. I look forward to submitting new work next year!

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