Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Interview with Director\Producer Michal Page

Today we're doing a Q&A with Michal Page, Director\Producer. Michal has worked in the Film industry for 14 yrs, and has an IMDB entry as long as my arm.

TGL - Hi Michal, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us, please tell us a little about yourself.

MP - My name is Michal Page. I've worked my way on set through the ranks of an Assistant Director to a Director/Producer & Production Manager. I've also dabbled in Acting but HATE IT. I've been in the 'biz' for over 14 years and known on set as 'Scoops', 'Dinky' or 'Dinkster'...and can be found in the credits usually with my name spelled wrong. I like long walks on the beach, surf n' turf, the REDWINGS and today I woke up completely hungover with little elves hammering away at the inside of my head and my stomach churning from some sort of cheap hooch and I truly feel like the most pathetic being on the planet. I get in the shower which has lost virtually all water pressure for some reason. I think back upon the previous evening's poor decision-making in which I ignored the voices in my head telling me to go home at a respectable hour, preferring instead to stay until the bitter end....huhhhhhhhh and as I stand under this little trickle of a lukewarm shower, a dark sense of gloom settles over me. some sort of regretful shadowy feeling. I think what the HELL did I do last night? Did I make out with a handsome and/or geek total stranger in some dark booth or in the ladies room? No. (dang) did I dance on the bar? No, no that's not it. (dang dang) Did I drunk dial an ex? Oh shit, no it's worse. I drunk POSTED a zillion strange men on Craigslist's Women Seeking Men. Shit. Shit. Now I will have an inbox full of dick pics and notes from lascivious stalkers...and what if I didn't spell check?? the spelling and grammar perfectionists will have at me next. and wait.. what exactly did I write? Oh god, I didn't reveal my long and agonizing stint of celibacy did I? How will I get to work in time to destroy all of the computers because I know my coworkers read CL all day. Surely they will know it was me. I'm packing my bags because now I need to change my identity and move out of the country but I will still remain hilariously awesome - just somewhere else.

TGL - Bahahahahaha *roflmao*... But seriously "Dinkster" How did you get into the Movie Making Business and what has kept you working in the industry over the years?

MP - Honestly, there was no magical wish I made nor did I know anyone in the biz....I was going to Ryerson University and just happened to walk into a lab at school and came across a flyer from a Production Company that needed PA's (production assistant) for the up coming Feature Film being shot in Toronto. I went for an interview and the interview I felt went okay - but as I was walking out to my car - this guy came running up to me in the parking lot and said, 'I'm sorry to run up to you like this, but I heard your interview...My name is blahblah blah, I'm the 1st AD (assistant director). I was wondering if you would like to be my TAD (trainee ass't director - in charge of getting the cast processed (hair/makeup/wardrobe/signing cast in&out etc etc, basically a glorified gopher) on set for the duration of the film?' I was like, 'HELL YA!' Well, I guessed I did something right, I did the entire film and they asked me back to do the next and then the next....Back then you only needed to finish 3 films as a trainee and 3 reference letters from 3 differ Guild members to get into the DGC Union (Director's Guild of Canada). I entered the union as an Associate Member and shortly after became a full member...Now, over 14 years later - I still the love rush of shooting and I am still plug'n away as an Assistant Director but now also have been a Production Manager, Producer and have even Directed. What keeps me in the biz? Passion, cool people, free food and travel on someones dime other than myself...Could anything be better? :p

TGL - Writing is a very personal experience for most writers. They put pieces of themselves into each scene, and character. When you have a script in front of you and you are thinking about how it should play out on screen, how do you interpret the Writers vision? What are some good tips for writers to keep in mind when they are creating a scene...

MP - Tips? For me, when I write things and want to bring it to life...I make sure to surround myself with a Production team that shares the same vision. It's So important to have a DOP (director of photography) and a Director that know how to not only bring the story out through actors, but also through all the other lil' effects you need to bring to life without words and scenery.

TGL - How much creative license is taken with a script once it leaves a writers hands? Is there an effort to stay true to the concepts and vision, or do you find that Directors take creative license with a script in order to bring their vision to life?

MP - Well if you have a great team that shares the same vision you'd stay pretty close to the story and vision on how you want to tell it - but unfortunately, budget always plays a HUGE roll in making that happen.

TGL - Creating well defined characters that stand on their own is sometimes difficult in writing. Separating one character from others is challenging in that you almost need to have multiple personalities yourself to develop a unique voice. As a Director\Producer how much is in the script? How much is Direction? And how much is Acting? Is it a chorus of all three, or a solo act?

MP - Again, the casting process is a complicated one. But all Producers, Director's and Casting have a huge part in who is cast and who can bring the 'vision' to life as how you'd want it portrayed... (so 100% pre production prod.dir.cast) but once cast, the actors, I think, are over 80% responsible for how the character comes to life. That's why it's SO important that it's made clear before hand who you want - nothing worse then not goin' to these meetings on who you want and what you want in pre-production - then, gettin' to set for Day 1 of shooting, and the actor can't act their way out of a trash can.

TGL - If 100 new scripts were handed to you, and you had to pick only one to develop and produce, what would you look for? What script characteristics make a project jump out at you?

MP - Huummmm - well the 100 scripts would have to be dropped off to me in person so I could see who I'm dealing with...Then, I'd pick the most good looking dude in the lot...you know, cause we'd be spending A LOT of time together...so I better have some eye candy... Bah hahahaha!

TGL - There’s a big difference between what the US calls a Big Budget Movie and what Canada calls Big Budget. I heard that an average feature budget in Canada is around $2 Million vs. $25 Million in the US. How much attention to the financial side of things should a Writer pay when trying to market a film? Can a $25 Million dollar movie be made for $2 Million in Canada? Or are we just not putting as much production value into our home grown box office?

MP - Well you can't shoot a film like X-Men, Hulk or Superman on a 2 mil budget...Be realistic. I mean, you can put a plastic model Superman dangling on some fishing line but would you really want to? I mean, unless the Director or Lead Actor is George Clooney. Eye candy is SO important. :p

TGL - Are there many differences in working on a Canadian project vs. a US project?

MP - Yeah, the food...and a pay cheque. Oh, did I also mention George Clooney possibly shirtless?

TGL - Do you ever have the writer on set for last minute re-writes or consultations? Is that the standard or the exception?

MP - It's rare. If the production office happens to be close by, yes....but usually if re-writes are needed they will be faxed to the 2nd AD on set in the mobile AD/production office...or if minimal - the Director/Producer/Writer will conference call on set.

TGL - What advice do you have for writers who are looking to make it big? Got any secrets you wanna share? ;) Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who are reading this interview?

MP - Advice? Yep, don't expect to make it big. Having dreams and thinking positive of making it big is one thing, just don't expect it. Huummm - what would I like to say about anyone reading this interview...? Well, you just got a taste of how awesome I am and should we meet on set one day, I like my Starbucks '1/2 decaf venti, sugar-free vanilla, skim milk, 180 degree latte - in a double cup w/ a sleeve' and served with a smile...

TGL - Michal, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. As always it has been a pleasure.


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