Interview with director Mike West

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

It might sound kind of dumb but after I saw Christopher Nolan’s film Memento in high school, I thought about it the rest of the day and it made a real impression on me. That’s when I knew I wanted to try something crazy and make movies for a living.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

None of it is easy, it’s all hard. Raising money and getting people to trust in your idea are the two constants.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Hire crew you trust and listen to their ideas. I was trying to figure something out for myself on the film and the assistant director came up with a creative solution we ended up using. Listen to people.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Working within my budget and wearing 10 different hats at the same time. It can be overwhelming at times. Again, it’s helpful to rely on people you trust.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The climax of the film is a long take and took some coordination. This was a struggle to get right but I feel like we pulled it off.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I have worked with a few of the crew in the past and they brought in other crew they had worked with before. Nothing fosters a relationship better than lots of pizza and beer.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

In my opinion, most general audiences want to be entertained and forget about their problems for 2 hours. Entertaining people is ok. But, however selfish or pretentious this may sound, I believe it’s the filmmaker’s responsibility to challenge the audience and help them understand why they feel what they feel or why they think what they think. This is filmmaking at its best.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

They are fun networking opportunities. Meeting people is where the real profit is. It’s also fun (or sometimes painful) to see how people react to your film.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I will refer to Jim Jarmusch here- “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

  • What qualities or attributes do you look for in people you are looking to employ or work with?

Creativity and reliability.

  • Would you recommend writers think like a producer when writing their script? Or, just write with reckless abandon and then worry about the cost, or whatever, after they’ve grabbed a producer’s attention.

Absolutely, money always effects decisions.

  • How involved in the writing of a project do you get? Are you more involved in the initial development?

The more involved the better. The script and the director should always be on the same page.

  • If you had an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would be your dream production project?

Not totally sure. The only thing I know is I would sell out really fast. Seeing the engine light come on in my old car get’s annoying fast. So if anyone from Disney sees this, get me on the next Marvel movie.

  • What does the future of film look like?

I believe however faint they may be, there will always be room for creative, innovative, and independent voices in filmmaking.