- Guest Filmmaker -
Today I introduce another filmmaker from Australia - Michael Condon. Michael produces film and video. His experience ranges from directing music videos to shooting corporate videos to producing documentaries.
Clients have included Coca Cola, Casio, The Guardian newspaper, Global Post and PBS Newshour. He was part of Global Post's team of video journalists and producers who won a 2011 Peabody award and Edward R. Murrow award for their work on globalpost.com's "On Location" video series. Welcome, Michael ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FILM-MAKING JOURNEY.
I’m primarily a documentary filmmaker but I have done a range of things from directing an independent zombie film to shooting music videos. I used to work as a newspaper reporter in Australia and a newspaper editor in Tokyo but I always moonlighted in film, shooting short films and music videos. Eventually I was able to marry my love for writing feature stories with film by shooting short form documentaries for clients like Global Post the Guardian and PBS Newshour. This work enabled me to work on subjects as the tsunami and subsequent nuclear incident at Fukushima daiichi in Japan and North Korean defector stories in Korea. I currently work as the creative director at a company called Lucid Media in Brisbane which specialises in new media communications.
WERE YOU INTERESTED IN FILMS AS A KID?
Absolutely. I lived in several small rural towns in Australia where there wasn’t much to do other than play sport or watch videos. The video stores were always massive places with thousands of VHS videos. My brother and I used to ride our bikes to the store and grab a bunch of videos for the weekend.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A CAMERA OPERATOR?
I’ve used cameras since I was in high school and shot a 50min zombie movie on a camcorder in 2004 but I wouldn’t say that I became a real camera operator until 2009/2010 when I took on a job at a small news agency in Tokyo. I worked there as an editor but quickly had to learn to shoot as they needed someone who could do both.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Being able to tell stories in a powerful way, mixing different disciplines. Getting sent to places around Asia to shoot interesting stories. Meeting people who I usually wouldn’t come into contact with. Dreaming up a concept in my head and then making it reality.
DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
I used to be a freelancer which was great in terms of freedom but sometimes stressful. I’ve recently become a partner at my current company which is exciting as it gives me a chance to build something more substancial.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME INVOLVED IN MAKING FILMS?
I worked as a reporter on a couple of regional newspapers before becoming a crime reporter for The Newcastle Herald in Australia. I then moved to Japan and taught English for a while before getting back into newspapers, working at the Asahi Shimbun/International Herald Tribune in Tokyo. I was also editor-in-chief of a business magazine in Tokyo.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I’m not sure if I have any great achievements. In terms of awards, I was part of Global Post’s team of reporters and filmmakers who won a Peabody and two Edward R Murrow awards for our work on their On Location series. That was really fantastic.
I think the project that I’m most proud of was a multimedia documentary that I did with reporter Justin McCurry for Global Post. It was called After the Tsunami and it looked at the effects of the tsunami at different stages in the year after the disaster. The tsunami and the nuclear issues were so broad and wide ranging that often the impacts on the people were being overlooked or somehow lost. I think we were able to provide a bit of a window into different people’s situations and I hope that the people that watched
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
A bunch of different things. Working on some hybrid documentary ideas at the moment which is exciting - more cinematic stuff.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECT?
I don’t really have one. I guess I’m interested in adventure or people’s struggles, internally or externally. I would say that coming at it from a reporter’s point of view, I’m just looking to find a good story.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Beautiful cinema. Cinema at it’s best is the most powerful way to tell a story. It can be incredible.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING FILMMAKERS?
Don’t have a big ego. Be prepared to do what you may believe is a shitty job and understand that anything can be an opportunity – either to improve your craft or to get that next job that might be the one that takes you that next step. Focus on story. Think about what makes a great story whether you’re shooting a documentary or a fictional film. Work hard to improve your storytelling skills. Also, don’t keep your eyes closed to what’s around you – everyone has a story.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXOTIC DESTINATION IN WHICH YOU HAVE WORKED?
It depends what you define as exotic but I was sent to Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea just after it was bombed by North Korea. It was I think minus ten with a wind chill of eight degrees. The place was largely deserted expect for some of the local residents and of course the Korea military and some journalists. The North Koreans were threatening to attack again. It felt like the ends of the Earth.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE OR TIME TO FILM?
I’m probably not alone here, but late afternoon. Awesome light. Also at night after it’s rained in Tokyo. That city is always amazing though.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU AS A FILMMAKER?
Absolutely. Certainly relationships with people and the characters you meet in your life influences you. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience things through my work in newspapers that gives you a range of experiences that not everyone gets, that has certainly been an influence.
HOW MANY FILMS HAVE YOU PRODUCED? WHO FOR?
A lot. I’m not sure really. They have been all pretty short though. I’ve done work for the Guardian, Global Post, PBS Newshour and then shot video for a bunch of other clients.
OTHER THAN MAKING FILMS, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love snowboarding. I’ve boarded all over Japan and would love to board in The US/Canada and Europe.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Waking up early (ish – not too early, that’s madness). Realizing I’m in the Japanese Alps. And boarding the best powder in the world with my friends. Coming back, jumping in an outdoors hot spring bath, and drinking a fantastic strong, hoppy beer created by a master brewer. That would be my perfect day.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To continue to build the company that I’ve become a part of. To develop new ways to tell stories within the online sphere. And to shoot a couple of short fictional films. Also, I’m going to study a graduate certificate in directing at the Australian Film, Radio and Television School (AFTRS) later this year. After that I’ll start thinking about longer films.
IF YOU MADE A FILM FOR THE LEADERS OF THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
That’s a pretty tough question. I’d like to make a film showing the experience of a refugee coming to Australia. I think that this would be more for Australians themselves though (and for other citizens of our region). Our leaders make decisions based on the mood of the public. The power of film is that it can make people experience things through the eyes of others. I wish that people would act more humanely towards refugees – maybe a film could help that a bit.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Michael. I hope you get to make that movie on refugees. You'll have my support, and is well overdue.