Michael E. Wood

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I spent Memorial Day weekend in Clearwater, Florida with my girlfriend and her lovely family. At the last minute, I decided to bring along a GoPro camera I’ve had sitting around in my closet the past two years. I took it out one day when we went water tubing and for a sunset walk on the beach with their beloved dog, Buck. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to wipe out while being dragged in an inner tube by a high powered boat, the end of this video offers you a closeup of my face as that’s happening.

Gates & Greene

I started a production company! Gates & Greene LLC is a digital media company specializing in video content. Or at least that’s what I call it when I’m trying to sound fancy. It’s named after the cross streets where I grew up in Brooklyn. Since opening, we have made all of the video content for Bystander Revolution — currently almost 500 videos for their website and Instagram channel. We make all kinds of stuff. Check us out at Gates & Greene’s company website, which I designed.

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For the last 9 months, I’ve worked as the video director of a new anti-bullying web campaign called ‘Bystander Revolution’ — a crowd-sourced collection of videos with practical solutions to bullying. Above is the 3-minute trailer we made to introduce the project featuring interviews with Demi Lovato, Kevin Spacey, Jared Leto, Tony Robbins, Amanda Palmer, John Green, Jenna Elfman, Michael J. Fox, Akon, Chad Smith, Jillian Michaels, Missy Franklin, Salma Hayek, Jason Mraz, Shailene Woodley, Kenny Ortega and Elizabeth Banks, as well as several of our student contributors.

My production company, Gates & Greene, made over 300 videos for the site that can be seen here. They’re all 1-2 minute videos from unscripted interviews with celebrities and students about their experiences with bullying. From the stories of almost 100 interview subjects, we identified 74 problem and solution categories that you can browse on the site as well. Check it out and please share with anyone you think it can help. Thanks!

'Gowanus 83' is a comedy short I made 3 years ago at NYU for a directing class with John Hamburg. Co-written with my longtime friend Chris Arp in a few days, and then shot in just a few more, this film came together quickly and chaotically — an experience that entirely mirrored the spirit of the film.

Thinking the project was mainly for fun, I originally released it online but then took it down to pursue a brief festival run where it won the Spirit Award at the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival. The full film is now available online above and on my vimeo page. Enjoy!

Flow: a thirty minute take

I never studied psychology but I’ve read about the term flow to describe (via wikipedia) “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” During this period, certain parts of our brains become hyper-activated and we become so singularly focused on the task at hand that we can lose a sense of time and even an awareness of ourselves. Musicians, athletes and other performers often describe this state as getting “into the zone" or "locked in”.

On the last film I shot, my classmate Jason Stefaniak’s thesis film ‘The Middle Ground’, I had a chance to experience this elusive state of flow as a cinematographer. In a completely improvised scene, two actors were play-fighting and cuddling on a bed while I filmed the action with a handheld camera. My 1st AC, the incomparable Jeff Brink, pulled focus for me while the sound team also followed the action. What resulted was nothing short of magical.

The director put on some music to set the mood and almost immediately, the actors and crew began what can best be described as a dance — the crew moving around the actors as we felt inspired by the music playing and the life unfolding in front of us. Looking through my camera’s viewfinder, I felt completely connected to the scene. My senses were entirely heightened. I was no longer just filming the actors but felt a visceral and emotional connection to what was happening before me. Without thinking at all, my instincts directed the movements of the camera like a ouija board. Time began to melt away and before I knew it, we had shot one take for 30 minutes straight. Despite the fact that my camera weighed 30 pounds and hurt my back throughout the shoot, I felt no pain whatsoever.

When the shot finished, I looked up at the crew and could see that everyone had experienced a similar thing. It was as if we had just been through a time warp together. For those 30 minutes, we had all been completely focused on our individual tasks and the feeling of finally coming up for air was almost disorienting. We had all just experienced flow in filmmaking and the process was more gratifying than any single shot I’ve ever photographed. You can see a few screen grabs from the uninterrupted 30 minute take above.

Koharubiyori (小春日和)

In early February, I had the amazing opportunity to shoot my classmate Toshimichi Saito’s thesis film in Japan. We filmed on the Arri Alexa for 8 days in Kobe, Osaka, and Okayama with a Japanese crew in some beautiful locations.

The project was particularly exciting as it was my first trip to Asia and Toshi was really open to explore unconventional ways of telling the story with the camera. ‘Koharubiyori’, which translates to English best as “Indian Summer”, tells the story of a disconnected family and several lonely urban dwellers who join together at a funeral in a small village in west Japan’s countryside. The film is a drama inspired by classic Japanese films like Kenji Mizoguchi’sUgetsu’ and culminates in an enchanting Nihon Buyo performance by a mysterious and spirited woman who unexpectedly helps the family with preparations for the funeral.

With an ambitious production scale and an almost entirely Japanese crew, the shoot posed some interesting challenges. For one, the set was run in Japanese and I needed a translator to let me know what was going on most of the time. On the first day, we were shooting guerrilla style inside the impossibly loud cargo hold of a commercial jet. While I was adjusting the iris on the camera, amidst a chaotic back and forth in Japanese, I was surprised to see in my viewfinder that we were recording a take! I hadn’t learned the terms for “picture’s up”, “camera speeding” or “we’re about to get kicked out this friggin’ plane!” at that point.

Thankfully, the craft of telling stories with images is way more universal than Japanese or English, and we were in no short order of talented filmmakers. The production was a thrilling experience of trying new things, working with old friends, and making new ones. We were in local newspapers, on national television, and while boarding the flight home, the smiling face of our lead actress bid us a final farewell from a Visa® billboard. The Japanese are great with warmhearted goodbyes.