Why Passion Projects Matter

Field Notes Interview #27: Michael Sutton, Filmmaker

At the end of the day, an artist's life is emotionally fulfilled by the projects dictated by passion over finances. Acclaimed filmmaker, Michael Sutton proves that you can have success in both areas in his new time-lapse film Frozen Fortress featuring the track "Fleeting" by Marmoset Artist, Kevin Matley.

Over the last few months, Sutton documented the magical setting of the hand-built ice castles in Lincoln, NH out of sheer awe of these ethereal structures. Filming in sub zero temperatures, this project was a labor of love and the results are paying off. Since its premiere, this film will be featured in Gizmodo, Buzzfeed and Discovery Channel Canada showing that projects from the heart go a long way.

We got a chance to interview Michael about this project and the importance of music, passion and collaboration in all of his films. Read on and let us know what you think by commenting below.


M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

MS: When I was 16 years old I had a natural gravitation towards cameras. From there it moved to movie cameras 16mm and 35mm.

M: What's your favorite moment in the filmmaking process?

MS: I enjoy the capture process more than anything else. A lot of time I do not get to see the final project and in some cases even the dailies and I have learned to love shooting.

M: How did Frozen Fortress come into form? What's the story behind this project?

MS: Frozen Fortress came to light after my wife mentioned Ice Castles would be opening a location in NH about two hours north of where we live. I was originally going to grab a few clips for my film Operation Origami: The 100 Cranes, is a time-lapse film my wife and I have been making since 2011. Once I got permission to film at Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire, I went up and was blown away by the man-made structures and the process of how the castled were made. I knew right away I wanted to make this its own film and I wanted to collaborate with someone. Julian Tryba (Boston LayerLapse) stepped up to the challenge and I am glad he did.

M: What do you think defines a filmmakers' "voice"?

MS: That's a tough question. I think we all have different voices in various areas, so I feel that if you can convey a feeling to someone else, be it happiness, anger, sadness, etc., you might have made your voice known.

M: Do you always have a clear vision in mind when filming?

MS: No. I almost never have a plan in place and often find myself getting into a project only after the fact. Frozen Fortress is a great example of this.

M: Were there any happy accidents when filming?

MS: The main happy accident was finding the drive to keep going back to the film and not rush it. I personally made 8 x four hour drives and Julian made 2 x six hour drives to get the shots.

M: What role do you feel music has in film?

MS: The music is such an important element for this film as it sort of tells a story. There isn't any dialog in the film and it's pretty much animated elements via time-lapse. The music sets a mood of this magical location.

M: When do you know that you have something ready to show the world?

MS: For me, its when you get a lot of people asking to see the final product. I often post BST stills on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. When I start seeing some of these hitting 400+ shares, it solidifies a winner for me. Also, I have had several well known blogs reach out asking to see the project.

M: How do you feel music is misused in projects?

MS: I come from a strange train of thought in that its really the filmmakers vision as to what they want to use. Something that might not seem like a good fit to one person might make perfect sense to others. The intended audience might not seem obvious as well so one might pick music that it more fitting to the target they were intending. If someone outside that demo watches the project they might think it was a bad choice, for the right demo it might be a hit. Its all subjective.

M: What's coming up?

MS: Next up is Operation Origami which been in the making since late 2011.


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Check out the amazing online workshops that Michael Sutton is doing with our friends at Story & Heart in their Academy of Storytellers community. Become a better filmmaker with them.

What's a place that's completely floored you? Share your work with us at sharing@ marmosetmusic.com about this place and we'll feature it on the Journal next week and award the winner with a Marmoset Shirt and a Field Notes Notebook.