Field Notes Interview #56: Mike Palmer, Filmmaker
How do you capture the essence of adventure? Toronto filmmaker, Mike Palmer has found a way and a lot of it has to do with keeping it personal.
Through his travel series, Roaming Focus, Palmer merges together beautiful drone camera work, journal-esque testimonies and striking soundtracks. His adventure films go off the beaten path (pun intended) and create an interesting sense of vulnerability, exploration and expansiveness in every piece he creates. Part of what makes his films have such a unique vibe is how he juxtaposes electronic music with the organic natural settings.
We chat with Mike as he dives deeper into his personal voice and how he uses music as a driving force in his films.
M: Why film? What compelled you to be a filmmaker?
MP: It’s something I’ve always done. Since I was a kid I was spending my summers making movies. I've always seemed to want to tell stories cinematically.
M: Your films often feel like journal entries, when did you make the decision to involve your voice into the mix?
MP: I think you’re referring to the Roaming Focus episodes. I originally used my voice as a tool to fill gaps in the storyline and help transition between scenes. I really don’t like the way reality shows have these ‘recap’ interviews, I was determined not to do that!
M: What's the toughest decision you've had to make as a filmmaker?
MP: I don’t have one particular moment, but overall I find that hardest decisions are in post production. Deciding what footage to keep and what to cut can be heart breaking. Viewers tend to have a short attention span these days and unfortunately that means having to cut out awesome footage.
M: How do you feel music has a role in film?
MP: Music is the best emotional connector and when used correctly the impact is substantial. I think music is key to enhancing a scene.
M: How do you feel music is misused in film?
MP: I think music is misused when it’s not thought out and just thrown in. I don’t think music should fill a void, it should enhance a moment.
M: How do you feel your films are different than other films?
MP: I’m not sure I do feel my films are different. I think everyone hopes they’re doing something unique but for the most part everything’s been done before. I can be a little ignorant as a filmmaker, I try not to focus on what others are doing, I’d rather just do my own thing.
M: What's the most recent album you've listened to?
MP: It’s a little random, B.B. King - Live at San Quentin. I have a 6 Disc CD Player in my car and that album has been in the rotation for the last few years. Let the good times roll!
M: How do you know when you're finished with a project?
MP: That’s a great question as there is no easy answer! Generally I set deadlines and aim to hit them. But really I know it’s done when I start to drive myself crazy, then you know it’s time. In a sense it’s a gut feeling.
M: What makes a good story?
MP: A good story is something people can connect with. It doesn’t have to be a strong, concrete connection, but when the viewer can relate to a character, a location, the music, whatever it is, I think this ‘connection' is key to a good story.
M: What's coming up on the horizon in your life as an artist?
MP: I’m trying to focus on what I love, and that’s telling stories, and capturing great photos of subjects that interest me. The best part is that Roaming Focus is exactly that, and I’m really excited for what the upcoming year has in store.