Field Notes Interview #54: Maclean Carlson, Filmmaker
When it comes to storytelling, the personal is often universal.
Based in the Great White North, filmmaking duo Maclean and Erin Carlson approach every story they tell in the same lens: with honesty. Their production company Hello Tomorrow Films have been telling stories (often through wedding films) for the past 8 years and they've enjoyed every part of the process -- much to the reason of finding the emotional core of everything they create.
They go beyond shooting pretty images, their footage focuses on the human experience and the joy felt in detailed, intimate moments. By showing these personal stories, their films are also approachable and lend themselves to resonate with whomever is watching. We caught up with Mclean about his filmmaking life, finding structure in the creative industry and how music helps his films stand out.
M: Why film? What compelled you to be a filmmaker?
MC: To us, no other medium can convey stories, ideas, and emotions quite like film. As Roger Ebert said… "And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us."
I (Mac) picked up a camera at the age of 8 and never stopped. From then on I knew it would play a huge part in my life. I grew up shooting short comedy films, skate videos, and music videos and it kind of snowballed into a career. Filmmaking is just something I have to do. I'm just lucky I get to do it for a living.
For Erin, she didn't even know she was creative (her words) until she started working with me 9 years ago. She loves that there are so many ways within one medium to tell a story and that you can say so much without people even realizing that you're telling them something - its such a subtle, beautiful, and powerful form of art.
M: What's the toughest decision you've had to make as a filmmaker?
MC: For us it was learning to say no to certain projects. As full-time filmmakers it can be terrifying to turn down work, but ultimately we've found that it's the best thing to do when you know the project isn't right for you. We also have to remind ourselves sometimes that we need to make time to tell our own stories, which is why we got into filmmaking in the first place.
M: How do you feel music has a role in film?
MC: It's essential. Music has the power to make or break a scene or even an entire piece. It can deeply enhance the emotional experience and can push a moment from great to incredible.
M: How do you feel music is misused in film?
MC: I'm taken out of a story when I feel the music is telling me what to feel. I think it can be too heavy handed. I'm much more drawn to films where the story impacts me in a certain way emotionally and the music supports and enhances that.
M: How do you feel your films are different than others?
MC: When we approach any film, we try to tell the story through the lens of our own perspective and life experiences. We always want to make sure the story is told with our voice. Honesty is key.
M: What's the most recent album you've listened to?
MC: Carrie + Lowell by Sufjan Stevens has been on repeat lately. For Erin its the Disneyland Main Street loop ;)
M: How do you know when you're finished with a project?
MC: That's a hard one. We feel like we could always use more time on a project and are constantly tweaking until the last second. I guess the film is done when it needs to be delivered? Its hard to ever be completely satisfied with your own work, but we think thats a good thing :)
M: What makes a good story?
MC: Honesty and structure.
M: What's coming up on the horizon for you as an artist?
MC: We shoot a lot of weddings and this summer we have some incredible couples' stories to tell. For a while now we've also been taking on more and more corporate work and this year we're excited to work with some on some amazing projects. Lastly we're working on a passion project that's been in our minds for a while. Its currently in the writing phase, but hopefully we'll get the camera rolling soon. We got into filmmaking to tell our own stories and this year we're finding the time to make that happen.