Once a Musician Always a Musician

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Because I studied music, if I had to give myself a job description, I would probably still describe myself as a musician. The music continues to be really important to me in the way that I make films. I think I realize now that I am informed musically about structure. With something like Time Code, for example, it's really a piece of music, but it just happens to be a film. It's structured like a string quartet and so on. The great news about this new digital revolution is that now the equipment is so much smaller and so much more accessible that it's possible for me now to do the entire score for the film in my office, you know. With a good microphone and a good computer recording system, I can do it all on a system called ProTools.

I have a friendship with and am associated with a number of really good jazz musicians, and some younger musicians who also cross over into contemporary music. My son, who is a DJ and a musician, works with me, and I incorporate some of his ideas as well. And that's what I love about the way films are made now. There isn't a huge division technically between the different crafts of filmmaking, like cinematography, sound, music, and editing. The systems sort of married all that together in a good way.

My career has involved quite a bit of luck. One could define luck by having the ability to be in the right place at the right time with the right idea. A lot of it has to do with having the ability to observe what's going on around you and say, well, here's an opportunity. I made my first film around the time that Channel 4 in Great Britain opened this new and very innovative film channel that was actually looking for new talent. Now, the idea that people were looking for new talent in Britain was revolutionary in itself. Up until that point, the BBC and ITV and the traditional routes to becoming a filmmaker were very closed and very difficult to get into unless you belonged to a certain kind of group of people, which I didn't. My background had been theater. But, going back to the beginning, I trained as a musician. This was towards the end of the 1960s, where in London it was a very, very open artistic community. There was a lot of crossover.

I joined an avant-garde jazz band called The People Band, a free music ensemble. They worked with an avant-garde theater group called The People Show. I started doing performances that involved music and drama and some improvisation. The musicians and the performers had a falling out. I mean, they radically fell out, violently fell out, by which time I found myself being more sympathetic in a way to the performance side of things. As a musician, I was intrigued by the possibilities of the music within that dramatic context, so I chose to stay with the performers. I left the music ensemble and I became the musician in this theater group. Then there was sort of a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland fight within that group. Two of the performers just walked out before a very, very important gig at the Royal Court Theater in London. And it was, like, "Mike, you know, you're on stage tonight." I was pushed out onto the stage at the Royal Court Theater in front of Mick Jagger and all kinds of trendy media types, you know. But within five minutes I was hooked. I thought to myself, this is what I want to do. I want to be an actor. I want to be a performer. I want to stand in front of a lot of people and make a fool of myself. I just loved it.

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Film Making

Film Making

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