Discover the world's best short films

Discover the world's best short films

Interview with Mike Thompson

Writer/Director of

Mike Thompson

What was the inspiration behind making this short film?

In all honesty, Blackbird was kind of a coping mechanism for me. It was the first script I’ve ever written that stemmed from a personal place. A few years before this film was even an idea, my wife went through surgery to remove something that the doctor believed could be cancerous and all seemed well. Years later, we were told that a second surgery would be necessary, and, needless to say, my mind went to all of the worst places and an overwhelming sense of fear and sadness took over. I didn’t want to express those feelings to her, my role as a partner was to be positive and support whatever fears were creeping into her mind, so I decided to use a short script to allow me to express what was going on in my head. The script was written in the Salt Lake City airport returning from Sundance. I outlined it like a drama using all of the thoughts I had about what was going on and ended up deciding to turn it into a genre piece inspired by films like Solaris and Blade Runner. I always loved that those films were these vast concepts involving space, artificial intelligence, and alien beings, but, at their core is a love story that pushed the boundaries of what love can actually be. Blackbird is a love letter to those films and other films like it and I can only hope that it accomplishes even half of the emotional pull that I feel when watching them.

Was there any particular challenges you had to go through to make the short film happen?

I think we had all of the normal challenges that a film goes through like budget, locations, time, etc. We made the film with a budget of around $750. We called in favors, we designed and built props ourselves, we negotiated locations for free, and used the camera and grip gear that was available to us. The only really huge curveball that hit us was one of our locations backing out. We had spoken with a nursing home about using a hospital room of theirs months in advance only to have them call us about 12 hrs before we were supposed to shoot saying it would no longer be possible, but, thankfully my art team pulled out all of the stops and we were able to construct a hospital set and shoot those final scenes, just a few weeks later than intended. That’s a HUGE part of directing is getting the right crew who knows how to think on their feet and get things done. I’m immensely grateful for the crew on this film.

How has the short film been received?

It’s been amazing, really. The festival run was great and we were able to take home some awards. It’s found audiences in more countries than I ever expected and, even more interesting, everyone seems to get something different out of the film. I’ve had people tell me it made them cry while also having people tell me it gave them the creeps and saw it as a thriller or a warning about technology. I think that’s what interests me about film the most is seeing how others perceive the story and the visuals and letting them paint whatever picture satisfies their viewing.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m currently in post on my third short film ‘Threshold’, which is more of a thriller piece. We’re hoping to have that out later on this summer. Other than that I’m just constantly working with my co-writer, Joe Stockton, to develop some feature ideas while also directing some music videos and commercials. I think I’m like a shark in that I have to keep moving or I’ll die.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make their first short film?

Just go for it. Plain and simple. I have lots of friends or peers that I always hear say things like ‘if I can get the budget for this’ or ‘if I could just get the right camera’ and things of that nature and it just bugs me. There’s never going to be the perfect budget, the perfect scenario. A film is just organized chaos, you’re always racing against time, you’re always fighting the budget, it’s Murphy’s law. Figure out a story that you want to tell and just make it happen. Steven Soderbergh has shot multiple films on an iPhone, right? So can you. Stop waiting and tell your story, you’ll never be sad that you did.

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