Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Colin Minihan: Canada’s Gift to the World of Film By Christine Albrecht

Colin Minihan: Canada’s Gift to the World of Film
Interview By Christine Albrecht
Recent Award: MuchMusic’s Director of the Year

I determined two years ago that Colin Minihan is an artist, filmmaker ‘genius’, who has been pushing the boundaries of old-school video filming. Collin’s injecting quirky, hard-to-pin-down, visual collages using film manipulation, as well as (what appears to be to be) a layering of textural visuals over saturated colours. It wouldn’t surprised me if Colin’s name soon becomes an oft-used adjective/noun attached to a specific video style. A reviewer in the near future will be writing: “Clearly the director was aiming for a Minihan effect.”

My first "Minihan experience" was the band Mother Mother’s video, O' My Heart. I’ve never tired of this great video and tune. It appears my recent fave Minihan video is GOB's Banshee Song. Hmm, I think I am developing a 'mood' theme, here... Let's see, depressing look - check, goth appearance - check, very creepy pale kids - check, and so on...
This can't be a good direction for a writer/ researcher/ music reviewer/ and (clears throat) elementary teacher. Heh...

See the "behind-the-scenes" of O' My Heart I now appreciate the overwhelming amount of work involved by ALL those involved in a vid8o shoot,.

I began researching other videos/films done by Colin Minihan and was surprised to see how prolific this director is, without becoming stale or repetitive )or even known for that matter!). After viewing hours of film footage, I’ve just decided to quit attempting to track or compare his style to that of other directors' and/or cinematographers'. I have finally determined that Minihan is like ... Minihan. Furthermore, this 'most interesting' fact about Colin Minihan, could also be his most beneficial...

You see, with Colin being born on May 18, 1985... (Yes, he's 25 years-old) ... he's shown that he's accomplished more in his short career, than most 35+ year-old directors have in their lifetimes. Also, Colin was born at a perfect time. Young enough to witness a new format (MM/MTV) being birthed to millions of viewers, yet old enough to be one of the first video generational babies to actually cross the threshold into videography. I am impressed that Colin goes above and beyond when it comes to effort on his works of art. He's had to work hard to get to where he's at. He just happened to start earlier than his industry peers. It was fortunate that Colin Minihan knew what his passion was at a time when most of us are trying to decide whether to choose Algebra or Principal’s Math, during our high school scheduling.

Not only was Colin Minihan able to identify his passion, but he also pursued and honed it, and for that (among his numerous talents) he deserved the Director of the Year Award (2009).
I could get all artsy and described his camera-work; his interesting sparring between light and shadow; his use of unusual subjects, and/or his hypnotic juxtaposition of images I call them Minihanisms. But I’d rather you google his name, or go to his site and view his body of work. His work speaks for itself, saying something different to each viewer, much like a work of art does.

Soon Colin's name will be a reference point for filming; much like Tim Burton’s name speaks volumes about the quality of a film's artistic manipulation.

Colin's Lifestyle for the Cameras:

Colin's Real Life Style:

Here is a short, online interview with film director, Colin Minihan. I apologize in advance for the lack of more insightful questions regarding his approach towards filmmaking, If you have any specific questions regarding equipment Colin used, or are curious about his technical approach, please add your questions here, or contact him directly through his site.

Swanktrendz (ST) Colin Minihan (CM) I have divided the interview into two sections: Personal information and Work information.


: I have gleaned that you were born on May 18, 1985 in Port McNeill, B.C. Is this the case?

Colin Minihan: True.

ST: Did you live in Port McNeill all of your childhood? What was it like living in a small town located on the Northeast corner of Vancouver Island? Can you list the benefits of such an environment for a child? The detriments?

CM: Yes, I was born in Victoria and my dad took a teaching job in Port McNeill so I lived there pretty much from the get go up until I graduated high school and moved away (when I was 18).
Growing up on the northern tip of Vancouver Island required a two-hour drive, through the woods, to get to the nearest movie theatre. It was frustrating and I wished someone would reopen the movie theatre every day growing up. (It had been open, before my time, but sunk.) I used to visit my grandparents in Vancouver during the summer, but then my heart would sink when I saw the Port McNeill sign on the way back.

I think, ultimately, growing up in a small town was a good place for me because during high school I was allowed to turn the town into my own little movie set. The Port MacNeill Police Department would let me shoot in their jail cells, and I would use police officers in a few of my short films. I was making these anti-crime films at the time and I was learning a ton. It was hilarious closing down McNeill Road to film a police chase with digital 8 cameras strapped all sketchily to cop cars. This would never have happened had Kelly Carson, who worked doing community justice programs for kids in the town, hadn't seen a short film of mine years before and applied for a government grant, so I would be able to film more… She got the grant, and I just made these anti-crime movies throughout all of grade 11 and 12. I doubt this would have been available in a city. It was a rare opportunity and the experience definitely helped solidify the fact, without a doubt, of what I wanted to do with my life.
I’m not going to list benefits to growing up in a small town though, or make broad statements about whether you should raise your kids in a small to:wn versus the city. I think both places have pros and cons and that’s it. I was lucky.

ST: Do you have any siblings? If so what are their names, and are they older or younger? Are they artsy like you?

CM: My older brother Ryan is in the army and he just served in Afghanistan. We are very, very different, however, he was always good with a pencil and could outdraw me any day. My Aunt is also a pretty awesome painter and I had a great great-grandfather who was a relatively popular artist. We have a ton of his paintings, mostly landscape stuff, but they are great. I also have three younger half-brothers from my Dad’s side who live on the east coast.

ST: Mom, Dad or both? Together/ divorced? (I realize this question may appear odd, and I certainly am not looking for dirty details, but I have discovered that many talented men, who end up in the music industry, have come from single mother headed households. As well, all of these mothers were highly supportive of their son’s endeavors.) Were your folks supportive of your interest in filming?

CM: I'm not really in the music industry per-say, so this question probably doesn't apply so well to me, but I'll answer it anyways. My parents are divorced, and I stayed with Mom for the most part. She purchased my first camera (that had firewire) when I was around the age of 12 ... it was an expensive present. She witnessed me wear out her VHS-C camera (that I discovered at about age 8). She was very supportive of me using the house to stage epic gun battles with friends everyday, for camera.

ST: How old were you when you filmed your first ‘just for fun’ video? Was it of paintball, rollerblading, skateboarding? Did you edit and provide music/dialogue, or was it a silent clip? Was it a collaboration?

CM: I started reenacting scenes from movies when I was really young - probably about 8 years old, or so. I'd use the video camera for everything, including video replay for street hockey to judge whether or not the puck had crossed the line. I pretty much always filmed, and whoever was filming would direct. I think I was about 11 years old when I discovered you could edit on a VHS player and use the audio dub button on the camera to add Beastie Boys’ tracks to my chase scenes. This was an epic discovery. I remember being like, “No way!” then becoming much more obsessed at that point.

ST: Have you ever worked with Mac’s imovie software? If so, what did you think of it?

CM: No, but I know its similar to what I’ve learned to edit on for PC... Ulead Videostudio was my brand back in my pre-teens; then Media Studio Pro and Adobe Premiere when I was a teenager. I’m not sure imovie even existed at that time. The first computer I cut on was a Pentium, just above a 486 processor. It was brutal and would crash so frequently, after long days of work, I would get extremely upset.

ST: When did you start to enter filming competitions? What was your first competition, and how did you place?

CM: I used to enter a lot of little kid festivals (student film festivals). I won a few but I don't remember the exact first contest I entered.

ST: I noticed you in a clip, “Who is Your Hero?” and you stood out because a) you were so young, and b) you were so confident that you would be your own hero, through your actions in the future. (That would lead into a question – was service announcement scripted, or was that really your response “I want to be my hero… etc”?)

CM: This isn't me. I don’t know who that Colin Minihan is or why my name is linked to it but I do like what he said.

ST{ Here's the video that we're referring to, and yes the child looks nothing like Colin Minihan, but I could certainly imagine him saying things like this at that age, lol.

ST: I read you won the Willie Mitchell Classic when you were 19. Did this win provide you with much needed equipment, or was the Panasonic HD video camera ‘so-so’ in that it met only some of your artistic needs?

CM: It’s a camera I was happy to get it because I was broke, out of film school, and without the win, I would have been stuck shooting on SD for a little longer. I did my first Muchmusic breakout videos on that camera. It’s a great camera - pretty beat up now, but it stills works.

ST What other contests/competitions have you entered and placed in? (Top three?) Do you ever get nervous or shy, or are these words not part of your vocabulary?

CM: I used to submit videos and shorts to all kind of little contests and film festivals when I was a kid, but since I've started working mainly in music videos the annual “contest” in Canada would be the Muchmusic Video Awards. It was a good time when I won “Director of the Year” at the 2009 MMVA’s.

I’m not that cool. I get nervous, but I deal with it. I don't get nervous about directing an artist or talking to executive types. I get nervous over stupid things like a driver’s test or doing an interview.

ST: What music/bands were you listening to when you were 15? What music do you listen to now? As a music fan, do you find that you become obsessed with a band for a few months and then move on, or are you loyal to a group, buying all their CDs?

CM: I was into all sorts of music at 15. I used to love Blink 182, Matthew Good, and Beastie Boys. I was obsessed with the “Freak on a Leash” video by Korn. I’m not going to lie, I downloaded so much music when Napster first came out, I totally f'd myself out of ever having huge budgets in music videos. The record industry could not recover. I single-handedly crippled them with my downloading using my 56k dial up modem.

ST: Given that you’ve been so busy filming throughout your teens, were you able to complete high school? How did you do, overall, within the confines of formal education?

CM: I Graduated from high school with good grades. I really wanted to get the hell out of Port McNeill so I worked really hard in grade 11 and 12 to make sure my grades would be good enough to do a film course at a university that would accept me. I was good at studying the night before a test, and then forgetting everything as soon as the test was done. This of course did not help when the final exams came, but by then it was too late because my grade was already high and couldn't drop that badly. I received a few scholarships that allowed me go to film school, pretty much for free, after high school.

ST: What wise words can you offer those students who may be 15 and may be stuck between their idea of freedom (driving) yet still too young to access anything extracurricular/ of interest outside of school?
What would you say to teenagers who believe the high school typecast forced upon them, by an overbearing clique, actually foreshadows their success as an adult? (Sadly, I have spoken to enough teens who truly believe their school experiences predetermine their futures. If their school experience is horrible, they accept it as a sign of a dismal future.
Perhaps someone young, driven, and successful, can show these teens that high school is only a blip in one’s life and not a predictor of the future. (hint, hint)?

CM: I honestly think hard work pays off more than talent, brains etc... Talent and brains may allow some students to shine in high school, but if you are willing to work hard, putting in the effort and working harder than anyone else you know, then your efforts WILL pay off in some way, shape, or form, in life.
This is a good habit to try and pick up on in high school, or at least during grade 11 and 12. Let’s say you have a friend who is going to get an A+ on an upcoming test, even though he doesn't study... Meanwhile, you’re an average student who will fail if you don’t study... So, study your ass off, and get that B+. Eventually your studying/ hard work ethic will pay off, and your slacker friend will end up playing video games all night while you go off and write and direct a feature film… or whatever... become a doctor… (Remember, drugs can hold you back, too.)

ST: Was there any one person, or several people, (teachers, relatives, friends, etc.) whom you can point to and say that person definitely helped me while growing up because…?

CM: I’m going to save my thank-you speech for an awards show.

(Swanktrendz couldn’t find a clip of Colin’s acceptance speech for his Director-of-the-Year. So I think we still deserve an answer. Hint hint, Mr. Minihan – forward a clip or send us an answer…)

ST: At what age did you officially leave Port McNeill?

CM: 18 years old.

ST: Were you ever into Nirvana, or Eminem, when you were younger?

CM: Both

ST: List five of your favourite movies, either for plot, or for filming style.

CM: I just finished my first feature film – a horror film Cold Spots. So instead of listing my all time top five films, I am going to list my favorite horror films in celebration of this.

2: The Thing
3: The Fly
4: The Blob
5: Halloween

Side Note: Colin also created a film titled, Choice. It took him two years to complete. He wrote the screenplay in 11th grade and filmed it in 12th grade. According to Colin, keeping the actors involved for that amount of time was a big part of the challenge. Choice received the Best Cinematography Award after a showing at the Mini DV festival in Hollywood, California.

Work Questions

ST: Do you agree with this comment: “Canada has a habit of eating and spitting out, rather than supporting, its young talent?” Do you agree the music industry/ media will not acknowledge Canadian talent until the ‘talent’ has been embraced elsewhere? For example, once Canada learns that Europe, and/or the USA, has become fond of our home-grown (yet ignored) talent, Canada suddenly welcomes these artists into our tightly-guarded cultural community; proudly introducing them as “Canadian Talent” to the ‘world’ (same world that originally accepted aforesaid artists). Your thoughts?

I had written a long answer to this but I’d rather not talk about our Canadian music scene in that kind of detail. All I can say is that there are a ton of big bands in Canada that remain only big in Canada.

ST: In what way do you feel Myspace has impacted the music industry (good or bad), and thus impacted the role of directors, producers, etc.?

CM: Myspace did not impact the industry to the same degree as file sharing did. I think Myspace is a much more positive place – one that coexists with the record industry. It allows very easy promotion of tour dates, introduction of new music, fan interaction, chats with the band, etc. Social media platforms, in general, are a huge thing for any band (for promotion) as is Twitter. It lets their fans feel involved, or closer to the band, and in turn, makes the concert experience more exciting for the fans, more profitable for the labels, and so on.
You can click one button and you’re in itunes, purchasing the music you heard off a Myspace site. Myspace also reinforced the importance of videos... it solidified the fact that the music video continues to have a place in the music business.
Now that everything is viral, you get a lot of bands who request more crazy and unique video ideas, rather than the ones Muchmusic or MTV play (the ones that are safe and formulaic). In turn, you get a lot more people and video makers pushing the music video envelope into really cool and new directions.

ST: I think your videos are intriguing, artsy vignettes which introduce overt and subtle techniques. I love your attention to unique framing (with regards to subject/object) Sorry, I have to resort to photography terms as my videographer/ filmmaker lingo is subpar… (okay… nonexistent). Your work also contains fascinating editing techniques: stop starts, etc. and you clearly have a firm grasp on playing with subject lighting.
I’m curious as to how you ‘see’ a scene unfold prior to using the light/shadows, black/white contrasts, etc.?

CM: I generally have a good idea as to the complete colour pallet, and style of lighting that I want to use for each video treatment that I write. This comes after some pre-visualization, or it can happen right away, pending on the feeling you get from the music.
Different approaches fit different concepts and I like to challenge myself, whether that means doing a video full of long choreographed takes; a video that is done entirely in stop motion, or one that has a more classical, cinematic feel to it. It all depends on the vibe I get from the music, and what I see when I close my eyes or stare off into space.
I would hate to limit my work to one kind of visual style - which so many directors do in this business... I think diversity, and being able to jump between genres, is an important thing. I have no two videos that look exactly alike. I’d be bored as hell, if I did.

ST: Did you ever considered yourself a guerilla filmmaker (not waiting on a studio – doing it for yourself)? I often think of Steve Martin’s panned (one I enjoyed) film, “Bowfinger”, as it shows a filmmaker desperate enough to work around the rules/ studios.

CM: I would never wait for a studio to green light something in order to make it. In fact I just co-directed and co-wrote my first feature film, Cold Spots, independently. We are in post-production right now. It’s a horror film and I am stoked that we were able to pull it off. My company (that I incorporated when I was 18) is the company behind it; as well as a few small investors, and off we went. It was one of those situations where we were just sick of waiting around, despite being capable of doing a film on a lower budget. So we said, 'fuck it' and off we went to prove to the Man we could do it. Now we gotta sell, sell, sell, SELL IT. After we finish post of course. See bottom of interview for a synopsis of Cold Spots.

ST: You ‘appear’ to be laid back and relaxed on your video shoots. Are you just being kind for the cameras or do you just take things as they come, and not sweat the small stuff? Are you secretly OCD? Are you up all night, correcting every little ‘perceived’ mistake?

CM: It just depends on how the video is going. I can be a stress case and yell for no reason, or I can be chill and relaxed. It just kind of depends on how the battle is going that day, and if we're losing light.

ST: I’ve studied and I can’t seem to identify your filming ‘tag’. Most directors have a video tag, be it RT’s filmstrip intro, or Sigismondi’s unique jittery, jangly tag. Unless, your ‘tag’ is how you interplay light with dark and/or how you juxtapose the two. Perhaps it’s your use of water? I’m sure you and your close friends know exactly what identifies a film/video as a “Minihan”, but could you please enlighten the rest of us?

CM: Most directors do not have a tag. Not that I'm aware of. Honestly, I think it’s a bit silly to attach an intro, with your name on it, before every video.
Anyone who knows my style, or knows my work, can spot a video of mine within a good 20 seconds of watching it. Unless, of course, I’m being really experimental or something. Directors don’t need a tag to have an identifiable style. I cut all my own work and I think this is a big factor in being able to identify my work, I also am very hands-on with DOPs. Often times, I'll take the camera and operate it, myself, or I’ll DP the shoot, myself.
I think having a strong editing background is one of the most important things a director can have going for them. I don't want to put crazy film roll-outs and grain on every video I do, just to have an identifiable image or 'tag'. Like I said... diversity ....

ST: Do you choose the general theme/ storyline for the video and present it to the artist, or does the artist come to you with an idea and ask you to elaborate upon it by bringing in ‘the art’?

CM: I generally come up with the treatment plan for the video, but the artist might want to tweak it (or collaborate on an idea right from the get-go). It’s cool, either way.

ST: How many times do you listen to a song before a scene begins to materialize in your mind?

Sometimes 100 times, sometimes once. It depends on if a track is easy, and you get the idea you like right away. Others are harder, and you have to force it out, or pass on them. This is why every music video director ‘stock piles’ treatments that they have written for songs which they did not land the job for...
Funny, but true. You find yourself having a ‘stock pile’ of 20 video ideas you've written in the past, which can be adapted easily to a new track you’ve been given. It might seem a bit of a 'rehash' but, to be honest, these ‘stock pile’ treatments (that were originally rejected by a label or different artist) end up being adapted into some of my favorite videos that I have made.

ST: Do you hand select the extras that appear in the shots, or does a casting agency simply send the ‘type’ you’ve requested over? Does the band have a say in who appears? Do you ever get dreaded requests? (e.g. “I really want my girlfriend/ wife/ mistress/ boyfriend/ mate, whatever, to be in the video?”)

We do casting through agencies for actors or models. Generally speaking you get a ton of head shots sent over for the types you are looking for and then you meet or audition the top picks.
Sure, sometimes a band member will want their girlfriend to be in the video. I’m pretty cool with this kind of thing, though. It can only obviously work if the treatment allows for it or if they have the right look for it.

ST: Do you still use MediaStudio Pro for music videos, or could you please suggest better software and camera? What equipment would you suggest to others for a feature length film/movie?

Lol this is a funny question. I stopped using a PC to edit on when i was about 18 and I've been using Final Cut Pro ever since. Final Cut Pro is great... use that.

ST: Is the fish head Mother Mother’s tag, or was that something you thought of? I really enjoyed O my heart. Was it difficult to film?

CM: I think Mother Mother wanted to incorporate the fish somehow from the album artwork on the first video. It worked so well on ‘O My Heart’ that I pitched doing it again for the ‘Body Of Years’ video. Those were two really experimental and interesting videos to make, I had a great time on them - cool band, too!

ST: Who is Cody Mielke and how did the two of you meet and come to work together?

Sadly, Cody and I do not work together anymore. We met in film school and the relationship ran its course. He was my friend / producer.

ST: How many countries, locations, have you traveled to for your work? Any stand-out exotic/ fun locales? Could you please share some?

CM: I did a Hedley video in Barbados and I got food poisoning. It made what would have been an awesome trip a nightmare. I also shot a video in Cuba and that was pretty awesome. Aside from that I’ve shot in the United States numerous times, and pretty much everywhere in Canada - aside from Montreal. I want to go there.

Colin Minihan’s Random Videography

Here is a random videography of projects Colin Minihan has directed/ co-directed. Again, I must remind you this is only a sampling of this 25-year old’s body of work. I am sure I have missed many (so please feel free to add to this list).
A huge thank-you to Colin for being a good sport and allowing us our online interview. I do understand how busy he is, and hopefully his final consensus will be that the interview is fine, as is.

Random Videography:

Aaron Pritchett "How Do I get There"
Armchair Cynics “Ablaze

Cherry Bomb
Elise Estrada "These Three Words"
Faber Drive "Tongue Tied"

Faber Drive "When Im With You"
Faber Drive " Sleepless Nights

Faber Drive "Get up and Dance"
Faber Drive "Give Him Up"
Faber Drive "You and I tonight
George Canyon "Just Like You"

GOB – “Banshee Song”
Hedley "Don't talk to Strangers"
Hedley "Never Too Late"
Hunter Valentine “Revenge”

Jakalope "Witness"
Lillix – “Nowhere to Run”
Marianas Trench "Cross My Heart"

Colin and Josh - Having spoken/written to both of these artists, I can only imagine the laughs they must have when together. I would have loved to be on the set with Marianas and Colin Minihan (Hell, just a chat with Mike, Josh and Jon Simpkins had my sides aching for 2 days from laughing. Their expertise lies in the one line comeback/zingers/ I wish I could have written some of what was ‘really’ said, but alas not relevant.) Not only are these men talented, but they are extremely gregarious; both of them - personality personified!

Marianas Trench "All To Myself"
Marianas Trench "Celebrity Status"
Mother Mother "O My Heart"
Mother Mother "Body Of Years"
Obsidian "Ultimate Disaster"
Papa Roach "I almost told you that I loved you"
Protest The Hero "Divine Suicide of K"
Social Code "Bomb Hands"
Social Code "Satisfied"
Social Code "Everyday (late November)"
Social Code "The Shortest Line"
Ten Second Epic "Suck It Up, Princess"
Ten Second Epic "Count Yourself In"
Ten Second Epic "Life Times"
Ten Second Epic "Avenue Days"
Ten Second Epic "Old Habits Die Hard"
Theory of a Deadman "Bad Girlfriend"
Theory of a Deadman "So Happy"
The Flatliners "Eulogy"
The Set "Echo Head"
The Set "Survive"

Colin Minihan is interviewed on Urban Rush: August, 2010

Brief Synopsis for the movie Cold Spots

(New Film co-written and directed by Colin Minihan)

The film centers on the five-person crew of "Grave Encounters",a ghost-hunting reality show, which is shooting an episode inside an abandoned, insane asylum.

After interviewing numerous witnesses who claim to have had paranormal experiences there, they lock themselves inside the massive building and begin their investigation.

To their delight, strange things do begin happening - objects moving on their own, ghostly voices echoing through the halls - and they capture it all on camera. But they soon realize that the building is more than just haunted - it is alive - and doesn't want them to leave.

Doors that should lead outside only lead to more hallways, as if the building itself is changing. Time appears to pass, yet every daytime expected, reveals itself to still be night. The crew is confused and frightened.

The crew has found themselves trapped in an impossible nightmare, hiding from ghosts of crazed patients who haunt the building, slowly picking off the outsiders one by one.

As food and water run low and the crew desperately search for a way out ... but not before unearthing the truth behind the asylum's shrouded past ... Someone is managing to film their final close-up ... their demise, on camera!

Sounds positively creepy! Christine