Filmtools

Filmmaker Friday featuring Filmmaker Kenny McMillan

An Insiders Perspective On The Creative World of Filmmaking

With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a filmmaker. Options include pitching an idea, or a commission through screenwriting, casting, shooting, editing, and screening your project. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to Filmmaker Kenny McMillan about his work. This is what he said:

What inspires you?

Kenny McMillan:  Excellence. By that I mean I get fired up by seeing other artists (of any form) hit that flow state, pushing their art and effectively utilizing what I call “the invisible prod” by making the audience feel/think what the artist intended, not necessarily what the piece would initially have you feel/think. That feeling you get when you watch, say, a musician “speak” to you live through their guitar and not necessarily the lyrics, or identify with a character in a film in a way that wasn’t overtly presented. Seeing or hearing something that hits your body before it hits your brain, ya know what I mean? That, and theoretical physics.

What is your role on set?

Kenny McMillan:  Director/Cinematographer. Less officially I often find myself being the coach or therapist, haha. I’m happy doing anything though, I love the process.

Whats the first thing you do on set?

Kenny McMillan: Meet everyone, see how they’re doing/if they need anything/address any early thoughts, find crafty, start going through whatever checklists I have for the day and mentally “walk” myself through that day’s motions, visualizing where there might be hangups or where I can save time or combine shots or ideas and so forth. Speed on a film set is everything so I try to come up with backup plan after backup plan for when those little sticking points eventually do crop up so we can move on without too much trouble. Having a plan is one thing, communicating that plan (and changes to it) is a completely different thing so it’s important that everyone on set is in a shared mental place, which is centered around trust, honesty, problem solving/critical thinking, and knowing the end goal. Getting to know everyone, making sure their voices are heard, and making sure they understand your communication style is key. When you’re working as a team, like any sport, there’s no time for ego or BS (which are two hallmarks of a film set unfortunately) so the sooner you get everyone on the same page the better. Plus it relieves a lot of undue stress.

Why did you choose this field?

Kenny McMillan: I tend to have a one track mind in many cases and film happens to be one of those tracks. I’ve got footage from when I was 6 or so recreating infomercials and the like on my parents VHS-C camera, quickly getting into theater (and 16mm/Hi-8) in High School and then cinematography (miniDV) in College. I’ve always been dramatically minded so it was never really a question of “if” and more a feeling of “where will this take me?” As it stands, it’s taken me to Directing but these days you’re less locked in to one job or the other so I’ve been working on the “Fincherian” idea of knowing every job on set as well as those you’ve hired and that’s been very educational and challenging. I’m finding a lot of joy in audio and prop creation right now.

How does Filmtools help you?

Kenny McMillan: Filmtools is great because the store is just up the street from me and I can physically go in and handle whatever it is I’m looking for; I’ve got insane anxiety so buying something sight-unseen is a pretty large no-no. It’s nice to be able to walk into a place where everyone knows what they’re talking about and I can sit there for a while and actually evaluate, say, gels or the size/utility of a case or piece of equipment or something. I prefer getting physically involved with things over trusting what the listing online says. Online is great for research but you can never “know” something without actually getting your hands on it, even with experience. Plus it’s nice to casually walk through the expendables aisles and grab things you forgot you needed.

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on before?

Kenny McMillan: I was a photographer for Red Bull in Arizona for a few years, which was probably the greatest series of projects I’ve ever worked on in terms of “coolness” but one time as an intern I was randomly roped into the art department during pre-production on the Criminal Minds spinoff “Suspect Behavior” for a couple weeks before ABC caught wind of what I was doing and called me back to the office hahaha. Learned a lot in that short amount of time. Change your Xacto blades after every cut, people!

What project is close to your heart?

Kenny McMillan: I’ve made it difficult on myself to describe adequately, but OWL BOT Season One is a sort of variety series I started at the beginning of the year that’s gone through a lot of changes and continues to change as time goes on. I’ve got a vision for the series over the next 3 or 4 years but as it stands right now I’m getting into the groove of creating non-stop and trying to one-up myself as well as getting others involved. Soon I hope for it all to be scripted but right now it’s heavy on the variety. We’re “exploring the space.”

Do you have a piece of essential gear that you don’t leave without?

Kenny McMillan: Knowing that speed is key, I’ve worked a lot on figuring out how to get the smallest amount of gear to make the greatest impact and right now that centers around the Redrock Micro Ultracage with the Powerpack attachment. Adds just enough weight to the rig to give handheld movement a little more “authority” and there’s tons of mounting points on it as well as a place for top-rails, so you can attach whatever you need right to it. The Powerpack makes it so you can power the entire rig (camera, monitor, focus motor, etc) off of one battery (shout out to Filmtools for that slick 2 battery+charger IDX package deal a few months back that I was able to take advantage of) and even if I’m not attaching a handle, the cage itself can act as a holding point opposite my Canon’s side handle. On the other hand, the Odyssey 7Q+ has been a huge help as well with its 10bit recording and false color (which is like a turbocharged spot meter). I actually made Episode Four (OB01x04) about the rig I use and the theory behind it if anyone is interested in hearing (or reading) me drone on and on about gear stuff. I love the idea proposed by Josh Homme of “using the wrong thing right”. Keeps things funky.

What advice would you give to people interested in this industry?

Kenny McMillan: “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” ― Telamon of Arcadia

Do you have a dream location that you would love to shoot on? If yes, where is it and why?

Kenny McMillan: I would be ecstatic to shoot on a set that was painstakingly and lovingly created by talented people who left no detail unexplored. Not unlike holding a well made and properly weathered prop, being surrounded by someone’s storytelling like that gives me the fizzies.

Where can people follow you on social?

Kenny McMillan: I’m trying to get better on Twitter but my heart is with Instagram for the time being. We’ve also got Vimeo and YouTube obviously, if you’re trying to actually SEE the work, but I hope to have the OWL BOT website be a one-stop-shop for everything we’re getting into now and in the future where you won’t have to go around the net piecing everything together as it’ll all be right there. The OWL BLOG (ha) is more of a playground of art and ideas, and I hope to get more people involved there as well. People are welcome to play along if what we’re doing speaks to them. Shoot me an email.

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