On the Set With Michael Lindsey

Published on April 6th, 2015
Michael Lindsey is an aspiring cinematographer and director.

Michael Lindsey is an aspiring cinematographer and director.

Michael Lindsey’s film crew gathers on the sidewalk outside a row home in Temple Hills, Md., to shoot the first scene of the day. The crew is hurrying to get the shot before the sun sets as it does very early this time of year. It’s 22 degrees on a late Friday afternoon in March.

As the film’s lead actress turns away from the camera preparing for her scene, the sound operator bends down beside Lindsey holding the audio recorder. Lindsey crouches down, concentrates and looks into the camera lens.

“Roll sound. Roll camera. Action,” he says. The actress, dressed in all black and carrying two black plastic bags filled with cleaning supplies, strolls down a sidewalk, turns right and walks up the steps into the home.

Lindsey, a junior studying television production at Howard University, grew up in a suburban area of Buford, Ga. His love for music, which led to a love of film, helped him feel less alone in that environment.

“Music was one of the things that I kind of turned to, to feel more in touch or — it sounds really corny to say — but, like I had a friend,” Lindsey says.

The friend he found in music led him to pick up the guitar at age 13. From his love of hip-hop, he eventually started making beats and songs, which led to him making music videos. The first was the video to a remix of Driicky Graham’s “Snapbacks and Tattoos” called “Belt-Backs and Short-Shorts,” referring to his unique style of dress during his teenage years.

Lindsey has come a long way from making cell-phone quality music videos in his garage.

He still works with music, even scoring his films. “When I’m making a movie, I’m thinking about rhythm and beats,” he says. “Everything to me is rhythmic. Life is rhythmic. I think music is the most pure expression that we have of our souls.”

His film skills have grown as well, which he attributes to both his college education and an obsession with learning the craft.

“I feel like with filmmaking especially, there’s an infinite amount of information,” he says. “I’m always on filmmaking blogs. I’m a real nerd.”

“I just read a whole cinematography textbook the other day, even though the teacher said we really didn’t have to – 800 pages and I read the whole thing.”

His current film, whose title is still being worked out, is a thriller/drama about a girl who accidentally kills someone and then becomes addicted to it. She ends up killing her best friend’s abusive boyfriend and is trying to keep it a secret.

This project is actually a spinoff of an idea for a show called “Serial Killers Anonymous” that would focus on serial killers trying to end their addiction to murder. Lindsey hopes to make that a TV show in the future, but in the meantime this short film will tell one of those stories.

“It’s rare that an idea will just come to me; most of the stuff that just comes to you is crap,” Lindsey says. “I was watching ‘Dexter,’ and then I was watching something with an anonymous group and thought, ‘What if you just mixed the two together?’”

“Once I get the spark, then I get the title and start fleshing everything out. I start asking myself questions someone else would ask me and eventually end up with a full script.”

Bryan Williams, the film’s co-director, has known Lindsey since their freshman year at Howard.

“He’s very artistic; he likes very obscure things and it’s really cool,” Williams says of Lindsey. “He definitely can take something mainstream and put a twist to it and make it artsy. And, he knows his craft very well. He knows all the technical things to make the shot really good.”

Lindsey and his crew return inside after shooting the exterior scene a few times. The next scene they shoot will be in the kitchen where the main character is preparing to kill again.

“Roll sound,” Lindsey says.

“Sound rolling!” Williams says as he mans the boom microphone.

“Roll camera. Action,” Lindsey says.

The actress grabs the cleaning supplies and places them in a black backpack. She then stares intently at a butcher knife before placing it in the bag as well and finally storms off.

“And cut!” Lindsay says with a smile. “I think we’ve got it, but … let’s do it again just in case.”

After shooting the scene several more times, the crew moves upstairs to shoot the scene where the actress unloads all the supplies from her bag in a very reverent manner. Then, Lindsey decides to go back to the kitchen to shoot another scene.

“I love being inefficient,” he says jokingly. “Sometimes you just get an idea to do something, and you decide to do it before you really think about if it’s the most logical way to do it. But, it’s not a maxim to live by — that’s how you end up homeless.”

The crew carries the film equipment back downstairs and into the kitchen to film the next scene. The actress gets into character and begins making a bowl of cereal while trying to ignore a call on the cell phone of her first victim: her best friend’s abusive boyfriend.

The phone sits in a kitchen drawer filled with other knick-knacks that she keeps as souvenirs from her other victims. After picking up the phone and staring at it, she throws it back in the drawer and slams it shut so she can resume her breakfast.

“Cut! That looked really good,” Lindsay says. “Let’s do it again though.”

After filming the scene several more times to get the perfect shot, production wrapped for the day and the crew ordered a pizza for dinner before going home.

There is still a lot more work to be done on the film and scenes to shoot, but the crew made significant progress.

No matter what happens to his career in the future, Lindsey says he will always keep making short films for his own “artistic expression.”

“There’s the master plan, and there’s reality,” he says. “Hopefully when I graduate, I’ll get a job at a production house as an assistant editor or something. Then I want to be a cinematographer. The best-case scenario would be to be a film director — to make movies and make music. Childish Gambino is kind of the guy I’m modeling my career after but instead of acting, directing. That’s the trajectory I hope to go on, eventually.”

“The whole idea that people say 90 percent of directing is casting, that applies to life,” Lindsey says. “If you don’t set the situation up to go the direction you want it to go, it’s not going to go that way.”

Briahnna Brown is a writer for 101Magazine.net.



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