Micah Troublefield Loves to Tell a Story - GigSpotting.Net

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Micah Troublefield Loves to Tell a Story

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Micah Troublefield loves filmmaking.  Writing, filming, directing, editing... whatever is thrown at him.  But, his main passion is storytelling.  

A partner in the Strawhouse Pictures gang of four along with Brian Oxendine, Anil Dhokai, and Chris Gervais.  They have the ability and sensibility to make quality movies and that's just what they've been doing. 

One of those movies is a short film called The Gospel of Hip Bones premiering this week at the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, South Carolina. Starring Erika Chase, Ernest Bryant Hinnant, Benjamin Caswell, Patrick G. Keenan, and Janice Mitchell Wyatt. Co-written and directed by Micah and Chris Gervais it is a story about a couple of Mormon young men like the ones on bicycles with white shirts and black ties you see going door to door in your neighborhood.  More importantly it is a behind the scenes look at these teenagers and some of the normal distractions of growing up.  Such as discovering the wonders of young girls.
Micah Troublefield by Matthew Turner
 Photo Credit: Matthew Turner

Here's what Anil Dhokai, a friend since high school and accomplished director/cinematographer, had to say about Micah.  "Micah is a good friend and long time collaborator. His films are some are some of my favorite projects to come out of Stawhouse pictures. The humor and style of his stories reflect shows like Freaks and Geeks as well as early John Hughes' movies."

Another co-worker, Justin Hoogeveen, described him like this.  "Working with Micah was fun. He has good knowledge of films and the film making process. He is a really funny guy so every day on set was a great time and we never had a dull moment. He was able to get what he wanted out of a shot and could explain things well to his other camera operators to make sure it came out how he wanted."

I have the impression that being creative is in Micah's DNA and he only wants to work on things that he can do his best on.  We should all have such aspirations!

Below is a conversation I had with Micah last year.

What was it that first interested you about filmmaking?

Micah: I had a high school class with Anil Dhokai called Visual Communications that turned me into a film geek. We watched, studied and made movies everyday. Before that my life goal was to be a famous musician, but I wasn't any good, so it was the perfect time to find something else creative that I felt like I could do better. Eventually it was all I wanted to do. We had a teacher named Mr. Reid who inspired everyone and encouraged us in the right way. A lot of people from his class went on to study film, and a decent number of those people are still pursuing it.

What class was this in?  You were fortunate to have a class in high school that covered filmmaking.

Micah: There's an Applied Technology Center that all the Rock Hill high schools share. It's also where I first learned graphic design, so it turned out to be a pretty important thing for me.

Were you and Anil friends prior to taking this class?

Micah: We didn't know each other. Somehow we wound up riding to a concert in Charlotte together the first week of class, and just started working together and never stopped. We happened to both go to USC together, so we learned how to light, shoot and write at the same time.

So you collaborating from the start?

Micah: We co-wrote the first movie either of us ever made. He directed it and I think I shot it. It's terrible, but I'm very glad it's one of the three things I made in High School that I still have a copy of. Even though I don't plan on ever showing anyone.

Micah Troublefield 1.jpg

What fascinates you most about filmmaking?  Storytelling, the photography, writing...what?

Micah: Definitely the writing. I love cinematography and directing, but figuring out the best way to tell a story will always be my favorite part. I've been writing with Chris Gervais for a couple years now, and we've really become obsessed with story structure and getting overly nerdy about characters and plot. We'll alternate writing something we can shoot, and then something overly ambitious that we'd have to have real money for.

What led up to the formation of Strawhouse Pictures?

Micah: After graduating USC, Anil got hired as DP on a feature in Rock Hill and brought me on as a gaffer/AC (and really, we were the entire camera crew) that was co-written and produced by Brian Oxendine. We all really clicked, and within a year Brian produced Palmetto Haunting for Anil (where we started working with Chris) and I Am Worthless for me. By [the time of] I Am Worthless, our the crew was mostly our little group. We took turns producing each other's projects, mostly episodes of our anthology show Fantastic Tales of the Unknown at the time, and [we] worked well together.

What are you working on now?

Micah: Chris and I are finishing up a short that we co-wrote and directed called The Gospel of Hip Bones. It was produced by Tim Grant and we were able to work with a dream team of Bernardo Marentes as DP and the folks from Caravan and other insanely talented Charlotte people. Can't wait for people to see it. We're about to send it off for color and sound work, and then we'll figure out a premiere date. I also shot a short for Anil recently called Do Not Disturb which is going to be a lot of fun. Other than that, I'm trying to get everything in order to finally have I Am Worthless available online and on DVD or BluRay by Christmas.

Beside making movies, what other things occupy your free time?

Micah: I haven't really had time to do too much else between movies and work. Chris and I are working out another feature we're planning on writing, and I'm hoping to start writing a short novel again. I have a couple stories that I don't think are right for a movie.

Have you had anything published?

Micah: Definitely not, I'm not great at writing prose. It's something I'm going to need a lot more practice at, but it's something that doesn't cost any money to make.

Who are some directors or authors you admire?

Micah: I'm pretty all over the board when it comes to directors and authors, so I'll just say my favorite current director is probably Rian Johnson. He's only made three movies so it's not really fair but I love how he can take a huge idea and really focus on the human element, or take a small idea and make it feel bigger than it is. Authors is difficult. I've spent a lot of time reading George R R Martin, Stephen King and Haruki Murakami. So I'll just list them.

Have you read any of Stephen King's books on writing?

Micah: I listened to his longest one, which he narrated, so I'll never be able to read one of his books without hearing his voice now.

Which one was it?

Micah: Pretty sure it's just called On Writing. I really enjoyed it; he's an interesting and unapologetically cheesy guy.

Justin Hoogeveen - Micah Troublefield.jpg

It sounds like most of your time is spent with a desire to communicate and produce something new.  What drives you?  The creativity or the accomplishment?

Micah: I don't feel like too many people see our projects, so I probably would've given up if it was all for some accomplishment. I don't really know what drives us. There's never been a time where we weren't working on the next thing.

Does time seem to fly when you're working?

Micah: I don't know if it ever seems like there's enough time when you're shooting. It reverses when we edit though, and no matter how fast we are it feels like it takes an eternity to get a watchable cut done.

Is there any one thing you know now that you wished you had known early on?

Micah: I'm sure there are a lot, but the one that comes to mind is that I've never benefited from working on a project I wasn't passionate about. This would be different if I lived off being a freelancer, but for me, every time I didn't love the script, I didn't benefit from the finished product. Of course I've made things that I wrote poorly, but at the time I was always passionate about them, and making those projects helped me get better. I don't even have copies of most of the projects I worked on for some reason other than just loving the story. I'd love to have the time I spent on those projects [to] put into something else.

In pursuing you long range goals.  Is there a strategy you're following?  How do you market yourself, your company, your films?

Micah: Very very poorly. That's one thing none of us have any idea how to do. We finish something, show it to as many people as we can, submit it to film festivals, and before we figure out a strategy we're already working on the next two projects (and the next unmade movie is always going to be the best one yet.) It would be great if we had an agent or something, but no one knows where to find those mythical creatures.

On the dynamics of film festivals.  I know some of them are a springboard to getting distribution or some other type deal.  I guess some may not be.  What have you found?

Micah: We've had some success with short films at "smaller" film festivals (smaller compared to Sundance or SXSW or one of these huge Oscar-qualifying ones), where we get to go meet other filmmakers and make new friends, which is great. It's incredibly competitive because there are so many people out there making amazing movies. But I'd be happy spending the rest of my life attending Indie Grits or the Skyline Independent Film Festival or something else as cool as those. They're my dream vacation.

I've heard some say that now TV offers more artistic freedom now than Hollywood films do.  Especially for independents.  With original programming for HBO, Hulu, Amazon, etc... filling a niche where you can tell a long story over a number of episodes in a series.  That Hollywood is too formula driven today.  What are your thoughts on that?

Micah: I'm incredibly in love with the quality of shows we have now (and going back to shows that were ahead of their time like Carnivale or Six Feet Under), and having that much time to devote to character building is amazing. A dream job would absolutely be to work in a writers room on a show, or to (getting ahead of myself) get the chance to develop something.

Loved Carnivale.  It was ahead of it's time wasn't it.  Even more so was Twin Peaks.  Those kind of series are gaining traction now and it's exciting to see where it's going.

Thank you so much for talking with us about your writing and filmmaking.

Micah: Thanks so much for letting me ramble on about movies. I love reading and watching the interviews you guys have been doing, and I'm sure my mom will be happy to see that someone cares enough to ask me questions about this stuff.

The Gospel of Hip Bones - Trailer from Micah Troublefield on Vimeo.

You can see The Gospel of Hip Bones tonight and Saturday night at The Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, South Carolina. Click on the link below to purchase tickets.

Buy tickets for The Gospel of Hip Bones debuting at The Indie Grits Film Festival

Related articles:

Chris Gervais of Strawhouse Pictures on Filmmaking