VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Celona, Mike

Mike Celona
US videomaker


Interview:10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

MC: I was born and currently live in Rochester, New York–home of Kodak and the George Eastman museum as well as a very passionate but little-known filmmaking community. I grew up in a small town called Honeoye Falls and was fortunate enough to attend a high school which had (and still has) a very impressive media arts program run by a great teacher named Harold Coogan. After graduation I attended Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts where I obtained a BFA in Art Video in 2005 and then spent the next few years living in New York City before returning to Rochester in 2008.

2. When, how and why started you filming?

MC: I started messing around with video when I was very young. When I was five years old my grandfather bought a camcorder that he would let me play with whenever I would come over to visit. It was the kind of camera that recorded to full-size VHS cassettes and relative to my size at the time the thing felt like a bazooka so more often than not I would just set it up on a tripod and goof off in front of it. I still have quite a few of the tapes that I made as a kid and they are equal parts hilarious and embarrassing but the key thing is that I got that narcissistic streak that you see with a lot of present-day video bloggers out of my system at a relatively early age which has allowed me to move on to what I feel are more interesting subjects—I simply got sick of myself. Around the same time my father taught me how to record programs off of the television with his VCR and to my infinite delight–how to edit out the commercials. Later as I began learning how to use early versions of modern video editing programs at school I became more and more interested in editing as a form of creative expression.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?

MC: My choice of subjects tends to center around nature, technology and the convergence of the two. I also like to explore the psychological effects of media messages and to share whatever cultural and philosophical observations that are within my limited capacity to articulate. Also, while I do not adhere to this as a strict rule per se, I tend to avoid using people as my primary visual subjects except in my found footage projects. I think that we as a species have begun overdocumenting ourselves in a manner that does not necessarily contribute all that much to our broader understanding of the world in which we live and if one were to take the notion of media ecology literally, I like to see my work as recycling and adding context to existing images instead of simply contributing my own to the trash heap.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?

MC: Although I frequently shoot my own source footage, I consider myself to be an image manipulator first and foremost rather than an image generator in the traditional sense. To me, video editing has always been a lot like sculpture in that it is a reductive process. Also, I enjoy the non-destructive nature of today’s editing technology–having the ability to improvise and explore the various permutations of a project is of greater interest to me than trying to capture the perfect image of reality at any given moment. That’s not to say that I am indecisive, it’s just that I prefer to use editing tools as my primary creative instrument rather than a camera.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.

MC: I own work on both Mac and PC computers and am not particularly loyal to either platform. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that come into play on a project to project basis. Like most other things it’s all about using the right tools for the right job. For software I tend to use Final Cut Pro for commercial jobs because it is the industry standard in our local market though I have always been partial to Adobe Premiere and After Effects for my art projects. More recently I have begun experimenting with live video mixing and sound design for which I have been using a combination of Arkaos Grand VJ and Ableton Live though I also like to explore open source programs as well. Finally, I still have an old Sony miniDV camcorder that I often use as a deck or signal converter–it gets very little use as a camera these days.

6. The field of “art and moving images” (one may call it videoart or also differently) is manifesting itself as an important position in contemporary art. Tell me more about your personal position and how you see the future of this field (your personal future and the future of “art and moving images”)

MC: I’m not really sure what you mean by “art and moving images” since I consider moving images to be just as valid and important an art form as any other. In terms of where moving image art is going I think it’s a no-brainer that there will be continue to be a lot of disciplinary cross-over as well as a continued emphasis on performance and interactivity as priorities amongst contemporary artists, especially via the web.

There will also probably be more and more people experimenting with installations and live video mixing as ways to create a more immersive viewing experience for audiences and I do believe that 3D is the future, but perhaps not that of cinema. A lot of film critics have dismissed 3D as distracting from a movie’s plot but did anyone ever stop to think about how unsuited narrative storytelling might be to the 3D medium? 3D technology could be put to much better use by installation artists and others designing interactive environments which is why I think that the most interesting innovations in the near future will be seen in clubs, galleries and video game consoles rather than in movie theatres. As successful as the film Avatar was, I think it would have been a million times better if they had just discarded the script and turned it’s fictional world into a Disneyland attraction that people could walk through and explore on their own but realistically one has to realize that 3D cinema is at best a transitional technology. While there are already consumer 3D camcorders out there I’d be very interested to see what happens when every facet of 3D technology (especially projection) becomes affordable enough for grassroots experimentation and it’s definitely something I would like to tinker with.

7. How do you finance your films?

MC: I work a day job as a commercial video editor working mostly on corporate and institutional fundraising videos. It’s not always the most interesting work but by prostituting myself in that way I have found that I can achieve a greater degree of creative independence on my own projects than if I were to seek direct funding. Furthermore, since most video equipment can be reused from one project to the next, a lot of my work tends to be produced on a no-profit/no-loss basis anyways–all I need is time.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

MC: I have worked with large and small crews on a lot of commercial projects but I generally prefer to work alone on my own stuff. Film has always been an inherently collaborative medium due it’s sheer technical complexity but as a result it also frequently suffers from too many chefs in the kitchen spoiling the broth. As someone with an initial background in studio arts (drawing, painting, etc.) I just don’t find that sort of forced boardroom style of collaboration all that appealing–especially if it’s a minimum requirement for getting the project made in the first place. If I had been born a few decades earlier during the film era I’m not sure I would have bothered entering this field at all. The wonderful thing about modern video technology is that it allows for more avenues of personal expression and grants you the freedom to collaborate with other people because you want to, not because you have to. That said however, nobody is an island and I frequently engage in all sorts of indirect collaborations such as when I do remix projects or compose visuals for a piece of music by somebody else or vice versa.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

I have always admired the films of Stan Brakhage, especially the ones where he would physically manipulate the film by either scratching abstract patterns into the emulsion, painting on clear celluloid or even taping objects to it. While none of those techniques are applicable to video due to it’s lack of a physical image, I’ve always admired his ability to explore and make creative use of the unique fundamental characteristics of his chosen medium; especially one that is as rigidly institutionalized as film. I also greatly admire the works of video art pioneers Steina & Woody Vasulka and Bill Viola, as well as 1990s media collage pioneers Emergency Broadcast Network.

10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?

Getting back to the previous question of collaboration, while I generally like to keep my actual productions relatively self-contained, I have been looking to work with others in terms of exploring different ways of exhibiting video. For example, I have a friend who works with glass and we have been kicking around the idea of projecting some of my abstract videos on or through some of his glass sculptures within a closed space and seeing what kinds of distortions can be generated. I am also in the process of forming a musical group to accompany my real-time video mixing experiments so we’ll see where that goes!

Can works of yours viewed online besides on CologneOFF or VideoChannel? Where?
List some links & resources