At the Helm
Local Director Completes Sci-fi Film
Filmmaker and photographer Mike Thompson grew up in a small town in North Carolina, where dreams of making movies and music videos seemed light years away. He now lives in Louisville where he recently completed the filming of Blackbird, which he describes as a science fiction love story.
“I just love movies and I love telling stories,” Mike says. “Iris and Blackbird are my first two film projects outside of music videos, so I think they’re only a small fraction of the types of stories I hope I can tell one day. I have a pipe dream of somehow being like Howard Hawks and make a movie in every genre, if possible.”
Mike spent many years working at various advertising firms creating concepts for commercials and graphic design projects, until he was serendipitously pulled into an ad meeting.
“The creative director pulled me in to help create an idea for this commercial,” Mike says. “They let me come out to the shoot and I received this one-day crash course education, and I guess I caught the bug that way.”
A few months later Mike secured a job at a record label where he gained experience as a music video editor.
“Once I moved to Louisville I just took the dive and started working on my own projects, mostly in music videos at first, and it’s just kind of grown over time,” Mike says.
Blackbird is the second short film Mike and his team have written and directed. The plot involves a husband and wife debating the idea of uploading her consciousness to an artificial intelligence form after she’s severely disabled in a car accident. It’s a dark and cerebral film, indicative of the personal struggles Mike was enduring during the conception phase of the film last year.
“I was leaving to go to Sundance with a friend and my wife found out that she was going to have to have surgery, and that cancer might be involved,” Mike says. “I had all of these thoughts going through my head. It’s weird how you can go your whole life without thinking about your mortality or that of those around you – everyone is just there.”
Mike adds that he was scared and did his best to stay positive.
“The downside to that is there’s nowhere for you to voice your fear or even anger at why something like that has to happen to someone you love, especially the person you love the most,” he says.
While sitting in an airport to return home from the festival, Mike began writing. He said it felt good to examine his grief and place his fear and uncertainty into something. Blackbird became his coping mechanism.
“I think everyone started reading the script and assuming it was going to be a thriller like Iris, and were shocked to realize that it’s just this science fiction love story about second chances and facing uncertainty to help the person you love.”
Within a month, the film’s crew was in pre-production and his wife’s test results were returned as cancer-free. The film is now in post-production and Mike hopes to have it onscreen by October. He also looks forward to the possibility of screening the film at industry festivals.
Blackbird was born from a myriad of different thoughts and ideas, as well as Mike’s struggles. He is a huge fan of 1970s- and 1980s-era science fiction, and describes Blackbird as a love letter to classic sci-fi films like Solaris, Blade Runner and World On A Wire.
A large portion of the film was produced in Louisville.
“I love filming in Louisville,” Mike says. “I film all of the projects that I can here or in surrounding areas, and I always employ crew and talent from Louisville or southern Indiana. There’s just a lot of support here for the industry right now.”
Mike feels immense gratitude for the support of the Louisville and southern Indiana communities, and says it’s a reward to be part of an industry he loves so much.
“I’m kind of like Ringo Starr – I’m just happy to be here,” he says.