TRCH Priscilla

Man With a Brush - Mike Meyer Documentary

19 October 15 words: Alison Emm
"What attracted us to him was him. He could have been doing anything but it was him as a person and the way he lived his life"
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photo: Rob Smalley

How did the project come about?
Joe:
I was doing a film for a client in London, and there was a guy there at the same time who was painting a mural for them too. He was dressed in dungarees and had a white moustache and a hard hat, we got chatting and he was so unique that I thought, “Someone needs to make a film about this guy.” I got back to our office and showed Adam the footage I’d taken and we went from there. Then we asked Rob if he’d like to come out to America and do some accompanying as an accompanying project.

What can people expect from the film?
Adam: It’s not really a film about sign painting, it’s a film about a guy who’s made a living doing what he really likes regardless of the challenge of making it happen.

Joe: What attracted us to him was him. He could have been doing anything but it was him as a person and the way he lived his life. One of the criticisms we’ve had from the people that we’ve shown it to is that there isn’t much sign painting in it. It’s kind of an accident and kind of intentional because we didn’t want to get bogged down by that aspect. It’s more about the character. He’s so renowned but he lives in one of the most unique towns I’d ever go to. And he’s barely there but also a massive presence at the same time while he’s travelling the world. He’s so unassuming really.

Do you have a favourite moment from your time with him?
Joe:
One of the most amusing times – part of it is in the film – was when he was having one of his forties cars done up by this local mechanic. He’s basically Frankensteined this car together, and he starts taking it out down these country roads.

Rob: They don’t have MOTs over there so there’s no brakes on this car, no steering, holes in the bottom, but it was faster than a Porsche or something. Just insane.

Joe: There were just these two characters bouncing off each other, it was great.

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photo: Rob Smalley

Whereabouts did you film the documentary?
Joe:
The first week we shot in his hometown of Mezeppa, Minnesota, which has a population of 840. It’s near Fargo. And then, the following two and a half weeks we went across to Chicago, Michigan, Indiana, then back across the country to South Dakota, over to Seattle, then down to Los Angeles via San Francisco. We were with him for over 4,500 miles, over three and a half weeks.

The film is seventeen minutes long - you must have gotten so much footage in that time, was it tempting to make it longer?
Adam:
We originally intended for it to be twelve minutes and extended it. You’ve got to cut it off somewhere.

Joe: A feature would have cost a lot more money, and we didn’t know whether at this point in Mike’s life if there was enough story there. Maybe if we met him again when he’s eighty, though.

How long did it take to come together?
Joe:
I met Mike about this time last year. We shot it at the end of May and beginning of June, then edited it and did all the post production in August and September, and that’s when Rob was working on the stills.

Rob: I waited until they’d done the grading before processing them, I wanted to make sure they sat together nicely, visually.

Joe: With the nature of the subject matter, if we’d had an unlimited budget we would have shot it on film, but we shot it on a digital camera. However, the lenses that we used were the ones used to shoot The Godfather. They’re really old and gave the film an interesting vintage feel.

How on earth did you to get hold of them?
Joe:
We called in a favour.

Adam: They’re insanely valuable.

Tell us about the exhibition that’s running alongside the screening…
Rob:
There are eighteen prints, all A1 size, and they’re being displayed in the two rooms next to the main screen at Savoy where it’s being screened. They’ll be on exhibition boards around the walls, plus there will also be the ones that didn’t make the print cut projected on a loop. It was a difficult process narrowing it down.

Will Mike be at the screening, and will he be introducing the film?
Joe:
It’s undecided, he’d happily introduce it but it might be a bit strange for him to introduce a film about himself that he’s not actually seen yet. But maybe. One of us has got to say something…

Man With a Brush, Savoy Cinema, free, 7 – 10.30pm. The film will be screening at regular intervals throughout the evening, the first screening is at 8pm.

Man With a Brush Facebook event 
Dimension2 website
Scene Photography website