MIKE CARROLL and BONNIE BENNETT are the husband-wife filmmakers behind The Garage Filmworks.
They first entered the independent film scene ten years ago when Mike bought a DV camcorder to shoot their first film, Dog Soldiers, a documentary about professional dog walkers in New York City, shot while they were vacationing with Bonnie’s daughter Lori and her family on Manhattans’ Upper East Side.
Dog Soldiers went straight from a first-time experiment to see what could be make with a digital camcorder and laptop computer editing (Final Cut Pro) to projection on the big screen in festivals in Sacramento, the Miami International Film Festival (alongside the U.S. premiere of Laz Buhrman’s Moulin Rouge and a tribute to Francis Coppola) and The Seattle Underground Film Festival.
A few months later Mike was bored and typed his name into Google and up came “Mike Carroll best documentary.” He clicked on the page and discovered, to his surprise, that The Seattle Underground Film Festival had named Dog Soldiers as the Best Documentary winner of the festival. Dog Soldiers was picked up for pay-per-view cable in New York City.
This film got the attention of producer director Michael Dryhurst (Excalibur, Hope And Glory, The Ward Way), which led to a deep friendship and filmmaking collaboration through Michael wrote a 45 minute dramatic film, Power, for Bonnie, which he produced and directed with Mike Carroll as cameraman and editor.
“It was one of those great experiences in life that you can’t possibly believe is happening to you,” recalls Mike Carroll. “Hope And Glory is one of my all-time favorite films, and to then find myself not only good friends with the producer, who also was second unit director on the fill, and who wants me to work with him on a film. It was like two weeks of going to classic British film school.
“I will never get Michael’s voice out of my line saying, ‘Wide shot, medium shot, complimentary close-ups.’
“What was also truly wonderful was that Michael and I got a long so completely. We would start to see and Michael would say to me, “I’m thinking John Frankenheimer for this scene. For another scene he might simply say, I am thinking Michael winner for this one. And that’s all he would need to say and I knew exactly where to place the camera from their — and for every shot to follow.
“As a kid, I grew up loving the old British movies on TV. One of my absolute favorites was A Night To Remember, about the sinking of the Titanic, made in the 1950s. As it turned out, that was one of the first films that Michael Dryhurst worked on as a clapper loader for the great British cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Tess). To think that years later I would be working with, and dear friends with, a man who had been a part of so many of the wonderful films that I had grown up loving was truly amazing.”
After Power, Mike was eager to finally realize his lifelong ambition of making his own feature-length film and making it to a filmmaking principle that he had always wanted to attempt, which was to make as much of the film himself as possible. Little did he know that by the end of making Year, Mike would have made virtually the entire film himself.
For Year, Mike wrote the script, ultimately writing over 20 drafts on the script, directed the film, shot the film himself as his own cameraman, recorded most of the sound himself, entirely edited the film on a standard off-the-shelf Apple eMac computer, designed the artwork for the poster.