Interview with Nathaniel Thomas McGill from American Made Movie
Tell us a bit about your background.
I started making movies at a young age with my parents VHS camcorder, taking photos with the family 35mm, and playing around with an old 8mm film projector and Super 8 camera that came from some relatives, along with recording audio on cassette tapes, I put together a make shift studio and my brother and I made short movies we would make with our friends. In High School I joined the broadcast journalism class and made school news at the request of my friend Vincent Vittorio, after he and I made competing short films as extra credit assignments in other classes.
In 1999, I started my own local TV Show on a local access channel PSP-12, and shot and sold my own commercials to afford air time and pay anyone working on the show, while we did pretty much everything ourselves. After the show ended I began producing documentary films for the Georgia Board of Regents while I was finishing an Associate Degree in Business Administration.
The film's covered Georgia History such as Civil War battles fought on Georgia soil and local WW II Veterans stories and Environmental issues such as Reclaimed Water Projects in the south east. As I began film school at Georgia State University I went to work for "The Georgia Baptist Convention" filming live events and concerts and produced the live video for youth camps. This lead to other opportunities in the Christian Ministry Event circles and I started my own business freelancing for events all over the east coast. I traveled for 6 years building that business and created a successful live concert and event speaker business. Then in 2006, I reduced the amount of work I had coming in to first help plant a local church and then too merge my production business with Vincent's Life Is My Movie Entertainment, and became a partner of that business in 2006. Back then the company produced both narrative and documentary films. I came to work on a documentary about the history of photography called, Light In The Darkroom, as a assistant director while I began developing a project two of my long time friends had written and planned to direct. Vincent and I brought their film under our companies label and began raising funds as the movie's producers. "Dangerous Calling" was soon in production and I had my first film as a producer ready for post-production and distribution.
A deal was acquired with Cloud Ten Pictures, a Christian film company responsible for the Left Behind Series of films, and succeeded in a goal of buying a DVD from Blockbuster video that I had produced. While, blockbuster video is no more, back in those days it was validation that I had done something real with my film degree. But making movies had to be about more than just making and distributing movies that told entertaining stories. Dangerous Calling carried within its story a message that I felt was important. For the budget we had, we decided that it would be better if we spent the same kind of money on producing documentary films.
Narrative films were tough because the competition was out spending and the quality was lacking with what we could do. While documentary films didn't have much production value and we thought we could do a better job with the same size budget and compete a lot better. The economy at that time was in recession and we followed up Dangerous Calling with a documentary on tax reform called "An Inconvenient Tax" with a reach over return philosophy we began to change the way we thought about filmmaking, and were interested in trying to use our gifts to make a difference.
This worked out well and we later distributed the film digitally to much success both on cable and outlets like Netflix and Hulu. After distributing "An Inconvenient Tax" I focused on marketing projects for a while while working on an idea that would eventually become an early treatment for "American Made Movie."
Why do you think documentary movies are important?
Documentaries allow filmmakers to tell stories in creative ways that can both entertain an audience and make change in a particular focus area. Budgets can be smaller than independent narratives and still compete very well against studio releases. Reach over return is a great model for their fundraising that makes much more sense with documentaries and I believe there is a growing demand for non-fiction film content in several niche genres that hasn't been explored yet. I've always been a documentary movie fan, and as a filmmaker it's the kind of cinema that I prefer to make because it allows me to create all kinds of content and keep myself fresh. Interviews, animation, reenactment and narrative type content, are just a few tools that the documentarian can use to keep things interesting for the viewer. From an award winning standpoint, documentary is still one area that still belongs to the independents and creating an academy qualifying documentary feels like it is still in the reach of anyone with the skill and talent it takes to break through in this tough and competitive industry of filmmaking.
What is your film American Made Movie about?
American Made Movie was inspired by the work that my parents and grandparents did in auto-manufacturing while I was growing up. My family has always had a strong belief in buying American to support the families who work to make our products. My friendship with our executive producers, Clyde and Sandra Strickland was based on our mutual love of American Made products and a coming faith in God and America and I believe more than the stories that are told in the film about the companies that compete in a global economy the film is really about the part that we all play in our economy and the difference anyone can make just by choosing to think deeper about what they buy and how it effects their local communities. What are some of the topics which the film addresses?
Consumerism, Macro and micro economics, manufacturing, trade, and patriotism. (Add the films about statement and or treatment)
Did you learn a lot in the process of making the film about US manufacturing?
Yes, spending time with the people that make our products gave all of us that worked in the film a more personal connection to our products.
What has the feedback been like?
The film makes a difference everyday in this country with the people that see it. It's been a great honor to meet people everyday that have seen the film and each of them has a story about how it changed the way they think about what they buy. It's impact in education alone, with the film being shown in hundreds of classrooms is a huge success for me personally and thanks to digital on demand, it's easier than ever for people to access the film and leave their comments which are mostly positive. While not every critic loved the movie, every normal everyday American that sees the film is able to connect with the stories in the film and come to understand that they can make a difference and actually do something to help our nations economy even in the toughest of times.
Have you got any other projects in the pipeline?
Currently I am working on developing positive change in the area of workforce development for my own industry in my home state. As a film teacher focusing on creating a feeder program for the growing film industry in Georgia I am having a lot of fun teaching high school age kids the skills and knowledge they need to go to work or find a college program that can get them work on Hollywood features or TV shows being made right here in Georgia. It's also been great to take a bit of a break after the 5 year journey that was American Made Movie to spend time with my wife and two small girls. When the right topic comes with the right opportunity and I feel called to produce and direct another film I pray my girls are a little bit older so they can be more involved in whatever adventure that God has for me next.
How can people stay up to date with your work?
Any future projects or updates on release information about previous films would be announced on www.lifeismymovie.com