Trinity Arts Interview Series: Michael Dunaway

Meet Michael Dunaway, film producer and director and contributing writer for the irreplaceable Paste Magazine. His most recent project—The Man Who Ate New Orleans!—tells the story of a pastor on a mission to eat at all 600+ restaurants in New Orleans and, along the way, portray the city’s spirit in its “music, food, and rebuilding.” Read on to hear Michael talk about the collaboration of film making and why we should all stop dreaming. 

Q: What is your favorite space to create?

Michael Dunaway: For the actual filmmaking, I’m generally either on location for a shoot or chained to a computer for editing. But for the ideation, I’d say my favorite space is in the driver’s seat of my crappy old 4Runner, on a long drive somewhere (likely New Orleans). Lots of caffeine and loud music to accompany. After one of those trips I always have more film ideas than I know what to do with, and my poor wife knows she’s in for an earful when I get settled.

Q: What is your favorite snack to eat while creating?

MD: Deep fried awesomeness

Q: How do you handle artist’s block (times when it is hard to create)?

MD: I always try to have multiple projects going on at once, so that there’s always something else productive to work on. I’m fortunate in that way because there are so many different tasks that go into making an indie film, and it’s easy to mix it up. When I get tired of editing video, I can do some writing, or some research, or have a development meeting, or update the budget. And still be on task.

Q: How do you stay motivated and disciplined as an artist in our distracting society?

MD: That’s one of my biggest challenges. I think it helps to remind yourself of how urgent and crucial it is that this particular work of art be birthed. And if you don’t feel that way, you should be working on something else instead.

Q: What is the best advice someone has given you?

MD: Just over two years ago my dear friend, BMI executive, and co-founder of my film company David Claassen told me I should stop dreaming about making films and just start.  So simple, but it was the right word and I was ready to hear it. Steven Pressfield has written great things about how important it is to START. Your dreams won’t do anyone any good unless and until you start bringing them to life.

Q: What is your theme song?

MD: “I’m Too Sexy” by the immortal Right Said Fred.

Q: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

MD: Based on my facial hair, I’d have to say a goat.

Q: Who/what has inspired you lately and/or locally (i.e. other artists, exhibits, shows, bands, designers, etc)?

MD: On the film side, I’ve had the incredible privilege of getting to know some of the filmmakers behind some of my favorite films of the last few years – people like Scott Teems of That Evening Sun, Bob Persons of General Orders No. 9, and Maureen Ryan of Man on Wire and Project Nim. The guys behind the incredible Bellflower have become buddies too, and their dedication to taking years and years to get that film done are very inspiring. And because I’ve been working on documentaries, I get to work with subjects that are incredibly inspiring, people like Ray Cannata, John Besh, and most importantly Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the greatest heroes of the Civil Rights movement.

Q: Have you worked in your medium in some sort of community lately, be it collaboration, brainstorming, etc? How has that environment affected the work?

MD: Film is inherently a collaborative process, which is a great fit for me. I’m very, very blessed to be working with the people I am working with, all of whom are much more experienced and qualified than I am.  Standing on the shoulders of giants, to be sure.

Q: What is one book/song/painting/piece/etc that has been enriching to your faith?

MD: “Down There By the Train” by Tom Waits.

Q: Describe your process behind the featured piece.

MD: The process of filmmaking is a long and winding road, to be sure, and it requires different sets of skills at every turn. But the common thread throughout the whole thing, for me at least, is collaboration. From conceiving the idea for a project, developing it, assembling a team, planning and executing shoots, editing, finishing, and marketing the film, I am always at my best and most creative in concert with the incredible creatives around me. It's just another measure of grace that just the right people keep getting put in our path.

[Editor's note: Learn more about The Man Who Ate New Orleans! at  http://www.TheManWhoAteNewOrleans.com]

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