By Patty Fantasia
Filmmaker Michael Tushaus Regains his Inner Child with THE EXCHANGE
The latest accolade received by Las Vegas filmmaker Michael Tushaus was having his short film THE EXCHANGE screened during the 12th anniversary celebration of the Dam Short Film Festival held recently from February 10th through the 13th in Boulder City, NV. Prior to this event the short was also shown at the Action on Film Festival in Monrovia, CA where it was nominated for two awards; Beatrix Wiersma for Best Child Actor/Actress and Michael for Best Cinematography in a Short Film.
The genesis for the short came from the fact that Michael had bought some new gear and needed a project to use it on. However, THE EXCHANGE was to become much more important very quickly. "The morning before we set out to the desert location for the one-day shoot, I got the call from my family that my father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I was faced with the decision to cancel the shoot and let the news settle in, or move forward and try to keep my mind off of it all. In the end, I decided to continue. My dad was an entertainment guy, too, and his motto, which he had reminded me, is that 'the show must go on.' And it did and it has," he shared.
Tushaus edited the film on his laptop while flying to visit his dad in the hospital as well as back home, while his father's chemo, radiation and surgery took place. He showed his dad the various edits as the film progressed. He continued, "The message of this film resonates even more because of my personal experience. The Man in the film symbolizes that longing to go back to childhood. Going back to that innocent time in life when a simple toy car meant everything in the world. In my mind, the car represents that which can be lost in us as adults—our childhood, and the child within. There were multiple times as a child that I lost that which was priceless to me, and later wished I could get it back. Of course now, that message rings louder to me than ever."
Part of the reason for this is that Michael lost his dad in October of 2015. "Now more than ever, I wish I could go back to that innocent time as a child and get back that which I lost, my dad. But I have to say, I think in a weird way, going through losing him, and all that we did together in those months leading up to his passing, I regained my inner child. "
Aside from the personal complications there were other obstacles Michael faced making THE EXHANGE. He said, "The biggest challenge actually came in post-production. You would be surprised how many shots are effects shots. I had to take many of the shots in to After Effects to remove a lot things. We were near a highway, so there was a constant stream of cars in the background. Since this film and to look like it was out in the middle of nowhere, I had to “scrub” out a lot of objects including cars, buildings, jet vapor trails, and even several car tracks that were in the desert floor. I should make a side-by-side video to show the before and after. It was quite a bit of work. The hardest though was blurring the lady’s sunglasses. I had to keyframe that entire shot and blur them. It took forever,"
No stranger to awards and competitions, Tushaus is a Regional Emmy® & Festival Award Winning director, producer, cinematographer, editor, actor and composer, who owns and manages Digisphere Productions. He holds a B.A. in Theatre and Music and has wanted to make movies for most of his life. "As a filmmaker, I have garnered several awards and dozens of festival selections for my productions in the film festival circuit. Notably, I co-produced, co-wrote, & edited and starred in a full-fledged Western film, THE ADVENTURES OF LOOP & RHETT, which itself won 14 awards and 7 nominations in the festival circuit including the categories of Best Film, Best Lead Actors, Best Supporting Actress, Best Stunts, Best Production Design, and several Awards of Overall Excellence," he said. In addition, more recently he received 4 Regional Emmy nominations for his work as director, producer, editor and composer for a commercial he did for his parent's independent bookstore and the year before that won an Emmy for Music Composition Arrangement for another commercial campaign. As a child Michael used his friend's mom old super 8mm film camera to make silly films with before graduating to VHS and various tape-based cameras. At 17 after making countless home movies and skits he went on to write and direct his first feature length movie, TRIBUNE. He said, "I was always drawn to the camera. I loved the idea that we could make something creative and tell a story on our own. We didn’t need a studio, we had a camera that was like this wonder tool to allow us to create whatever we wanted. I think one of the greatest rewards was entertaining my family and friends. If it was a comedy, I took great joy in making my parents laugh. I knew that if they actually laughed at it, I was on the right track. And believe me, they didn’t always laugh. Hahaha."
Today Tushaus counts Stephen Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Mel Brooks, John Hughes, Savage Steve Holland, David Fincher, J.J. Abrams and Richard Donner among his favorite filmmakers and loves comedy, action, drama, mystery, sci-fi and westerns. "As long as it's a good film, the genre doesn't matter. A good story is a good story," he believes. As for suggestions he'd like to pass along to more novice filmmakers submitting projects to festivals he advised, "Keep it simple! Really, seriously, keep it simple. Because even a simple concept is hard as hell if you do it right. The pre-production, the casting, the writing, the shooting, the locations, the editing, etc. It is never simple to make a film. Especially a good one. So start simple, meaning a small cast, a short script and one location. Start with that. Then, make it as good as you possibly could ever make it. Don’t compromise. Make the script really good, cast incredible actors, and edit it so critically that half of your favorite shots get left out. Simple doesn’t mean easy. And easy never leads to anything good. Work hard. Always. But also, make sure it is fun, too. If it isn’t fun at all, if your heart isn’t in it, your project will lack heart and it will show onscreen. Only make films you want to make. Sounds weird, but it’s true. I have worked on a lot of crap I didn’t believe in. It makes a huge difference in your performance and output when you believe in the project. Your attention to detail goes up. Your amount of passion and hard work increases, too."
Presently Michael has a music video he just shot and directed for a song called "Beautiful Things" performed by the band Rabid Young, which should be releasing online soon. He related,." I’m really proud of it. It was definitely a passion project that I believed in. The song is great and the video is really fun. What I love about it is that the band is very likable in it. Most band videos these days are trying too hard to be cool. I love how fun and charismatic this band is and how they just had fun." Tushaus plans to enter the video into the Dam Short and Las Vegas Film Festivals along with some others. He enthused, "Look for it soon!"