WELCOME TO MICHAEL COULSON'S BLOG.
I am a filmmaker, creative director and artist with experience working in all forms of digital and analog media. A lot of my work is a collaboration with people from varied disciplines: artists, scientists, musicians. I like working with people who are driven by a passion for what they do and who want to make a difference. This blog is designed to show some of my current work with my company Three Humans Inc (THInc) and a selection of historical artwork from my portfolio.
ROCKET MAN. Rocket Man is documentary I am making about Dr Chris Hansen, a bi-polar Quaker pediatrician and life-long volunteer for the cause of social justice. Chris believes in the power of medicine to change the lives of poor children and feels compelled to do whatever he can to help them. But in his working life he is haunted by a terrible dilemma: Who does he help and who does he ignore? If he lets down his defenses, he may be drawn into making promises he can’t keep.
GIVING BECOMES ROCKET MAN
I have been editing a 90 minute cut of the documentary GIVING using all the new footage I shot of Chris’s family and former colleagues combined with the material I filmed several years previously of Chris in Haiti. After screening the film to other colleagues and film makers it was decided to create slightly more concise version of the film which would be more suitable for television. With some further funding, I was able to employ filmmaker Deborah Dickson as a script advisor to help re-edit the 90 minute version of the film down. (The longer edit – which deals a little with Chris’s influence and legacy, will still be made available as will a more concise 10 minute version for schools).
Deborah is a visiting professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York and an award winning film maker best known for documentary features Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House, and Oscar nominated LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton. As well as helping make cuts and advising how to strengthen the story, Deborah suggested changing the title from Giving, to Rocket Man to open the film up to a wider audience with a more enigmatic title. His son Jona calls him the ‘rocket man’ and, in one of key scenes in the film, surrounded by his family, Chris talks about finding the "ultimate escape" away the stresses of his work by setting off rockets with his children. He describes the experience as a “magical wistfulness” and he feels he is, “going up with the rocket, and out into space,” away from it all.
Although I was fond the title Giving, I believe that Rocket Man is more original and fits with Chris’s anarchic sense of fun and reflects his peripatetic life as a doctor and volunteer. All the original themes of Chris’s fight for social justice, and lifelong service towards others, are still at the heart of the film. Of course the new title immediately brings to mind the Elton John song and I am investigating the possibility of getting permission to use a rerecording of the track for the rocket flying sequences in the documentary. For the soundtrack to the main body of the film I am in discussions with Canadian musician and composer Michael Brook (Affliction, Into the Wild, Brooklyn) about using some of his music - all of which is very exciting! I have posted a new 5 minute trailer of the latest version of film.
For more information go to Rocket Man page
THE HUMAN FACE
The Human Face, a 60-minute documentary made for BBC Arena in 1991, and co-produced by Muscle Films with Wall to Wall television, was screened at the Brighton Festival May 22 2016 with a presentation by Laurie Anderson. "One of my favorite things I was ever involved with - amazing project. So pleased it's out of the archives and in a cinema. Michael Coulson and Nichola Bruce created an amazing film." Jane Root Nutopia.
THE BODY AS FACTORY: Anatomy of an Image 6 November 2014 Rick Poynor, Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, wrote an article in Design Observer magazine about an illustration I had produced with Nichola Bruce in 1979 for New Scientist magazine in London. He liked the image and had put it on his wall many years ago and lost the picture credit. He tracked us down and interviewed us for a piece he was writing on the theme of The Body as Factory. See also the KRUDDART page.
I am currently making a feature documentary, 'Still Spitting' - from puppets to porcelain - about the evil genius behind the Spitting Image tv show, Roger Law. After the show ended, his passion for making things led him to Jingdezhen, the porcelain capital of China, to make objects as beautiful as he feels his political caricatures were rude and ugly.
In 2014, I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the soundtrack for the film. The campaign was successful and I was able to commission Composer and multi instrumentalist Charlie Klarsfeld.
Summer 2014 Charlie is busy working away at the soundtrack for the film in his Bushwick studio in Brooklyn NYC. - to be completed end of September/beginning October. Charlie has been given over 50 music cues to work from, and is creating original songs and incidental music based on the temporary tracks laid in by me. As each of the tracks are completed, I am laying them back into the timeline of the film. Look out for future posts of some of the new tracks. And check out the view of Manhattan from Charlie's window.
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION Michael was commissioned by the ACLU to make a video highlighting the problem of voter suppression prevalent in some areas of the United States, creating a potential problem for the 2012 election.
Michael worked with his colleague Jeffrey Chong to make an innovative animation using a mix of traditional techniques such as rotoscoping (drawing an image from film or video and then re-animating them, 24 images per second) with the latest photoshop techniques.Whoopi Goldberg joined the project and gave it some gravitas with her distinctive voice over. This is the 2nd video Michael has made for the ACLU. In 2011 he was commissioned to produce a video commemorating the 90th anniversary of the institution's formation.
WINGS OF DEATH
January 2007 David Kerekes, a UK based writer is involved in a book on British cinema called Offbeat (to be published by Headpress later this year). One aspect of the book is the 'short film' and he interviewed Nichola Bruce and myself about the film Wings of Death we made together in 1984.The film was based on series Gothic style paintings created by Nichola and myself and from which the script was derived. The film, set in the revolting and decaying Byzantium Hotel, features a young heroine addict Alex, played by Dexter Fletcher, who relives an idyllic - and possibly apocryphal - past before slipping into a much more terrifying world. A sinister little girl wanders the corridors, cutting open her doll "to see what's inside" while winos and junkies prowl as flesh-eating zombies...
David wrote, "The 1980s trend towards high quality short films continued with Nicholas Bruce and Michael Coulson's nightmarish Wings of Death which scooped the 1st prize at the 1985 Sitges Festival before going out on general release in the UK supporting Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street . Bruce and Coulson were trying to make a point about drug abuse, and they certainly make a good fist of it, brilliantly and economically capturing the horror of alienation and the terror of not being able to trust your own senses."
David is writing a piece for Offbeat about the film, which may have been the last short to play as a support to a main feature in England, and other ‘forgotten movies’ from the 1980s which he has kindly allowed me to post. See the Wings of Death section of the blog to read David’s piece.
BAND ON THE RUN
Paul McCartney's 1973 multi million selling album, “Band on the Run”, was re-released in November 2010 in various CD and DVD formats. The DVD features re-mastered tracks and bonus audio & video content. Amongst this video content is my college graduation movie made in 1974/5 a homage to the Beatles, called “Band on the run” after the song and set to the track. The movie is listed in the DVD as the official original video for the song and is also used with other video footage to promote the DVD album re-release.
I made the film while I was student at Hornsey College of Art. It was intended as a short graphic history of the Beatles. I chose this particular Paul McCartney track for the film as I liked the beginning instrumental section and originally I was only going to use the first section, but I was persuaded by my tutor to create a film to accompany the complete track. As there were no music videos at this time (MTV did not appear until 1981) this was a revolutionary idea and I went along with it.
I was influenced by Richard Lester’s Hard Day’s Night and to a lesser extent Help. I liked the animated film Yellow Submarine, which came out in 1968. I was also very interested in Terry Gilliam’s animated sequences for the British TV show Monty Python. I had seen in some of these films and wanted to understand how they were made and tried to make something of my own.
As well as being an homage to the Beatles, my film was a chance for me to experiment with film techniques and effects such as set making, back projection and in camera superimpositions. I shot the film using a wind up Bolex camera with a cable release button that I had to click in order to expose a frame of film. I had to click it 24 times to create a second of film. Sometimes I used the camera attached to an animation rostrum on to which I placed stills and sometimes I used it as a conventional movie camera shooting live action shots. I wanted to use images of the Beatles that I could cut up and manipulate. I was helped by David Cheshire, former ex Art and Design librarian at Hornsey College of Art, who had a huge collection of pop culture magazines, which he allowed me to copy.
Everything in the film was hand made by me and it took two years to complete. It was my first film—a music video made before there were music videos— and I entered it into the Movie Maker Young Filmmakers competition, where it won a Gold Star Award and was screened at their gala in 1978.
WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL
Michael was commissioned to make a series of short films for The World Science Festival hosted by Brian Greene, the American physicist, Nova presenter and author of The Elegant Universe. The films all use visual metaphors to communicate difficult scientific principles. The Holographic Principle, Digital Physics, Cryptography and the Mathematical Universe and were screened at the World Science Festival in New York in June 2011.
THE ESTATE OF FRANCIS BACON, DVD & WEBSITE
FRANCIS BACON DVD
In 2006 Michael was asked by the Estate of Francis Bacon and the BBC to make a DVD with series of films about the painter Francis Bacon to accompany the film Bacon's Arena by Adam Low. The DVD was designed as a unique look at the work and life of the artist Francis Bacon. It includes many additional extra features: IN CAMERA, a short documentary film about Bacon and photography, with author and art critic Martin Harrison; REECE MEWS, a short film narrated by Brian Clarke about the remarkable excavation of Bacon’s studio in West London and its recreation in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin; DAVID SYLVESTER, a rare in-depth interview with Francis Bacon by the legendary British art critic; INTERVIEW with Adam Low, the director of Bacon's Arena, and GALLERY, an interactive gallery of works filmed on location at major galleries in Europe with music by Brian Eno.
An examination of the way the painter Francis Bacon used photography to inspire and influence his work.
A candid look at the London studio in which the painter Francis Bacon lived and worked.
In 2010 Michael was asked to re-design the Francis Bacon website and make it function as the primary location for interested parties to go to for information, news and current thinking about Francis Bacon and his work. It was be the first stop for anyone requiring information about Francis Bacon, or wishing to contact the Francis Bacon Estate. The site was also to have a limited e-commerce capability with catalogues, DVDs and books available for sale.
GOLD CASE AWARD
Michael Coulson's company Three Humans Inc (THinc) has been awarded the prestigious CASE award for the DVD it created for the Purnell School in New Jersey, to promote its new “Affinities” learning program.
The feature movie of the DVD uses special effects and HD documentary footage to create a stylized school campus and virtual classrooms. The movie illustrates and promotes a new teaching method, advocating a form of self discovery which builds on a student’s strengths or "affinities."
To make the featured movie, THinc filmed, on High Definition video, a cast of approximately 50 students, staff and parents in a green screen studio set up in the school basketball court. THinc provided script writing, HD video production, editing, green screen studio shoot, after effects animation, music composition, DVD authoring and duplication.
The DVD options include:
1. An introductory video which is a visual metaphor for Purnell and its programs. The video uses documentary material, animated graphics, and music to show each student working to their own strengths in different disciplines: arts, sciences, drama, sports, etc. The video incorporates excerpts from interviews with staff and students, ‘vox pops’ of the students talking about their affinities, and the interaction between students and faculty.
2.An interview with the President of the school Jenifer Fox
3.A Gallery showing short films made by students at Purnell
4.A Gallery showing student artwork and photography
5.Short programs featuring Alumni working in New York
Key Personnel: Producer/Director: Michael Coulson, Editor and After Effects artist: Jeffrey Chong, Cinematographer: Axel Baumann, Camera Assistant: Matt Porwoll, Sound Recordist: Paul Bang, Lighting: The Lighthouse lighting company, Documentary camerman: Alex Nicks, original music: Amanda Homi, Sound mix: Jeffrey Lonigro, Additional editing: Alex Nicks, Student documentary camera: Ariana Wagaman