The World's Story is Yours to Tell
Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Mike Yonts, and I live in Indianapolis, which is near the middle of the United States. I'm in business for myself making TV commercials and videos for corporate, government, and nonprofit clients. That means that I get to play with cameras, lights, and editing equipment and get paid for it!
Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I grew up in a rural area with parents who didn't have much education. There weren't a lot of activities for kids, but for some reason I was a good student and loved reading. During my last couple of years at my small high school, we had a teacher who was willing to make the effort to put on plays. Even though I had never done anything creative, I found that I was drawn to every aspect of theater—the sets, the lighting, the acting.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Believe it or not, one of my first inspirations was The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. As a high school kid in the 1970's, I had limited access to popular culture beyond the three or four broadcast TV channels. But I was struck by how much fun the entertainers on Johnny Carson always seemed to be having.
Until I got to college, I didn't have a clue about how movies got made or how TV shows got on the air. But my freshman year at Indiana University happened to coincide with the making of a Hollywood film called Breaking Away, right there on the campus. I went down to the old stadium to be in the crowd scene for the big bike race at the end. I loved getting to see a movie being made. I'm in the stadium crowd if you know where to look!
Also I had a friend who worked at the university's TV station. He had his own audio recording equipment and knew all kinds of things about sound and images. After he got a job as news photographer, I started riding around in the news car with him, carrying gear and doing anything I could to be useful. He and I got the idea of making a film as a project for a class. This class was offered in the English department and wasn't really about production at all. Even though personal video equipment was unheard of in those days, we thought we could just barely get away with borrowing video gear from my friend's various workplaces. So we helped ourselves to gear wherever we could find it. It's a good thing we didn't break anything; we'd have been in a lot of trouble!
Who or what do you most admire?
I'm really drawn to anybody that can teach me something. I'm always thrilled to meet a scientist, or an explorer of some sort. I especially love people who do amazing things in relative obscurity. For instance, my favorite astronaut is John Young. He went into space six times, walked on the moon, and flew the space shuttle on its first mission. Yet I bet not one in a hundred people has ever heard of him. Same thing with James Jamerson, who played bass on just about every Motown hit of the sixties and seventies.
I'm a big fan of many of the bloggers, podcasters and authors who are working to inform people about pseudoscience, superstition, and other silliness. And I admire my wife tremendously. She's performed the thankless task of serving on our local school board for the last three years. Now that's brave!
What did you film on 10.10.10?
I reasoned that my best chance of getting something into the finished movie was to shoot one great brief shot. So I looked for something that was at hand, and yet something not everyone has seen. Our local art museum has an area of very interesting outdoor art installations, including a sort of basketball court with vivid blue and red tubes that form arches like the path that a ball might make bouncing around. I put a fisheye lens on my Red One camera, and had my eleven-year-old son pedal his unicycle through the frame. I shot right into the sun, so there are flares everywhere. There's no story–it's just sort of a crazy dream.
What are you planning on filming for 11.11.11?
I've thought about shooting something related to farming, since there's a lot of that around here. There is also the possibility of filming some wildlife. And there are some terrific mountain scenes in Kentucky where my family is from.