100 Dallas Creatives: No. 77 Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain
Photo courtesy Jason Cirone
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
Save for his disarming charm, were you to meet Michael Cain in person you'd never guess he's one of Dallas' most inspired movers-and-shakers. Which is to say, his glowing humility renders his heavy artistic presence comforting rather than intimidating. But, no question, Michael Cain is a big deal. If it were possible to trace the webs that Cain has had a hand in drawing across the Dallas arts culture, I imagine we'd all owe this man a hearty thank you. Hell, if you've ever seen an independent film in Dallas or attended a local film festival then you've probably already been influenced by Cain.
From philanthropy to film, to environmentalism and education, Cain does it all. He's won at The Sundance Film Festival (TV Junkie, 2006), raised countless dollars for cancer and continues to energize and educate the Dallas' arts scene by example. Through inexhaustible ambition and a restless creative spirit, Cain is one of those rare people that help to remind us: culture is a two-way street, it's as important to create as it is to give back. I could go on and on, but I'd best let the man speak for himself.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I'm very proud that I've been part of a group of people who have worked to give Dallas filmmakers a voice, their own voice; that is, through introductions, educational opportunities, and film festivals that have showcased and supported local filmmakers to the public (including other filmmakers, distributors and financiers). I'm also proud of having founded or co-founded: The Deep Ellum Film Festival, Arts Fighting Cancer, Deep Ellum Film, Music, Art and Noise (DEFMAN), Santa Monica Film Festival, Lone Star Drive-in, Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier, the Dallas Film Festival, the Dallas Film Society, AFI DALLAS International Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival.
What about the Dallas arts scene do you find most exciting/impressive?
I see a unique voice forming in Dallas. Perhaps it has always been there but it is growing confident and rebellious, much like the spirit of Dallas itself. We have something to say and we are going to say it our way. This spirit is found in the largest urban arts district in the USA, the new design district, Cedars, Trinity Grove and, one of my favorites, Deep Ellum.
What are some areas you think Dallas really needs to improve upon?
While our magnet and private schools often excel in preparing students for the future, the public system needs to be reworked, recharged and revitalized. We also need to create spaces for artists to live near or in the arts district. We need that energy to change this beautiful district from a near ghost town from 9-7 to a vibrant supportive, creative community.
Can you tell us more about your current projects?
I'm currently the Executive Director of Earth Day Texas, the largest environmental earth day celebration in the world. In my first 6 months we saw an increase of 39% in attendance and 12.5% in exhibitors. But, there is still much to do to create a year-round, pro-business, pro-government, pro-non-profits and pro-academic organization, an institution and forum that I believe could change the world.
I also just finished directing/producing The STARCK CLUB documentary, which tells the history of Dallas in the '80s through the lens of the infamous STARCK CLUB. We are currently working with the producers of CNN's Chicagoland to help develop the documentary into a narrative TV series. Working alongside Sire Records' legend Seymour Stein, we've also created a soundtrack for the film, which consists of 24 iconic '80s songs.
Early on in your career, what art and/or artists inspired you most?
I was always inspired by filmmakers. At first, this took the form of actors and stars like Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster and Vincent Price. Inspired by them, I felt that I could be an actor. Luckily, I soon learned that directors and producers actually held more control over the creative process. Then, I was inspired by David Lynch, Sydney Pollack and Alfred Hitchcock. These figures made me want to direct/produce. My biggest influence was David Lynch, he was the reason that I applied to the American Film Institute. Blue Velvet just blew me away.
What/who inspires you most now?
On a professional front, I'm inspired most by watching filmmakers that I was lucky enough to be a part of their journey--those that I helped to succeed. But, honestly, what inspires me most is watching my wife Melina and our 16-month-old daughter, Athena, play with each other. Magic.
What advice would you offer to young artists/film makers?
I always tell filmmakers that they have to remember that this is a job, and that they have to be professional. They need to be the first one on the set and the last to leave. They have to be willing to sweep out the stables for a while before they get into the saddle. Also, to always make sure to bring it back to Texas. We must invest in our own town, our own arts scene. We must give back.
100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey
99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin
98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo
97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet
96. Funny Man Paul Varghese
95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña
94. Magic Man Trigg Watson
93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz
92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King
91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno
90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger
89. Literary Lion Thea Temple
88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele
87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart
86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards
85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler
84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez
83. Movie Nerd James Wallace
82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford
81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner
80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel
79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull
78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland