For Mike MacMillan, the key to making great films is putting together great teams.
“The biggest impact I have on a film is when I hire a person for a project,” explains the producer, who founded Lithium Studios. “The reason that producers get the Oscar for best picture is because they build and support the team.”
And the OMDC is definitely part of that team.
“When they champion a project, you have another partner,” says MacMillan, who has benefitted from the Export Fund. “It would be impossible for me to spend time on the road without the OMDC. They help you get out into the world to meet partners and collaborators.”
Lithium Studios also works with other Ontario producers like Alyson Richards (Alyson Richards Productions). Richards and MacMillan produced this year’s Toronto International Film Festival Discovery feature Don’t Talk to Irene,which received funding through the OMDC Film Fund. Ireneis about a friendless teenager who has to spend two weeks with her bullies doing community service at a retirement home.
“We get to something that feels like truth in this film,” he says. “I hate bullies, as does Alyson. The standard white male voice has had the helm for many years. People who represent diverse voices are finally taking the stage and finding audiences that want something new. There is a lot of important work to be done in this area.”
It’s important that Lithium is part of this growth, and why MacMillan is so committed to honouring the creative vision of the artists he works with.
“We constantly seek to promote and support voices that aren’t heard as much.”
MacMillan started out building websites and developing content for YouTube, before establishing his film company in 2010. He describes his years working on music videos, commercials and short films as his film school, when he learned how to run a business and support a production. His business has grown exponentially since then. In addition to Don’t Talk to Irene, Lithium is releasing two feature films this year: Weirdos and Mobile Homes. The material for the films, all of which premiered at major international festivals like Cannes and Berlinale, comes from a variety of sources.
“Some are from cold calls or come from my network, from somebody who knows me. It’s important to be at all the major film festivals. We’re always looking for more partners and filmmakers that are interested in creating with us. It’s about building a film family of people you adore and that you love to work with.”
Many of those people come from Toronto, which MacMillan credits with having an amazing production community.
“The talent you can draw from in Toronto is amazing: the quality of the crew, the actors, and the access to partners, both regional and international. It’s difficult to imagine another city that would make a better home for Lithium. Toronto has so many unique voices and talents to tap into.”
Learn more about Lithium Studios: