Mudfest: Interview with Co-Director Mike Bove
1st June 2019 by Will Stewart
Every June, on a small farm in rural Wisconsin, a large crowd assembles. A remote field is flooded and turned in to a giant mud pit for people to test their grit and see what their homemade tough trucks can do. What started out as a gathering of friends 20 years ago has now become one of the most anticipated days of the year for many. Routinely drawing 1,500+ people to attend, this event has become the ultimate playground for a group of diehards who just love to play in the mud.
We got in touch with co-director Mike Bove to ask him some questions about Mudfest. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please introduce yourself as a film maker, and how you got into film making. Is Mudfest a typical example of the type of film that you make? You’re part of a collective called JUMBO, please tell me a bit more about that.
Mike – My name is Mike Bove, I’ve been in the business for 10 years now. I started out working in the G&E department and transitioned to DP work which is still mainly what I do to this day. I’ve been interested in visual storytelling from the moment I picked up the family camcorder when I was a kid. That curiosity and passion has parlayed into exciting and dynamic career thus far. I’ve had some unique opportunities that have seen me travel the world several times over and experience things I never would have gotten to otherwise. It’s been something of a whirlwind; I’m grateful for everything that’s come my way.
I cut my teeth shooting a lot of documentary projects for a company called Evolve. These jobs came on the heels of the DSLR revolution – suddenly, you had a bunch of new technology at your disposal that allowed you to create better quality images for a much cheaper price. I started to hone the “cinematic documentary” look as much as I could, because it provides such value to the production. We shot ‘Mudfest’ in that same vein. I kept saying “How interesting would it be if we had a very slow Kubrick-esque zoom, during a live event, that held a shot the whole time, that would end up its entirely in the final cut?” That’s not exactly how it turned out in the end, but that was our philosophy going into it.
JUMBO is a small collective that’s comprised of Mitch Buss, Colin Santangelo and myself. We’re good friends and we all work in the industry in various capacities. We pooled our resources together to create Mudfest, and when the time came to release it we needed a banner to put it under. We had all done another project recently that was going to be displayed on a jumbotron. As we were troubleshooting post production for that, Colin suggested we should call ourselves jumbo. We all thought it was pretty funny, so that’s where the name came from.
Mudfest is certainly a type of film we like to make – real people in real situations, displayed with a professional visual flair. However, I can’t say it’s typical of what we want to keep doing. You’re always changing as a creative person and that curiosity to try other things never goes away. We’re still finding our voice a bit. Mitch and I both come from camera backgrounds though so one thing is for certain and that’s putting an emphasis on cinematography for whatever project we decide to helm. We just can’t help ourselves.
MadeGood – How did you find out about Mudfest, and what compelled you to make a film about it?
Mike – Mitch is from Wisconsin and his uncle Terry is the guy who puts on the event each year. So he grew up with it and the first time he told me about it I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely something I’d like to experience.’ It just seemed like a really crazy time. The subculture as a whole was really interesting to me. We kicked around the idea of doing a little doc about it for a few years until all the stars finally aligned and we were able to do so. We figured a lot of people have never seen anything like this before and it could be something unique to showcase.
MadeGood – There’s a co-director and DP credited in this film, Mitch Buss. There’s also an additional camera operator, editor, musician and various others. Please tell me about your working relationship with your colleagues, and how you assembled your team.
Mike – Mitch and I have been great friends for awhile now. We lived together for a stretch and would always chat about projects we’d like to undertake, stories we’d like to tell etc. It’s the best kind of friendship – a confidant in the industry as well as someone who pushes you past your comfort zone to try new things. I wasn’t focused on making my own stuff before I started having those conversations…I just wanted to DP. But gradually we realized, why the hell not? Passion projects are great…they’re creatively fulfilling, they keep you fresh and most importantly you don’t’ have to answer to anyone. We figured worst case we make stuff and nobody likes it except us and we’re fine with that. Because we’re not making it for anybody else. We’re making it for us.
Helping us with the production we had a few friends who were willing to lend a hand – Corey Powers, a DP friend of ours who brought his Blackmagic cinema camera out and Ross Gerbasi who was gracious enough to bring his drone. I can’t thank these guys enough, not only did their extra footage really assist in the edit, but they’re consummate pros who know how to get good shots.
We received a TON of favors on the post production side, which is really where the film got its polish. I can’t thank Colin enough for sifting through all the footage and interview dialogue to cut together the final piece. It’s of a quality that neither Mitch nor I would have been able to come up with on our own, that’s for sure. It’s fascinating to see someone interpret what you give them. I remember when we were looked at the first rough cut – I was gobsmacked. I asked Colin “How did you find this film in here??” It was more wonderful than I had hoped.
Beyond that, we had several awesome collaborators. John Wong is an amazing sound designer, and the film really came to life with his additions. It was a similar experience to Colin where we all had a conversation about the project and what we were hoping to achieve, and then John was just off to the races. His first cut came back and we were floored. There’s a lot of nuance to sound design and he nailed it. Off the heels of that Mitch is good friends with Eric Hillman who is part of the band Foreign Fields. He’s also a composer and was happy to score this for us. It’s very atmospheric and really helps define the mood we were going for. Finally I’m good friends with Tyler Roth who is a colorist at Company3. He was fortunately able to squeeze it in to his busy schedule and we worked as a tag team with him and his assistant Parker Jarvie. Those guys are jedi’s with color and the final piece looks a lot more epic thanks to them. Their work is gorgeous.
MadeGood – The interviewee sort of talks about his hobby in a way that it’s a sort of inexplicable joy. What do you think the participants get from taking part in Mudfest? Can you personally relate, and did you get involved at all!?
Mike – I think we can all relate to what Terry is saying in his interview. We all have fun hobbies that we’re passionate about and love to participate in, Mudfest is no different. There is a childlike joy to watching people in these events because it does take you back to that time when you were a kid and were told not to get dirty but did anyways, because you’re a kid. Add in some wild machines with too much horsepower for their own good and it’s not hard to see the appeal in that. I only wish I was able to get more involved – I was too busy working! It’s one of the great regrets I have not taking a few minutes out of the day to hop in a truck and go through a run.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Mike – We’re currently in the exploratory phase of what we want our next project to be. We’ve been kicking around a bunch of different concepts – music vids, shorts, another doc, experimental…we have ideas for all of them it’s just a matter of where we’re setting our priorities. We’re being choosy with where we put our time and resources. Filmmaking can be a stressfest, so whatever idea we do end up tackling we want it to be worth it.
MadeGood – Nice one Mike! Working out what to do next can be hard, but I hope you find your groove again soon- can’t wait to see the next one.