We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike ‘MJ’ Schilling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike ‘MJ’, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
For me, there never was never an alternative to having a career in a creative setting or artistic expression. From a young age I always had a passion for cameras, lenses, and how light worked. I was fascinated about how putting them all together and pointing at a subject could tell a story in one single image (or moving images to be more precise). I would watch dozens of home movies my Great Grandfather had made with his 8mm and 16mm cameras. He even showed me how to thread the projector and to be careful not to tear the perfs (sprockets). When my parents thought i was old enough, they bought me a 35mm still camera. From there on out I always had a camera in hand or was talking about what I wanted to do next with it. I became more and more obsessed with how all the elements came together and wanted to do more. When I discovered cinematography, everyone around me knew it wouldn’t be just some childish hobby. I’m thankful to have a family that always supported this passion, and never second guessed my pursuit into working in a creative career field.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Every time I make my way to set is exciting. In my industry no job is exactly the same as the last one. Each day on set is unique unto itself. We learn from each day and use that knowledge for the next one. That is something I really enjoy. I constantly am getting to work with people I appreciate, can collaborate with, and grow with. We get to work in different places, and do fun things. It’s always something new, and I like that. The biggest challenge is also tied into what keeps my job exciting. Always there are new hurdles to get over creatively, logistically, technically, and so on. This can be stressful and uncertain, but is overcome by getting the job done. The other big challenge is usually time. We work long unpredictable hours most days. This makes it difficult to try and schedule things such as appointments, errands, or even making sure to get quality family time. I’m fortunate enough that my wife understands the entertainment industry and has always supported me in doing what I love while making sure we get that special time together as a family. I believe the biggest lesson I have learned along the way is to make sure to take ‘me’ time and not just be honed in on work every moment of the day. I think it’s important for everyone to get the rest they need for their mental and physical wellness. If there is a positive to take away from the current pandemic, it’s that we all can slow down a bit and try to enjoy everyday a little bit more.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well Im lucky enough that my best friend knows LA, so we can have a great week without getting caught in any tourist traps. That being said, our week hanging out might go something like this: Day 1) After dropping off their luggage, we’ll do a simple home lunch. Hangout and socialize till dinner. Most likely order in dinner while I make craft cocktails at home. Definitely keeping it easy after a day of travel. Day 2) We’d get up early and get ourselves some great coffee. I’m talking about the amazing folks over at Groundworks. Throughout the day visit some of our common friends in the area. By the end of the day guaranteed to have amassed a large group of us for dinner and drinks. Mostly likely somewhere along Ventura Blvd in Studio City. Day 3) We’ve planned for this. Hike from the bottom of Mt. Wilson to the top and back down. That in and of itself is a day. To wind down from that, food and drinks from The Federal. This idea is always a win. Day 4) We’d probably drive up to Ojai. Spend a night or two there and just relax. We’d banter back and forth about our music and film opinions and collections. These are conversations that never get old with us. Day 6) Brunch at Aeirloom Bakery in Toluca Lake. By far the best brunch menu anyone can ask for. If you haven’t been, you’re truly missing out. Come evening we would’ve gone to the Blue Whale and listened to some jazz. Sadly they just closed due to Covid which breaks my heart. We would normally follow that up with some exquisite drinks at a private rum bar downtown. If you’re not a member at Caña, then you don’t know great rum drinks. The Brazilian Necktie there is most definitely Choice. Day 7) We most definitely have slept in. The only way to properly send off before leaving (and getting back on track from the night before) is getting ourselves some fine Roscoe’s Chicken & waffles. Then shoving my friend in an Uber to get to the airport, because Hell, who wants to drive to LAX? The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Family. Hands down. They have always supported and believed in me. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have them always encouraging me.