Michael Maxxis. You’ve probably heard of this Edmonton Director. If not, think of your favourite Canadian bands and chances are, he’s made their music video. With acts like Billy Talent, Hollerado, Mat Mays, and Hot Hot Heat in his portfolio, Maxxis has been dominating the Much Music airwaves for the last ten years.
Just last April, two of his projects – including Lindi Ortega’s music video Tin Star – won Rosies Awards at the Alberta Film & TV Awards in Calgary. No sign of this guy slowing down, but he is in transition.
At a time where music videos are known for mascara-smeared models and “twerking,” Maxxis brings you to abandoned carnivals and ostrich races. The subjects of his work could be described as unconventional; a foul-mouthed senior in sequins, “everyday people” stuffed into unforgiving silver and gold lamé, and tinsel monsters. But while it may appear to all be a novelty, Maxxis explains he is resisting a criminal deficiency in society. “Ninety percent of the real world – the people you see in Safeway – look like this,” he explains. “It’s strange people call it ‘unconventional’ when you put them on camera.”
He looks for something very specific in a subject: authentic characters who wear their stories on their skin. This is demonstrated in his latest music video, Horses Fell by The Darcys. Driving from Edmonton to Los Angeles, Maxxis was on a mission to make a video, with no concept or subject in mind. He found himself in Reno and discovered a man named Sonny Castille at the slot machines.
Upon hearing his story, about being a former lounge singer who lost everything to addiction, Maxxis knew he wanted to put him in front of the camera. Sonny’s presence is hypnotizing; the feeling of loss and regret is heightened with the animation of his sandcastle portrait crumbling into the void.
A four minute song is hardly enough time with this facinating character, particularly one who seemed to make a lasting impression on the director. His latest venture, El Cortez Tequila Bar + Kitchen was named after Sonny’s rundown apartment building in Reno.
Maxxis is fortunate enough to be a highly sought-after director, which allows him the creative licence to pitch his project ideas to the bands that hire him. With 100 videos or more under his belt, he has mastered the technical skills, but is feeling the need to expand and share his perspectives on a larger scale. So while balancing the life of a full-time creative and preparing to open a new Edmonton hot-spot, Maxxis has been developing a couple of screenplays for a new venture into feature film. Part of that will be breaking down those barriers of who we are accustomed to seeing on screen and the stories that real people can offer us. It’s a unique approach for a filmmaker who spends part of his time in La La Land (Los Angeles). Instead of spending time with professional beautiful people, he’s more interested in who’s hanging out at the gas station.
This natural evolution from visuals to storytelling has Maxxis reflective on the process. “The more time you spend behind the camera the more you feel like you belong. The more you do, the more humble you get. It’s not about you. It’s what you’re saying.” He describes his script-in-progress as “indie absurd realism, based on a true story.” And if we can expect his usual fare, it just may be a film we’ve all been waiting for.