Although the teaser on the IndieGoGo page for Michael Vincent’s first feature “Only a Switch” reveals the budding filmmaker to be a wild card, pitching his film while shirtless in the snow, there was a time when he wasn’t so carefree. A child of a working single mother who would often retreat to the woods, he found himself standing in front of a judge at 18, unsure whether he’d be going to prison or not.
“All of a sudden, you’re in a courtroom, and you’re wearing a suit and you had to cut your hair because you look like a hippie — you don’t want to give them anything to hate you for — and if this guy says you’re going to jail then your life is going to be very different,” says Vincent. “That was the first time that I ever had that feeling of not being in control of my own life.”
“Only a Switch,” which is currently raising funds before an August 23rd deadline, isn’t based on that experience specifically, but it did help Vincent get into the mindset of his central character, a man swept up in love after saving a woman from a violent situation, only to meet her father and have a moment of crisis when he learns of his disapproval, leading to extreme measures for both himself and his would-be in-law. However, it isn’t just Vincent’s personal experience that will surely make his debut feature something special, but also the artistic style he’s cultivated in the shorts he’s made in the lead up to this first feature, hand-painting each frame of celluloid with India inks to create unexpected explosions of color in every scene.
“The fun thing about it is you really don’t know what anything is going to look like,” says Vincent. “And you can’t know, so it still has that magic that a lot of us love about film because it’s just awesome to see a piece of chemical celluloid getting disrupted by all these other things you do to it.”
In the short time Vincent has been making films, the unexpected has often yielded exciting results. Though he had grown up loving films, he never thought of actually making them until flipping through the pages of Filmmaker Magazine and finding the e-mail address of indie horror god Larry Fessenden, whom he asked for advice. The prolific director and founder of Glass Eye Pix told the then-lifeguard in rural Maryland that if he wanted to intern during the summer on one of his films [the 2006 sci-fi thriller “Automatons”], he could join the production.
“I worked hard for the whole summer,” says Vincent. “I was unpaid and at the end of the summer, he’s like, ‘Do you want a job?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, yes, I do.'”
That job led to befriending frequent Glass Eye Pix producers Jacob Jaffke and Peter Phok, who will be serving as executive producers on “Only a Switch,” which originated as a project for another production company three years ago and ultimately grew beyond what they had envisioned. While dismayed initially, Vincent spent the interim honing his craft on experimental Super 8 shorts and ultimately found a kindred spirit in producer Jessica Caldwell, who produced the similarly strange and wonderful SXSW hit “Electrick Children.” Given the unusual nature of “Only a Switch,” the two decided to try crowdsourcing for the film’s modest budget, which will help cover the cost of the cast and crew, travel to the film’s remote locations in upstate New York, equipment, and a post-production process that Vincent expects to take three times longer than the actual shoot because of the time required to create his signature look.
After relying on the kindness of strangers to find his way in life once already, it’s only natural that Vincent is appealing to the crowd to get his first feature off the ground, but the filmmaker insists that putting “Only a Switch” together in this way is not only important from a financial perspective, but because thematically, community is such an integral part of the story.
“[My main character] has given himself over to this choice and then has to rely on other people around him, [specifically] the first that he’s fallen in love with who he runs away with and helps him get through this [situation],” says Vincent. “I’ve been lucky to have other people help me get through being a filmmaker and making my transition to New York City because I didn’t go to film school. I just moved here when I was 18, so I’ve just had a lot of help [after making my own] decision to do good. You know how they say people don’t change a lot of the time when they get in trouble… I’ll tell you something – that day in the courtroom when I didn’t have to go to prison, I definitely decided I was going to be a little better.”
Since then, Vincent’s made nothing but bold choices in his work and with “Only a Switch,” it’s up to the crowd to help him realize what is likely to be a singular vision.