Columbus Makes Art Presents Michael Artis on His New Unromantic Comedy Web Series
Michael “Eagle” Artis is an African-American film director, producer, writer and actor, as well as the Creative Executive Officer of his own production company Artis Creative. He has both appeared in and worked behind the camera of several feature films including the soon to be released A Family Affair as well as Holy Hustle, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
This year Artis is premiering his web series, “We Fight We Love,” at the Columbus Black International Film Festival, Aug. 22-25. The series, created in partnership with Kyle Meeks of Meeks Media and Candace Wright of CandiRain Productions, recently finished filming its first season. Now, the team is currently shopping the web series to numerous platforms in hopes of a streaming production deal. Cristyn A. Steward, founder of the Columbus Black International Film Festival, linked up with Michael to chat about his upcoming project and what it means to be a black filmmaker in Columbus.
Cristyn: When did you first fall in love with hip hop?
Michael: At Johnson Park Middle School when I saw this girl named Candy dancing in slow motion as I listened to OPP.
Cristyn: Tell us about your new web series “We Fight, We Love?”
Michael: “We Fight, We Love: The UNromantic Comedy” is the story of three married couples that self-facilitate relationship counseling upon learning the news that the couple that mentored them all is divorcing after 30 years. Each episode discusses a topic commonly cited as a reason for divorce such as trust, money and health. Throughout the course of the season these couples trade lies for truth and facade for real. They fight. They love. You laugh.
Cristyn: You call this an “unromantic comedy” — tell me more.
Michael: The best way to define “We Fight, We Love” is a drama written and produced like a comedy. It took me awhile to properly label it; and initially, I tagged it a romantic comedy but that felt dishonest because it’s not. I needed a way to describe the show that was pure and calling it an RC stifled the ideals we’re communicating. “We Fight, We Love” is based on the love I observed growing up which was far from romantic. It was more like “Baby I agree not to kill you in your sleep if you agree not to kill me in my sleep. Now let’s pinky swear this thang on out.” I observed struggle in marriage maintained by a commitment to the greater good of the family. I didn’t see divorce and blended families. Most of the couples I know are still married to this day. They fought through the bad times and laughed in the good times. That’s the story I’m telling. Their story. The choice to stay together. By the way, that was almost the title of the show.
Cristyn: You acted as a lead in the web series; did you write that role with you in mind?
Michael: Actually, no. The only role that was written for a specific actor was that of Neil. I created that character specifically for Micah Robinson because I knew he would come in and body it. And he did indeed body it. Other than Neil, I was completely open to casting whoever. The deciding factor for my decision to play Willis was the actress I casted for the role of his wife Belinda. When I first saw Karris my instinct told me to cast her and but she wasn’treally there to audition.
Cristyn: Wait. What?
Michael: (Laughing) Yeah. She was there to assist with production, but not to act. I asked her to read and she was spot-on. In my mind she got the role immediately.
Cristyn: Many people talk about the challenges to make film and web series in Columbus. How did you overcome those challenges?
Michael: Filmmaking in general is difficult. It stretches you. It tests you. You lose sleep. None of which is specific to Columbus filmmaking, that’s just the process. In regards to Columbus it can be challenging to find the actors and crew that are the right fit for your production. It’stempting to settle because you are excited about your idea. I fully understand and relate to that but the timing may not be right. You have to decide if you want to execute your production as you envisioned or settle. That decision to settle is unfair and disrespectful to the contribution of your creatives. Take your time. I’ve been a part of five feature films while in Columbus so it can be done. We have a lot of a talent. I was fortunate to have Kyle Meeks and Candace Wright as executive producers.
Cristyn: What were the most rewarding things about working on this project?
Michael: This is the first project from my production company Artis Creative. I wrote, directedand produced it; it felt like birth, and anytime you’re a part of a pregnancy you are concerned about every aspect of that child. That’s how I feel about “We Fight, We Love.” I’m passionate. It was amazing to develop this from an idea to resolve. It solidified my confidence as a filmmaker and producer. I also learned a lot from my cast and crew. They taught me how to be a better communicator. As I observed these creatives in their element I fell in love with the process and science of filmmaking. This was a different level of experience in all ways. That observation enabled me to connect with them personally.
Cristyn: It is always important to have great music with any film or TV production. Tell us about the song choice and process.
Michael: It’s not what you expect for a comedy. As a whole it feels more dramatic. My approach first and foremost was to find music that I liked because what I like inspires me. Every one of the musicians were handpicked because I like their music. It took about four hours a day for two months to find these records. The soundtrack bangs!
Cristyn: Is the available to the public? Where can we find the soundtrack?
Michael: Yes! Available on iTunes and Spotify. Search “We Fight We Love” Season One.
Cristyn: One thing that has been in the back of my mind our whole conversation is did you ever talk to your OPP muse?
Michael: Nope. I was too light skinned and she was too much woman at the time. (Laughs like Magic Johnson).
“We Fight, We Love: The UNromantic Comedy” premieres Aug. 21 on YouTube. Find the series at @wefightweloveshow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The Columbus Black International Film Festival is dedicated to creating a space for filmmakers of African descent. The third annual festival, “Infinity”, will be held at the Wexner Center for the Arts Aug. 22, and Hyatt Regency Columbus Aug. 23-25. Visit Columbusbiff.com for more information.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.