M3 Films was co-founded in 2003 by Melina McKinnon and Michael Cain as a production studio focused on producing socially relevant films, concert films and curriculum films. Inspired by the legacy of entrepreneurial and philanthropic families, Melina and Michael have developed an innovative model, which seamlessly integrates film and new media to create movies with a mission. M3 Films has successfully produced and distributed over a dozen projects utilizing traditional and philanthropic business practices. With several more films currently in production, M3 Films has an established base in the center of the development, production, distribution and exhibition media chain.
AHD: M3 Films seems to dedicate a lot of its time and effort to films that feature Dallas culture and history. To what extent does Dallas inform your interest in projects? Why is this?
MM: We are incredibly proud to hang our hat in Dallas and call this great city our home. As filmmakers, we find a lot of inspiration from our surroundings. We hope to share the wonders of our city with the world through our films
AHD: STANLEY MARCUS is the first in a proposed series focusing on Dallas visionaries. What do you hope to express with STANLEY MARCUS and all subsequent films in this project? Why is the STANLEY MARCUS story important to you?
MM: This documentary marks the first in a planned series that will focus on visionaries who shaped Dallas and indeed all of Texas. It aims to educate, inspire and entertain the next generation through showcasing the individuals who left an indelible imprint on local, national and international culture.
Stanley Marcus is important because he turned a rough and tumble town into a Mecca of high fashion while simultaneously focusing his efforts on equal rights, human rights, civil rights and women’s rights. This is the story we want to tell: the story of a great man and his great contributions to worldwide culture.
AHD: We love your idea to combine Filmmaking and Philanthropy into what you so aptly call Filmanthropy. What sparked your interest in creating such a niche role for film in society?
MM: Our businesses have always had two missions. With the Deep Ellum Film Festival, our mission was to raise money for cancer relief while producing an independent film festival. So, it was a natural evolution to blend Philanthropy and Filmmaking as we launched M3 Films – Making Movies with a Mission. It’s a wonderful blend of art and commerce and puts to use our previous experiences in film production and the non-profit sector.
AHD: To what extent does Filmanthropy contribute to the common good? Has your faith shaped your vision for Filmanthropy?
MM: All Filmanthropy Films aim to help make the world a better place. Faith has played a large role in the evolution of our company as my career has been punctuated and shaped by the early deaths of my parents to cancer. God has played a role in all of our major decisions and we turn to Him in thanks of our success as well as during times of difficulty.
AHD: We are grateful for your efforts with Film Matters, a panel and film series with the purpose to inspire an audience to support film as a means to social action. How much of a success was last year’s panel and how will Film Matters live out its vision this year?
MM: FilmMatters will be produced in October 2012. This year we will focus on Film and Human Rights. Our goal is to share with the audience the importance of various human rights initiatives and bring filmmakers to Dallas who have chosen human rights as a subject matter. We hope to engage both filmmaker and film audiences in a dialogue about the importance of using film to bring awareness to various human rights issues.
AHD: Your peers recently honored you with the Women in Film Dallas Achievement Award, affirming your significant contribution to the local/state-wide film and television industry. What does this award mean to you and to what do you attribute your success?
MM: The award was a huge honor considering who has previously received the award. The award presentation gave me an opportunity to publicly thank several key individuals in my career whose support has enabled our success.
AHD: Your films obviously reflect your love for Dallas. What are some of your favorite spots in the city?
MM: The Arts District, Deep Ellum, the campus of Ursuline Academy (so quiet and tranquil), White Rock Lake and, as of last year, Munger Place.
AHD: Part of the mission of the Dallas Film Society, an organization you co-founded, is to honor filmmakers who enhance the creative community. Why do you feel it is important to recognize this type of contribution?
MC: Dallas hosts an incredible creative community as evidenced by the Dallas Arts District, the largest urban arts district in America. The Dallas Film Society and Dallas International Film Festival launched with the concept that we would work hand in hand with other non-profit organizations to use the accessibility of film as a gateway to all of the arts. Celebrating those who use film to elevate the creative community allows us to facilitate positive change while entertaining. Given Melina and I, like many filmmakers, got into film to change the world, it is very important to celebrate filmmakers who see that vision. It really sets Dallas apart.
AHD: The Dallas International Film Festival, a creation of the Dallas Film Society, has been credited with helping Dallas realize its potential as a world arts destination. Why did you feel Dallas was ripe for this kind of event back in 2006 and how has the city benefited since its inception?
MC: Very early on, Dallas Film Society’s Founder Liener Temerlin and I discussed that Dallas was about to break ground on the largest urban arts district in America. All the art forms were about to have a pedestal to celebrate their work. We believed Dallas needed to do the same for film. Film complemented what was already here and helped shine a spotlight on all the arts. I’m very proud of what we have created. Since the birth of the festival just six years ago, over 250,000 lovers of film (thousands of students) have watched over 1000 films and shorts from 47 countries from first time filmmakers as well as seasoned pros such as festival visitors Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, Barry Levinson, Josh Brolin, Luke, Andrew and Owen Wilson, Will Smith, Lauren Bacall, Sydney Pollack, Robert Duvall, and the list goes on. The festival has risen to the ranks of one of the top 20 film festivals in North America in less than six years. Only two film festivals have ever accomplished this. This is something we could not have created without the support of Dallas.
AHD: What do you find so interesting about the Starck Club in Dallas? What about the story strikes you as particularly important to tell in your upcoming film STARCK PROJECT?
MC: The first time I walked into the Starck Club in 1985 changed the course of my life. I did not know it then but soon realized my goals had shifted toward art and film. Seeing that this amazing opulent club designed by the world famous designer Philippe Starck could exist in Dallas told me that there was a much bigger world out there and instilled hope I could be part of a larger vision. Like many people I have spoken to, the club opened their eyes to the possibilities that exist in one’s self if only one pursues their dreams.
AHD: How does the story of the Starck Club stand as a microcosm of the counterculture of the 1980s? As a filmmaker, how do you make the connection between a specific period and place with a more general cultural movement?
MC: America in the 80s was a transitional time in the world. You saw the real estate boom, success, excess, and a return to the opulence of the 20s coupled with a Summer of Love mentality from the 60s. There were little or no boundaries. The Starck Club was created by Blake and Blair Woodall, a dedicated staff and team of investors with the goal of being the best nightclub in the world. The Starckers who attended the club felt privileged and free to explore their wildest dreams behind the safety of the red ropes. It was almost an instant success and all involved very soon lost sight of the goal and were drawn into the excess of the times and the freedom that success brings. Given the economic and social changes of the last eight years, it is easy to make a connection and make it entertaining while poignant.
AHD: Your award-winning documentary TV Junkie was once called the most powerful of all four films included in HBO’s Addiction Series. How did you come across the story of TV reporter Rick Kirkham and what led you to make the documentary that won so much critical acclaim?
MC: Rick’s story came to me through a friend of his who asked if I would look at a tape and give my opinion. This single act put Melina and I on a seven-year journey to tell his incredible story of addiction and forgiveness. I am always attracted to stories of second chances and the power of hope and forgiveness. It is why we created M3 Films—Making Movies with a Mission.
AHD: Where are some of your favorite spots in Dallas to connect with other filmmakers?
MC: I love the upcoming Dallas International Film Festival held April 12 to 22. With over 160 films and shorts, it is a Mecca for filmmakers, distributors and education. I’m also crazy about the Magnolia, Angelika, Inwood and Highland Park theaters as a way to stay connected. We really are very lucky to have the quality of theaters we have in Dallas.
AHD: Both you and Melina recently took a humanitarian trip with SMU. Tell us about your experience.
MC: Melina and I traveled with the Embrey Human Rights Program on an educational trip to Holocaust sites in Latvia and Lithuania. It was a powerful and sobering trip with great beauty that also uncovered a horrific past. The most enlightening part of the trip was the two 90-year-old survivors telling us their journey. The fact they could not only recount their stories but also end their tale with a smile really showed the power that each of us has inside through God’s help.
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