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Rising Stars: Meet Michael Verdin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Verdin.

Hi Michael, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My story begins with being born in Santa Monica, California. As part of a long linage of family settling in southern California from Central Mexico. From the 1900’s till now, my ancestors have been here. As I grew up, single mom with a Dad far from me, but with family always near. My mom’s side of the family predominately resided pretty close to the coast. I used to visit my uncle at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, he worked there as a ride mechanic, I remember seeing him walk on the roller coaster track and scaling the Ferris wheel via long cables to hoist and guide him. My mom always working but very loving and a true mother. Shoutout to my Razo family.

So onto my career life, I started off early in graffiti and the cultures nurtured within the art form. From 5th grade, I remember writing my initials “MAV” all over my homework and the blank sides of my school work. I’d pay attention to the tagging and bombs on and off the freeway when going home from school, it was the ad agency I never asked for. I loved how destructive and fleeting it felt to make something yours using a more styled handwriting technique, and within the techniques, you create your own style and that style becomes the very thing you perfect or don’t. Throughout middle school and into my high school career, I never stopped graffiti, I dabbled in many other mediums, always creative and expressive. I learned so much, so little and more than I needed outside the confines of the classrooms.

In my graffiti career, I transitioned from street campaigns into commissioned and permission walls. My influences stemmed from The Seventh Letter, Saber, Chicano culture, jazz, hip-hop, the rhythm and blues.

I wasn’t alone, I had my best friend and the crew in the same groove as we occupied as much real estate as we could.

As I graduated from Venice High school in 2014. I started a new chapter in my life, adulthood.

Post high school, I came across an opportunity to attend a week-long crash course in filmmaking at the NYFA back in 2014.

That week changed my life and so began my journey into the movie Industry and cinematic experience. I quickly transitioned into holding a camera and taking photos. Creating videos with my iPhone and whatever I could get my hands on. Making use of the teachings and guidance of Venice Arts, a nonprofit organization teaching photography and filmmaking courses. At the time, I was working a 9-5 gig at a restaurant on the Venice boardwalk and attending classes in the week.

A beach kid, I was always skating around, going out to party and casually painting still. With all the moving parts, I knew that I wanted to make films and be a storyteller.

In my time since 2015 till now, I have created work that all has followed my progression. I have worked in the live performance space since 2017 as a camera operator for KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic show. Creating independently as MammalMike. This is my alias, my signature for my work. With covid coming in the mix, I currently work independently freelance as a videographer/editor/director. Shooting music videos, vlogs, documentaries, and branded work. Working as a teacher’s assistant and soon to be leading mentor at Venice Arts. I teach and continue to learn in the ever-fleeting rhythm of life.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not a smooth road indeed. Instead a forever encounter with life and the opposite. I feel meeting the people who change your life and create moments. Moments to which divinely shape you, the person you see in the mirror. The experiences we have and people we encounter, it all happens so fast, so much faster now than when I was a child. Those moments existing and sequentially ending, Things happening exponentially with time to add. Moments approaching with obstacles and lessons alike.

Communicating and guidance are key, along with some f*ck it attitude…

I believe attitude, tone, habits and systems can be a make or break when it comes to handling clients, being a businessman, evaluating my time for my money, encountering different work ethics and maintaining a trueness to me. Which I find easier and consistently executed when I come across the challenges of those four things I named. Managing my time still working at a cafe serving, preparing and prepping food is a challenge when it comes to wanting more of your side hustle being your main income stream. I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons working a kitchen job, its for a family operated, brick and mortar business & it’s been a special and supportive experience. To the Gold Crew and the friends made S/O The Marigold Mercantile. So…

Cross-training between my performance in the day job and the entrepreneurial video freelance business to which is MammalMike. It can be challenging making it all fit together, getting the shift covered, being on time, asking for help and the everlasting feeling of doing the right thing.

Lastly, doing things with love and light is healthy for me and my loved ones, so really the absolute biggest obstacle is healing and being present. Those are everlasting, but you ultimately steer that ship, you need to be patient and respectful to yourself.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I shoot music videos, biographic realism, experimental projects and live performance coverage. So it’s easy to say I wear different hats in my filmic room. So let’s talk about it…

Expanding on music videos, I work with local rappers, all coming up getting it moving. I usually shoot, edit, color solo but I’ve been fortunate to work with other talented editors.

I’ve shot live performance videos, usually live broadcasts for an online streaming site, which I got plenty of experience from being a camera operator for NPR/KCRW.

I like to edit when I’m working on a project that’s all mine. It’s the process of putting together a sequence for the larger story, seeing the decisions you make on shoot days that pay off in the cut.

I’m really proud of my work on my project “Soy Latina”.

This project changed my life because it challenged me to go beyond myself. I reminded myself throughout the process of creating this project “Don’t just make because you can but because you have to…” It was all new for me, having to collaborate and share a creative space with someone trying to share their story, a story that I could also relate to and had a passion to share as well. The process in making this project placed me in a position to listen and apply everything I knew and didn’t know, learning the importance of dissecting our thesis for this passion project was key in our pre-production.

I came into the project not expecting to use my prior knowledge in dabbling into music the way I did, it was a unique experience audio stitching together the different voice over takes and seeing it all flow together distinctively.

It took about 7 to 8 months, it was released on November 9th, 2019.

All of my “CHAOTIC CINEMATIC WORK” is available for viewing at!

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Lessons on lessons.

Wins and losses, You live sometimes don’t get that far.

A huge lesson I’ve learned is that appreciation for your process is vital, But you won’t learn new skills or better yours by waiting around. The way the internet functions, you can damn near look up and figure out anything, but it takes patience and curiosity to master what you seek.

I feel like dedicated artists really have their “thing”, that distinct style all their own, which they master and always build up, but it just takes time, you’ve got to network, build up your catalog, get some mileage on your skills.

I’ve had great mentors and talented people to show me skills, technology, and willpower to finish a project. Finishing a goal is so important, even the small ones.

You’ve got to balance out your personal and creative life allow yourself to do the things that make your soul happy with or without the people you want to be with. Keep on going and enjoy life and be present. When you are at balance, it creates a ripple effect on the other aspects of your life, it allows flow to move through.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Tony Figueroa : photographer of head shots.

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