Michael Freeland

Michael Freeland has established an extensive career as an actor and producer since arriving in Astoria in 2001. He currently produces The Sparrow Film Project in Astoria, which is in its 10th year. The Sparrow Film Project is an incredibly lively local event that taps into the creative energy of Astoria and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Mike’s film producing credits include “American Bomber,” “Dead Light Glory,” “The Shoulder” (which premiered this year at the Queens World Film Festival), and “In Between,” which premiered at the 2018 Cannes Short Film Corner. Mike’s theater credits include “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Hugging the Shoulder,” the feature-length play upon which the aforementioned film, “The Shoulder,” was based. He was also an associate producer for two theater companies, Hudson Warehouse and Wide-Eyed Productions, for their 2007 and 2008 seasons.

QG: What were your joys and tribulations as a producer of “The Shoulder”?

MF: The joys and tribulations of being a producer are myriad. Here’s one great example: We were shooting on the side of the road for a scene in “The Shoulder.” The authorities knew we were shooting, but we didn’t have a permit, so we technically couldn’t ask people to leave; any random person could pull over and interrupt a shot—which they did, hourly. People were just excited to see what was going on in their town. I would answer their questions and chat for a minute and then politely ask if they could leave so we could film. Everybody was nice and understanding.

But one guy simply stayed and watched. He introduced himself as the drummer for Guns N’ Roses and told me we should go see his band play that night. When I asked him to leave a second time he turned his car engine off and got out of the car and began sobbing. I saw that he was reacting to the scene. The two actors were having a tussle and this strange man starts screaming “Please, please leave him alone!” I explained that everything that was happening is make-believe. He retorted that he knew we were making a film because he had been watching us from his mothership since we left New York that morning. Then he said he had to go attend to the dead deer carcass in his car and that he is running for office and we should all vote for him.

But it didn’t end there. At our next location, about five hours later I notice the same car pull into the motel where we were shooting and he just sits there with his lights and engine on for what feels like an eternity. After a while I start hearing the man scream that he is the messiah and he is going to “take care” of us all. The tone suggested eradication more than i---t did a trip to Eden. Luckily, the hotel manager got him to leave. Though there was tension all weekend that he might show up again, that was the last we saw of him and we managed to get all our footage.

QG: When did you decide you wanted to work in film? You produced and acted in “Dead Light Glory”—are you up for more acting, or do you prefer producing?

MF: When I was a teenager I was on house arrest for vandalism. I was only allowed to go to work and school. A regular at the coffee shop where I worked was a director at the community theater and wanted to cast me for a role in a play. My parole officer gave me the go-ahead and I thought it was just a great excuse to get out of the house. Turns out I loved every second of it.

I prefer acting; it’s less numbers and more fun. Both jobs provide different and equally difficult challenges, but what I love most is storytelling. If I read a script or hear an idea that completely moves me, I will do whatever I can to share that story with the world. The role is inconsequential.

QG: What themes/issues interest you and why?

MF: I’ve currently been exploring death and loss. It is universally absolute and inescapable, while completely unique to each individual.

QG: What’s on tap in the foreseeable future? Anything longterm you’re working on?

MF: Director Rebekah Nelson (“The Shoulder”) and I are in development and pre-production of a feature length version of “The Shoulder.” I am also currently writing assignments and preparing for the 15th installment of The Sparrow Film Project. We challenge filmmakers to make 3-minute films in three weeks, followed by a gala and award ceremony at the Museum of the Moving Image. This year marks our 10th anniversary and we will not fall short of being extraordinary.

QG: What do you love about Queens—and what are your favorite things to do here?

MF: I could not ask to live in a better community. The love and support we share with each other is unparalleled. I’ve led a very charmed life in this neighborhood and count myself lucky.

I love the food and bar life in Astoria. One of my favorite places to eat is Kabab Cafe. After that, I’ll either head over to Fatty’s Cafe or Diamond Dogs—both are in Astoria, and both have great cocktails and fantastic company.

—Annette Hanze Alberts

This column was originated in July, 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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