Subway Melodies ~ Michael Krivicka

Posted On September 20, 2006

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 indie film/Subway Melodies






Michael won his first film festival in 2000 with his short Down and continued to direct but mainly edit since then. His recent award winning projects as an editor include: Two Weeks Ago, I Got a Tattoo, I’m Driving In My Car, and I’m Walking Up the Hill.


SUBWAY MELODIES is a feature documentary about the musicians of the NYC subway system and its relationship between mechanical and human sounds. It explores the subway system as a stage and as a complex instrument that never stops playing.

The entire film takes place under ground, never leaving the subway “world”, and takes a new perspective on the subway life as we know it.

Take the ride.

How did you get into filmmaking, and who have been your main influences? 

Since I was little I have been exposed to the world of film because of my dad, who persued a career in theatre, television, and film. Once we left Slovakia because of the Communist situation in the late 80s, we fled to Germany and applied for asylum. Because my dad had no reputation as an actor in Germany and of course because of the language problem, he had to take on other jobs to support the family and he was this way forced to put his career on halt. However, I stayed in the film-world-state-of-mind and always had a love for movies. I have spent hours in video stores remembering the creators of movies and learning more about the people behind the camera. I have especially shown interest in French filmmakers, such as Jean Jacque Annaud, Pierre Jeunet, and especially Luc Besson, who, till today, is my all time favourite filmmaker with such films as “Subway”, “Le Grande Blue”, and of course the classic “La Femme Nikita”. The French style of movies just spoke to me and I was compelled to pick up on it one day…

Where are you from originally?  

I was born in Slovakia, lived there for ten years, until my parents decided to escape the Communist regime and start a new life in Germany where I’ve spent the next ten years of my life and graduated highschool in 1996. As soon as that happened, I moved to the US for my undergraduate studies, and after completing my AA degree in Florida in 1998, I moved to New Jersey for my BA in Media Arts, which I received two years later and immediately started working for a small video place on Times Square. The work was bad, the clientele terrible, and the pay horrible, but I received my working VISA through that company and I was also able to use all the equipment for whatever project I wanted. And that was a big change in my life. With my “partner in crime” and best friend from college, a Korean guy named Juneyup Yi, I started creating a series of short films.It was then when I realised that the editing part of the filmmaking process was going to be my field of speciality. A few years later, however, I started to put together my year-old idea of Subway Melodies… which had to be turned into a feature one day.


As far as your long-term career goes, do you intend to move into other realms, such as producing & directing for other writers?

I wouldn’t mind working with other people on projects, such as writers and camera people and even other editors, but for now I am not at that stage yet. I am too involved with this personally important film and I am determined to finish it by the end of this year. It is a very difficult process, even though people look at documentary filmmaking as the “easiest” genre because there is no real script involved and no actors to be controlled, but it is because of that that much more challenging. I am doing everything from directing to PR work, and everything so far has been a learning process for me, which takes this project to a higher level. I like the idea of being in control of everything, but it is that much more difficult this way, however, I have no choice because my financial possibilities are very limited. In a way, I look at Subway Melodies as a personal challenge to find out if it is possible to make a feature documentary all by myself. In the final stage of the film, I will have to turn to a sound expert to “clean up” some of the audio, so no matter what, I will have to work with other people to make this project happen.

Are there any particular genres you’re striving to produce that you haven’t touched yet?  

Sure. I would love to make a feature one day about regular people and their stories. Life provides the best stories for scripts, and I have been fortunate enough to live around very interesting people. So, over the years I have had too many little stories play in my head, and I am hoping one day to put things onto paper, create a solid script and make an honest film about life.

What advice would you give to young filmmaker & writers?  

I am in no position to give advice to anyone just yet. I am still a student of this field and I am learning as I am progressing in my projects. I did learn, however, that it is important to keep contacts in this field because everyone needs someone at some point. It’s sad but true, but one can get a lot further and easier and faster by knowing the right people with the right resources.

Could you tell us a little bit about “Down” & “and I’m Walking Up the Hill.”  

“Down” was my first experimental short film shot on 16mm b/w reversal, transferred to BETA and edited on an Avid Express. I directed, edited, animated, and even acted out the film, and at the end I created the sound design. It is about the experience of smoking and what goes on in someone’s mind when inhaling a cigarette. I got the idea when I picked up smoking myself in my college years, so it felt appropriate to do and I applied this new experience into a project.


The New Jersey Young Filmmakers Festival awarded me with the second prize in the college category in 2000, and from then on I went on to create a wide range of shortfilms with Juneyup Yi, the guy I mentioned before. That’s when a couple of years later a project called “I am Walking Up the Hill, I am Driving in my Car” came along. It was a complex little shortfilm dealing with the experiences of two very different people continents apart from each other, and the only thing that connects them is the way their memories are being triggered: by rain. The piece cuts back and forth between the two characters reviving their memories, and the mediums for this project ranged from 8mm footage, over 16mm footage, to miniDV footage, so the final look of the film was as experimental as the content. The film made it into the Asian American International Film festival, credited with Juneyup Yi and Jane Steuerwald as co-directors.


I had serious trouble relating to the film, which made it very difficult to edit. It is crucial to make some sort of a connection to the material as an editor, otherwise the film will turn out to feel very “technical” at the end, and since this film was based on personal experiences, it was not easy to relate to.


However, the secret to a good final cut of a film is close collaboration with the directors, and that was the key thing to do at that point until we got a good grip on our material and took full control of the piece. The end result was a highly creative and very tight short film capturing an interesting atmosphere between the two characters’ revived memories and gently clashing the two cultures together.

What’s up next for you? 

I am only focusing on Subway Melodies at this point. Even though I have many ideas in my head that I would like to get to soon, I am too consumed with this documentary for now.

In closing, what are your vices and hobbies apart from film? 

Unfortunately, I am a film fanatik and everything I like to do somehow relates to film in one way or another. I like to go to midnight screenings of Taxi Driver at the Sunshine Theatre here in New York City, and I like to attend film festivals to see other people’s creative works and just to be aware of what is out there and what people are capable of doing, and also to get a feel for what audiences these days are going for. I like the film aspects of the New York City life, and that is one major reason why I ended up here and why Subway Melodies is such an important film for me to make.


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