University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Mike MacMillan

Class of 2002 – Innis

Innis Alumuns, Mike MacMillian, is the Founder and producer of Lithium Studios Production. While attending UofT, Mike had no idea that his employment at Innis would become a cornerstone in the foundation of his career. 

In a few words, please outline your career path.

I founded a film company called Lithium Studios Productions. We make feature-length films.

What does the role of a producer entail?

It’s a jack-of-all-trades position. I find material I want to turn into movies, build teams of writers/directors/cinematographers/editors, and then creatively develop the project. I take films through the mayhem that is production and then guide it through post-production. When all of that is done, I start again with getting it out into the world via festivals, publicity, marketing, distribution, etc.

It’s an absolutely massive job and requires dozens of individual skills. Equal parts creative and networker and lawyer and accountant and marketer and babysitter. It never gets boring.

What are some of the challenges you have faced while founding Lithium Studios? How have you overcome them?

The toughest thing in producing is getting that first foot in the industry. You fight tooth and nail for a few years to get smaller projects made, in hopes of creating some new opportunities. And if you grind hard enough, smart enough, clever enough for a long enough time, eventually your network will help lift you up.

This business is all about the people that believe in you: it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. I’ve created some space within which to work and produce by being good to those around me.

Do you have any advice for students interested in entering the film industry, specifically in production?

Create good stuff. Your place in this industry and the speed with which new opportunities present themselves is in direct proportion to the quality of the work you bring to life.

Lots of people can make a movie: very few people make good movies. Taste is important; it will become your brand as a producer.

What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?

My most important lesson is how crucial realistic self-evaluation is. You need to be very honest with yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses. If you know you suck at something, find a partner that can elevate that part of your career. Again its all about people and team building.

What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?

I loved my time at Innis, especially since I worked in the registrar’s office on my first web project. Best memory: the day I met Donald Boere at his office window on St. George Street. He had a work-study position, asked me if I wanted to work on a program called askastudent, and my entire career in media has stemmed from that moment. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start to everything I now do.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?

My best advice is to find your passion: figure out what you love to do and go after it with everything you have. You will thank yourself later in life for having zero compromise on this when you were younger.

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