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Meet Michael Fernandez of Fernandez Films in West Lakeview

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

Michael, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in the D.C. area, whereas a teenager and college student I studied theater direction and design and dabbled in acting at George Mason University. After graduating, I spent about 3 years working in the theater community in Washington D.C. as an assistant director and directed 3 shows for companies in the area. At some point, I decided that film school was my next move (for whatever reasons a 23-year-old has for making these types of significant life choices), and I moved to Chicago to go to Depaul University for a Masters in Film.

Since graduating, I worked at a number of different places in Chicago over the next 8 years as a motion designer and cinematographer. I started shooting and designing for corporate clients at Brella Productions, I cut my teeth on broadcast advertisements at Adelstein Liston, and finally it all culminated as the Director of Animation and Motion Graphics at Banner Collective. With Banner, I fine-tuned my ability to manage a group of people, and unlocked my passion to create high-end production and branding as both a director and designer. With my graphics team at Banner, I also won an Emmy, for the conception, design, and creation of the first content for the Cubs’ brand new video board. That was a very exciting time to say the least, and I am grateful that Banner gave us that opportunity.

Though I found a wonderful family and a challenging work environment there, I had always felt the pull to form my own brand (or brands as it is becoming) and took the bittersweet jump to create my own company while simultaneously persuing my passion of film making.

Has it been a smooth road?
Developing a business is the most challenging when I find myself full of ideas and projects to pursue, and little to no time to execute them. There are so many opportunities, exciting people, and amazing places – and I have found it hard not to get discouraged by the limits of my capacity and time. I need to remember that, for me, creativity and motivation come from collaborating and working with people I like and respect, and trust them to help me with my vision while I realize theirs. It’s easy to fall into an oxymoronic state, where the overwhelming support and opportunity cripple me into inaction, so I have to remember that I am not an island, and it’s okay to reach out for help. I draw inspiration from those around me, and I hope to build myself and my brand on the idea of collectivizing that ambition.

Also, working from home has really screwed up my schedule and any semblance of a routine. I need to get that under control. Without my wife to help keep me sane, I might’ve transformed into a full-on vampire by this point.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Fernandez Films – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My personal brand, Fernandez Films, is an all-inclusive video production service – I draw upon the artistic, story-telling components of my theatre degree, as well as the more technical and dynamic skills that come from staying well-versed in the motion graphics world. I do everything from full video creation to specific services like cinematography, editing, or motion design. When my own talents aren’t enough, I draw upon a list of collaborators to fill the gaps. I think I stand out because when you hire me, you are working with an artist who is constantly learning and growing, but also someone who has a track record of getting things done.

I am grateful that the path I am on is allowing me to expand my scope of work. For example, I am working on a journalistic documentary production company at the moment, with my longtime photojournalist friend, Jayrol San Jose. He is based in LA, and together we are following our passion to shed light on the marginalized communities around us. We’re calling it Pawn Collective because we hope to grow into a larger framework of people who are all passionate about bringing to light the stories of those who need help telling them.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Chicago is, dare I say, perfect. As an entrepreneur, I found that Chicago is the sweet spot for exciting collaboration and affordability. As a cyclist (with no plans to buy a car), Chicago allows me to ride almost everywhere I need to go, with a public transit infrastructure that fills in the gaps. And, as a filmmaker, you can’t find a better film set than the streets of Chicago. This city is full of amazing places to shoot, and few restrictions on doing so. Chicago is also unique in that I think it feels like the perfect intersection of down-to-earth people and dreamers. I am surrounded by artistic people, while at the same time, hard-working middle-class folks. Chicago historically was both the epicenter of the labor movement and the shooting location of a startling number of my favorite classic films. It’s funny how you don’t realize how much cinema was shot here until you live here, and recognize it.

If I had to be critical, I will be unoriginal in doing so. Winter isn’t terrible, but it does seem to be getting longer. When those cold days reach far into April, it’s getting depressing. My March birthday used to be a spring celebration, but now it seems like each one is colder than the last. But hey, what doesn’t kill you, right? Also, there’s Malört for that.

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