For many years now, I’ve been pretty sure Mike Ambs is my power animal.
I’ve often found inspiration in the things he does, and the way he shares a lot of his life online, but still seems to maintain a modest, private side. I know some people who share their lives online much less than Mike, but who come across almost arrogant or boastful. With Mike, it’s always considered, and elegant.
Whether it’s a fun project with a fascinating background (re-recording cassette tapes with the sound of a Blue Whale – that’s Mike’s power animal, by the way – scouring the oceans for a mate), or documenting the incredibly complex and exhausting process of creating a film (For Thousands of Miles), or talking about his current work or life moments, there’s something about the way Mike conducts himself that seems so calm, yet driven – and I have, for many years, found his attitude incredibly inspiring and empowering.
Perhaps his most personal insights are captured in a simple but extremely powerful medium – video snapshots, captured on an iPhone. As Mike explains:
Since September of 2010, I’ve recorded at least 7 seconds everyday of my day-to-day life.
Every week I edit 7 of those 7 second-long clips together into (what I refer to as) a 7×7; and every year since 2010 I go back through the last year’s worth of 7x7s and pull 1 second from each clip used, resulting in a 1×365: 1 second for every day of the year.
The latest culmination of this is his third 1×365, which actually shows all of 2013 and a little bit of the end of 2012.
As Mike says:
This video is *slightly* longer than the previous 1x365s, I usually go from Sept-Sept, but I wanted to reset the span of these videos to Dec-Dec. So, this year, I’m using footage from Sept 2012 to Dec 2013.
So much has happened in this last year – nearly 200 days were spent working in a dark, stop-motion stage on BLANK; Xander seemed to age 2 years in just a few months time; I worked with one of the most amazingly-talented musicians on For Thousands of Miles; Erica and I saw old friends again, made a few new ones. Our close friend lost their husband, and then our family struggled with the loss of my cousin… to our family and friends, you are an inspiration, and we love you, these losses have been a difficult reminder to never take anyone or anything for granted.
The song playing is ‘Repose in Blue’, by Eluvium – a very close friend introduced me to this song several months ago, during production on BLANK; and I think this song will always remind me of this time in my life, it somehow has a way of saying, without words, what the last 15 months meant then in-that-moment, and what they mean now looking-back.
And it’s a beautiful film.
It almost feels like a cynically-made ad for the likes of Apple, designed to tug at your heartstrings, making the viewer yearn after a varied and exciting life crafted by writers in a board room. But nope: this is just Mike’s year – or the tiniest slice of it, via 1-second snippets.
And with the music it’s set to, it feels as though it builds – a really subtle but neat narrative, weaving its way like a river along the length of a year. And that ‘rule’ – about breaking your own rules and conventions occasionally – is used to great effect with the final shot, making it so much more powerful, and complete. A great decision.
Anyway, it’s well worth a watch – even if just for the glimpse of Xander’s hair getting longer, and longer, and longer…