Paul Sutherland’s film work has carried him from Michigan to Greece to CBS’s “Late Late Show with James Corden.”
And yet he remains firmly loyal to Ann Arbor, where he grew up, is a staff member at the University of Michigan and is a member of the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival.
“Michigan and I go way back,” Sutherland said. “It wasn’t always the easiest, but I always find my way back here somehow.”
The LSA new media technician and instructor was born and raised in Ann Arbor. After high school, he attended Central Michigan University before transferring to U-M because he wanted to play trombone with the school’s marching band.
In his current role with the Department of Film, Television, and Media, he supports the faculty and staff with technical needs such as managing the equipment room, maintaining equipment and teaching correct equipment use.
“I really love it,” he said. “Even though I’m not producing much video as part of the job for the first time in my life, it’s pretty surprising how much I like it. I guess you never really know where you’re going to find something that really makes you happy. It’s good to stay open to that.”
After graduating, Sutherland worked on several feature films in jobs that included production coordinator, production assistant, and in the art department. He became involved in local television stations such as Livonia TV, where he later helped produce a short film “Library Parkour!” which received national attention after being featured on “Late Late Show with James Corden.”
“It was this commercial we did for a summer reading program,” Sutherland recounted. “It was basically librarians doing parkour around the library.”
Parkour, which is similar to an activity known as freerunning, is a training discipline that uses movement developed from military obstacle-course training.
“What happened was that there were a couple of librarians I would make videos with because we had similar senses of humor, and one of them called me one day and said, ‘I have these professional stuntmen who I’ve gotten access to for free, and we should do something about this,” he said.
“So we wrote an entire script, crashed through filming this thing in two and a half days and it went brilliantly.”
While at Livonia TV, Sutherland also enjoyed much success with his biographical film series on local artists. Two of them, “Fire & Clay” and “Self Portraits,” were nominated for Michigan Emmy Awards in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Sutherland also was selected to participate in a U-M documentary filming that took place in Athens, Greece, and put together much of its behind-the-scenes content.
Sutherland also contributes to the nationally acclaimed Ann Arbor Film Festival, where he shoots B-roll footage and interviews filmmakers.
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“I like being one of the links between our department and the film festival,” Sutherland said. “It’s a good relationship, and unique that we have both of these things in the same town, The Ann Arbor Film Festival is known in the experimental film world, so it’s an honor to not just attend, but also to work with them.”
While his position at U-M does not entail much filmmaking in itself, Sutherland continues to pursue this interest outside of his job. He is currently involved in several cross-media projects, some involving more of an individualized focus. Among these are a documentary on old film theaters, some animation, and even forming a rock band.
“Right now I’m particularly interested in what can be created on my own,” he said. “Film is such a collaborative art form which is one of the wonderful things about it, but it’s sometimes just fun to play around with the idea of what you can do as an individual artist.”