Madison McClintock has been known to chase mushroom hunters through Montana forests, drink tea with doomsday preppers, deeply ponder the implications of self-transendence, and explore many other strange and curious things for the sake of film. She attributes her most valuable learning to experiential education and loves to immerse herself in other worlds and cultures. Madi is particularly interested in how filmmaking can be used as a creative medium to explore the extraordinary ways humans interact with their environments and how film as a form of expression can help people rediscover their childlike curiosity about the world.
TERRA: Tell us a little about what inspired you to make a film about fungi.
MM: Around my birthday every year the Bay Area Mycological Association would put on a Fungus Fair at the Oakland Museum of California. We used to go as a family growing up because it also coordinated with the last weekend of the Dia de los Muertos exhibit. I remember being fascinated by the endless applications of fungi presented at the festival and by the genuine zeal of the attendees. When I started making films, I knew one day I’d have to pay homage to this wonderful niche culture. Plus, mushrooms are delicious.
TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what life was like in the field.
MM: Me lugging around film equipment in the forest, trailing behind a fervent mushroom hunter whilst trying to ask them thoughtful questions. Covered in dirt, and lichen in my hair, loving life.
TERRA: What surprised you the most while working on this film?
MM: What struck me was how little we know about fungi. There are over 1.5 million different species, seriously SPECIES, of fungi and we’ve only identified MAYBE 5% of them. There’s a lot of potential in this field, it’s not uncommon for mycologists to be naming new species after themselves. Also fungi play such key roles in the functioning of a healthy ecosystem you’d think we’d idolize them more in our culture.
TERRA: What types of equipment did you use? Do you have a favorite piece?
MM: The key to this project was efficient and lightweight gear. I’d have to say my Manfrotto monopod and my mini LED light panel probably saved me while shooting in the forest. Another crucial piece of equipment was a nice macro lens to get sexy mushroom shots!
TERRA: What are the 3 things you’d never go into the field without and why?
MM: Gaff tape: Solves 9 out of 10 problems.
Shot lists: It’s so easy to get distracted on a shoot, it’s nice to have a guide to keep me on-track.
A good fanny pack: Self-explanatory.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
MM: The Sound of Music.
TERRA: What would be your dream project?
MM: Jean Painlevé meets David Bowie meets an accordion.
TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
MM: Movies are timeless. The format may change or the language of cinema may adapt with the times but its foundations remain the same. It’s a medium that lends itself to the intention of the creator: to entertain, to express emotion, to teach. Filmmaking is exciting, surprising, and fun, but above all else it’s very challenging. It’s rare that you are ever entirely in control and work in this field is not always steady. Being a filmmaker you are acutely aware of details, you’re subconsciously composing shots in your day-to-day life, and finding potential stories at the grocery store. It makes me approach life thoughtfully and with intention. I love filmmaking for all these reasons, even when it’s a huge pain in the ass.
TERRA: What would you say to someone who wants to go mushroom hunting for the first time?
MM: Find fungiphiles, make them your friends, and head into the forest! Or, if they aren’t just advertising themselves in your town, go online and join your local fungus association or club and attend one of their forays. I recommend David Arora’s Mushroom Demystified as a comprehensive field and identification guide. But in any case, don’t assume all mushrooms you find are edible. Be safe!
TERRA: If you could be any kind of fungi which would you be and why?
MM: Amanita Muscaria, because they’re curious and iconic.