Michael studied at University of Texas, Austin.
Michael Bonvillain:I started working as an assistant cameraman on political ads and short films. I also worked as a loader on a local feature. Steve Horn, a commercials director, came through town doing an insurance company ad, and I worked as a P.A. I wrote a letter to Steve when I was getting out of school and told him I was looking for work. He wrote back and said that he had four days coming up on a commercial in New York. I hadn't decided whether to move to New York or Los Angeles after graduation. When I got Steve's letter, I decided to move to New York. I ended up working with him for a year as a P.A. I started hanging out with the electricians and the assistant cameramen. That led to freelancing on commercials as an electrician, and also low-budget films. I finally got in the union as an electrician, working on commercials mostly. One day, I was returning some equipment and saw a note on a bulletin board that said, 'Feature Needs Cinematographer - Must Be Willing to Give 110 Percent.' I went over to the pay phone and called. It turned out to be a film called Amongst Friends. I was hired, and that experience was a real watershed for me because I learned you could make a decent movie with hardly any tools. We had no money, but the movie was a hit at Sundance. After that, a friend, who had been my camera operator moved to Los Angeles. I moved out and slept on his couch for about a year, and occasionally shot films and commercials. I decided to go back to New York, and that's where I was when I got a phone call from NBC asking if I wanted to interview for Profiler.
Michael Bonvillain: When I was about seven years old, my first camera was a Polaroid Swinger. I remember taking pictures at my aunt's wedding. Nobody else's pictures came out except for mine. That was my first photographic experience.
Michael Bonvillain: I believe good cinematography sets a mood that is right for the story. Cinematography is the visual score, and should support the film without being too noticeable. Sometimes I'm tempted to go for the prettiest or most exciting shot, but that's not always the best choice. Soft, sculpted light might be flattering to someone's close-up, but a hot, top light smashing down may actually be more appropriate. You have to trust your instincts and set a tone for the story in a coherent way. For me, a big part of cinematography is collaboration. Working with the director, actors and crew is the best part of the process, with everyone focused on the same goal - to make something good, something that matters, and that hopefully affects people in a way they will always remember.