Mike McGraner has no formal training. His budgets are limited, his future never certain. But the local director born on the West Side parlayed his love of movies and music into a career that includes shooting feature films and concert videos for local and national bands.

Mike McGraner has no formal training. His budgets are limited, his future never certain. But the local director born on the West Side parlayed his love of movies and music into a career that includes shooting feature films and concert videos for local and national bands. He shared more about the most fun, worst-paying gig in town.

I got into film straight out of high school. I was 18 when I wrote my first script. I started shooting for bands, mostly local bands, then ended up doing small tour-arounds. I'd go on weekend trips with local bands when they played out of town.

The reason I started shooting shows is because I would have so much fun at concerts, I hated the fact that when it's over, it's over. I was kind of a quiet and shy kid. That whole awkwardness of growing up was easier with a camera in your hands.

I've worked with Pete Yorn, Granddaddy, Blue October. Locally, I've done Watershed, X-Rated Cowboys, Miranda Sound, a lot of Red Wanting Blue stuff.

Working with high-profile bands, I can't release [footage] on my own because of the rights with all the labels. Not even on YouTube half the time. But until the childhood fun stops completely, I can't pass it up for a day job.

What makes a great music video is anything that captures the energy of the song. As excited as you get when you're driving in a car - and you accelerate if you hear the song build - the music video should make you feel that.

I learned my craft from watching a s---load of movies as a kid. I was watching horror movies by age seven. I got fascinated with, "How did they do that?"

Three things I can't live without are movies, music and pizza. Ninja Turtles would be fourth.

Someone I really admire is Bono. I wish he was born in this country so he could be our president. John Lennon's such an icon for his world-peace outlook, yet people kind of laugh when Bono does it.

My first feature is called The Funny Man. I wrote a six-page story at a Fazoli's. I just had a scene in mind and started writing. It's about what happens when a celebrity comes home. [The main] character struggles to find normalcy in a fast-paced life.

Doing the movie, I learned people don't really appreciate how hard it is to make a movie. There's so many movies that we could rip on that are out right now, and really, I feel bad even doing that.

My next project is called The Owl, and it is a documentary-slash-movie about [local TV personality] Fritz the Nite Owl. I'm making this movie as kind of an homage to him - and for him. For me, as a kid, he was a star. It reminds me of sleeping bags and staying over at friends' houses.

Life is way too short to take so seriously. I never know what tomorrow will be. I look at my life every year at the same time, and I say, "Have I advanced at all?" I'm not talking about pay grade or anything. I'm talking about, "What did I do that was cooler?"

Know someone doing cool things around Columbus? E-mail John Ross at jross@columbusalive.com.