säⁿ-sü-sē | without worry : free of care
Based in San Francisco, Sanssouci Films is a creative shop for original storytelling in film & digital media — fiction, real life, and projects in between.
We create distinct, handmade work with one-of-a-kind vision, imagination, and the latest techniques.
narrative & commercial, doc, and music video
PHOTOGRAPHER / JOURNALIST
A love of film, media & story sparked early in childhood, my budding curiosity guided by attentive parents. The moving image is integral, starting with live-action and stop motion shorts with the LEGO & Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set. By eight, I had recreated the finale of Back to the Future Part III with a Christmas train set, suspended wire, and a homemade "DeLorean" designed with my grandfather. Further experimentation with Spike Jonze/ 411VM-inspired skate vids in middle and high school led to seriously learning how to edit with Adobe Premiere Pro v1.0. The principal shut us down selling these!
Born in the coastal arts town of Ocean Springs to a gregarious and big-laughing family, I split time growing up in the rich, storied Mississippi Delta via my Dad's side and New Orleans with my Mom's. My life's been anything but a straight line, largely informing my unique storytelling perspective—textured stories across genres with vibrant characters, heightened reality, and visual wow. Which makes perfect sense to me, having early, people-centric jobs at a restaurant, grocery store, tobacco shop, university PR office, delivering water, and helping my Mom with an early-morning paper route and always knew the latest radio hits. One customer was infamously known for kidnapping Frank Sinatra Jr.
And Elvis wasn't just an international sensation but a part of local history who in 1951 started staying in my hometown (a haunt of other names like Jayne Mansfield and Al Capone) to first break into music & the Gulf Coast social scene; he learned to waterski near my family's bayou fishing camp. In the 80s, a trio of Ocean Springs filmmakers remade Raiders of the Lost Ark, with help from my Peabody-winning uncle, also instrumental in my early exploration of humor. He had put the feat on my radar well before an early 2000s rediscovery. Soon connecting with Eric Zala and invited to an intimate screening, I became one of the first members of the public to see it. Surely you've heard Cream's version of "Crossroads." I've paid my respects at Robert Johnson's grave in Greenwood. Because of these and many other tales, the world has long seemed quite small.
Later moving to New Orleans for its "Hollywood South," I've had the pleasure to help produce, design (per FOIA), and shoot an internationally-aired true crime show "It Takes a Killer." We wrapped 104 30-minute episodes in just under a year! Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg running AMC's Preacher from down the hall was certainly a mental boost. Music being one of the purest joys, I simultaneously produced New Orleans' Sofarsounds video output and for local artists. I was then part of talented creative teams at Art.com and VSC, a startup PR firm in San Francisco (and its Studio co-founder), producing commercials, a handful of original series & short docs, and progressing an interest in animation.
My independent work has been shown at SF's beloved Roxie, New Orleans' Solomon Victory Theater, and community pop-ups in between. My original pilot Local Moguls was drawn from my first "real" job in the wild world of public access TV and was honored among the 2023 ScreenCraft Comedy Competition's best. A short screenplay rife with Covid anxiety We Probably Have Not Met recently placed in the 2023 Vail Film Festival, with additional horror accolades. I began writing early, too, reverse engineering scripts and gleaning pointers from Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio's Wordplay site (their "Little Monsters" introduced me to the great Talking Heads!)
Additionally: I'm a published journalist since high school, with bylines in Vice and Curbed. And when not making, naturally I curate. In 2022, I started the multimedia project Oddity_2K, a deep dive into cinema, ephemera, and—a big buff—history that's "stranger than fiction." I love cooking, live music, playing pool, and simply existing in nature; I'm also teaching myself 3D from scratch.
Michael has what every director wants: a keen eye, a listening ear, and a vivid and flexible imagination. He cares about accuracy, pursues tasks with joy, and is driven by the passion of a true craftsman. He will make your project better.
— Duncan Pace, comedian/filmmaker, New Orleans
Paired with a writer to work on a piece about the legacy of FEMA X markings on homes in New Orleans, Michael took the assignment and ran with it. He was able to capture exactly the tone and scope we were looking for in the piece.
— Sara Polsky, Curbed senior features editor
He’s not only a creative hard worker but also humble. On one occasion he was editing our film but decided to come early to help where needed. He took it upon himself to keep the coffee pot full (the best person on set in my opinion) and also slammed out a banging edit which I believe got him nominated for an award. Having Winters on set is a pleasure each and every time.
— Kyle Wigginton, filmmaker/actor, New Orleans
I’ve worked with Winters on several different occasions. He naturally has an eye for a creative shot. Watch the opening shot of our short, “Beg”, and see what I’m talking about. He continues to grow on every film we work on. The dude can hold a conversation too. Excited to work with him again in the future.
— Adam Henslee, actor/filmmaker, New York City
I've worked with Michael on a number of film projects, and he always brings his A-game. His passion for quality is inspiring. I'm always looking forward to the next project we can team up on.
— Ben Samuels, filmmaker/artist, Hamburg
"Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out."