Lance Hammer interview, part II

Should a white guy make films about black people? Should independent filmmakers distribute their own movies? Will there be a “Ballast 2?” Discuss. 

PK: Did you show the finished film to the participants?

LH: Yeah, all the actors came up to Sundance, and a couple of them came to Berlin, and a few saw it in LA at the festival, a couple of them had been there before, so, um, the Sundance experience was very transforming for everybody. Mike Smith is in Poland right now, representing the film in Krakow. We showed it twice in Jackson, for the cast and crew and friends and family screenings.

PK: Do they plan to pursue careers in movies?

LH: Um, Tara is. She’s been in two films since. A Disney film, a big studio thing, with Alfre Woodard as the star, and an independent she’s done. Johnny McPhail, the white guy, has done another one or two films since (the one professional) and Mike Smith just got offered a job, potentially offered a job, on a very big independent film. I don’t know if he’s doing it or not. He’s not pursuing it, you know, unless someone makes him the offer, he’s not going to go looking for it.

PK: He’s got gravitas, a sort of presence. The reviews have been almost universally positive, except--

LH: There’s been some pretty bad ones!

PK: Armond White.

LH: Armond White does not like the film, I’ve learned.

PK: He’s a contrarian. But if I was Armond White, I would say, and we’ve already discussed this, but you know, how can you be so presumptious, as a white guy to make a film about black people?

LH: That’s bullshit, you know. Should a white filmmaker only make films about white people? Should a black filmmaker only make films about black people? Should a Korean only make films about Koreans? Like, what happens to the poor people who live in Iceland when there’s such a small population? Only make films about themselves? That’s fucking bullshit, I’m sorry, but it makes me angry.

PK:  Should I read some quotes?

LH: Oh I read it! I mean, let’s just, come on. I took painstaking measures to be objective. I wrote about grief, I wrote about hope, I wrote about these things that can translate to any culture, to any race, to any gender. And I didn’t make a film about the blues. I didn’t make a film about civil rights. I made a film about grieving. And I made a film about a place that I love and documented it with as much objectivity as possible. And I gave authorship...I sought out people in this region and gave them full control of the language and the ability to manipulate scenario as they saw fit, whenever they wanted.

PK: I find the ending enigmatic [omitted spoiler]...?

LH: Oh, I don’t know where they’re going. I purposely didn’t...[omitted spoiler].

PK: I see a sequel. “Ballast 2.”

LH: No, no I can’t do it. Armond White tells me I cant do it, so I’ve got to go make movies about white people in my neighborhood.

PK: Where is your neighborhood?

LH: I live in Hollywood. I’ll make a film about filmmaking. We need another one of those. That’ll do the world some good, won’t it?

Pk: Do you buy the new American independent film phenomenon?

LH: I believe in the zeitgeist phenomenon and I wasn’t aware of it when I was making it. I mean the things I was aware of was like Bresson, and the things from the 50s and 60s. I was thinking consciously of “Breaking the Waves," editorially. It gave me the courage to cut the film. The thing that’s been identified later, a new American realism, I think it’s a response to the American film market, and the world economy. I can speak for myself, and I assume some of these other filmmakers have experienced the same things, but what happened for me is that I had such a frustration, such a sense of futility trying to make a project in a more conventional way. Trying to get money through the independent channels and being so frustrated by the way that these people who control the money alter your creative content and at a certain point, its like, “why the fuck am I doing this?” I’m struggling for years trying to raise pennies, just to give to give somebody the ability to control what I’m gonna do. Fuck that. I wasn’t thinking in terms of self-distribution at that time, I was thinking the first step was I don’t want anybody involved in my creative process. I’m going to make something inexpensive, I’m going to go to Mississippi to do it, and I’m going to make a film for myself. I don’t care about the market or what anybody else thinks. I have a very strong belief that if you do something for yourself very personally, complete it, and present it to the world, it becomes public property and only if you do something that resonates with you will it have the chance to do that with other people. While you’re making it, you can’t think about anybody but yourself. That’s where great art comes from. That’s a mentality that isn’t compatible with the corporations that have controlled independent filmmaking recently. We just do what we want. It’s just a response to a breakdown of the system.

PK: Do you keep in touch with these people?

LH: Yeah, you see the same people on the festival circuit. Different cities and the same people, and there’s really a sense of like, being a brother in arms because it’s like going to war when you make a film. Somebody that’s done a film from their heart, you feel this tremendous desire to be helpful to them and to bond together and have power in numbers. I’m very supportive of what all of these people have done. Chris Smith, who did “The Pool,” I saw that at Sundance in 2007, it’s a beautiful piece of work.

PK: Your next movie is with a movie star?

LH: Potentially. I’m going to do it in the same way that I made “Ballast,” which is that I’m interested  in that person for that person, not as an actor. We’re going to strip away all of acting and the requirement is that that person has be very naked and expose themselves..

PK: Physically or emotionally?

LH: (laughs) Maybe physically, but I’m not really thinking about that at the moment.

PK: You can’t tell us who it is?

LH: I can’t, right now.

PK: It’ll be a much different experience then, with the ego of the actor, and a larger budget

LH: Ego is not allowed. Its not that kind of person. It’s a person that I respect. An actor is a person first.



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