Excerpt from an interview by Amy Lewis (full link to interview coming soon).
Amy Lewis: What can you say about the mixed reactions to your work?
Laurel Hunter: I do sometimes get into hot water with my work (hence the name of my new film company, Hot Water Films). I admit that I push the envelope. Most of my works are either loved or hated, not so much in between. My last film, The Highway Home, won an award and also received the harshest criticism I have ever received. According to those critics, who in my defense are self-published and self-proclaimed movie reviewers, the owner of the blog and the girl he went to the movie with, they are not members of any established press -- according to them it is the worst film that was ever made. According to Mel Vapor of the Berkeley Film and Video Festival it was worthy of a Peace Reel Special Recognition Award. As for whether the film is good or bad, I personally think the truth lies somewhere in between. There is a lot of great work in this film: good performances, good cinematography and some great special effects. But in many ways, I failed as a director, and I am the first person to admit it. There was a large portion of the film that simply never made it to the screen (about a half an hour of the story) for purposes no other than my own failure as a writer and director. This project was true guerilla filmmaking – we practically had a non-budget – and in true guerilla filmmaking style, we carried on, piecing the footage that did work together in the best way that we could because we had no budget to go backwards. For good or bad, we lost a large portion of the story and this shaped the film into a different animal, one that could not have been fully anticipated. This is the beauty of guerilla filmmaking in my opinion, but it can also be a curse.
Amy Lewis: Why do you think the film provokes polar opposite responses?
Laurel Hunter: In writing the film, I made a conscious decision to blend an experimental film style with a hyper-mainstream film style – my objective was to lure mainstream movie viewers (versus film aficionados) into experiencing an experimental film. On that level, I feel the film succeeded. Many people approached me after screenings and said they weren’t independent film enthusiasts, but that they loved this movie, and some independent film audience members really got the campy mainstream structure of the film. Others didn’t, and found the film offensive.
Amy Lewis: What aspect of the film could be construed as offensive?
Laurel Hunter: A large part of what drove me to making this film was in my own response to a new politically correct mandate that is frequently imposed on women and underrepresented filmmakers and writers – to present characters of their respective groups in a positive light. I subscribe to a Charles Bukowski school of thought – I think that characters should be written truthfully for the situation and with no regard to gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation – there are good and bad people from all groups and most real people are a blend of something in between. In short, characters who aren’t struggling with a flaw or within their own realities aren’t worth writing about – they’re boring. Those who know my work know that I rarely portray anyone in a positive light - men, women, ethnic, Caucasian, straight or gay – all of my characters are flawed on some level, and that’s true in this film. I can see that politically correct types could be offended by my portrayal of characters, especially if they were inclined to be offended in the first place, but anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge supporter of women’s rights, and an outspoken supporter of gay and lesbian rights. When it comes to my work, when I am faced with making a controversial choice or a politically correct choice, I will always take the controversial road. It’s more thought provoking than imposing my personal beliefs onto those experiencing my work.
Amy Lewis: Talk a little bit more about this new mandate being imposed on women and other groups.
Laurel Hunter: Male dominated plot themes are rampant in the film industry, but now there is a new pressure for women, GLBT, and minority artists to portray their respective groups in a certain way - I quote the term “positive light” from many calls for scripts by and about underrepresented groups and women. These politically correct mandates are creating an equally damaging stereotype by calling on writers to create strong women and gay characters and nothing else. This film is partially a response to that mandate and is intentionally presented on a stereotypical platform, but the intent behind the film is to challenge those perspectives and mandates. Like it or not we still operate in an industry where women are exploited, and we still live in a world where homophobia thrives (just look at the passing of Prop 8, which passed after the making of this film, in our very own California). That being said, the gay detective character in this film is the hero of the film. He encourages the cowardly and spineless heterosexual detective to break the rules for once in his life and go after what he wants. He helps the father of the main character come to terms with who he is, and helps him into his “new shoes” by exploring unfamiliar and uncomfortable ideas with him. But he faces adversity for being who is, for bending the rules, and some people don’t like that. Otherwise, there are no heroes in this film. All the characters are flawed and struggling. The main character in this film is lost. She meets her demise worshipping a false idol (men)- she trips out on the acid, she follows a Christ like figure to a spiritual or physical death. She is a helplessly confused woman and it doesn’t end so well for her.
Amy Lewis: What’s happening with the film now?
Laurel Hunter: For now, the film is on the shelf. There are some music rights that have run out, so I need to replace that music or pay more money to keep it, and there are a few edits I’d like to make based on positive and negative reactions to the film. For now though, I’m funneling dollars toward new projects – I’ll come back to this later – if and when it is time.
Amy Lewis: What new projects are you working on now?
Laurel Hunter: I’m juggling a few projects right now. I’ve just finished a book and have been playing around in a novel writing workshop. I’m positioned to shoot a dance documentary that follows a dancer with special needs. I’m also developing a new screenplay that I am very excited about and it seems to be the project that really wants to be born right now, so it may very well be my next project. I’m working on that right now.
Amy Lewis: What is the screenplay about?
Laurel Hunter: It’s about an atheist man who may or may not be saved, and a religious woman who is failed by her faith in Christ.
Amy Lewis: Sounds deep. Politically incorrect. Potentially offensive.
Laurel Hunter: I hope so.