Hamish Downie Asks Five More Questions of Joel Haver
Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…
Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?
Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.
Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.
TGG: Last year, we interviewed Joel Haver for his one-man film, Island.
And now he’s back again with a new feature film, “Pretend that you love me”, released on YouTube. Can you tell us about the film and what influenced you?
JH: Pretend That You Love Me is a film that started at the tail end of the summer of 2019. After completing Island in April 2019, I was drained. I told myself that I would wait for an idea to emerge naturally before beginning my next feature. That’s actually when I started making my weekly short films. Island stirred up a lot of emotion in my life and I felt I needed to return to my roots and be dumb and funny again. Creating the short films has been wonderfully therapeutic in a different way than my more personal features. At the end of the summer, I got the inkling of an idea that spurred on Pretend That You Love Me and over the next 10 months I made it up as I went along. It gradually became what it is, a deeply personal story that walks the fine line between documentary and fiction.
Watch the film here:
TGG: Can I ask you about the conception process for the film? Did you have a script, or did you write as you go and mostly improvised it?
JH: Like all of my films, I had no plan whatsoever. The film opens with these “first dates” with various women, this was the impetus that kicked the film into gear. I’ve struggled to call the film fully improvised, it certainly is not scripted whatsoever, but a lot of what you see are real conversations insofar as that it is two people, being themselves and talking. It has raised lots of questions on what defines improv for me. Is it the presence and understanding of an audience or is every conversation we have somewhat “improvised”? Things in the film are as much “for the camera” as they are for myself, that’s really the core of the film.
I feel like there’s a parallel universe where you’ve just won the Palme D’or at Cannes. It’s part “Sex, Lies and Videotape” for a new generation, but it’s so much more than that. Why did you release the film directly to YouTube?
I’m glad you think so highly of the film! I spoke a little about this when I released Island, but I really don’t believe the festival system makes sense in the modern world. We live in an age of immediacy, we can follow what people do and how they feel day by day. Creating a film and sitting on it for months or even years for festivals and distribution fails to speak to our times. When I make something this personal, what does paying some anonymous screener to watch it offer me? What does an industry crowd at a festival offer me? These systems are in place to validate time/money spent and stroke egos, but when you find more personal validation within your own work the systems reveal themselves to be quite hollow. Releasing my film publicly the week it was completed was so gratifying. My family, friends and fans got to see it, no bullshit. My artwork doesn’t distance itself from me before I see how it resonates with people I care about and that’s a beautiful thing.
TGG: Without giving any spoilers, how have the other actors in the film reacted to the final product?
JH: Everyone involved who has found time to check it out has loved it immensely. I am incredibly grateful that people trusted me and collaborated with me to create something so personal and honest. I’ve been sharing comments and reviews with everyone as they come in, it’s all very exciting.
TGG: So many films go unfinished, but you are making a short film a week. What keeps you motivated and do you have any advice for fellow filmmakers with unfinished films gathering digital dust?
JH: I don’t know what came first, the undying need to create or pushing myself to create. One will naturally lead to the other. I’ve found setting personal metrics to be an incredibly powerful tool. If I tell myself I will make a film every week, I will disappoint myself if I don’t. Furthermore, if I tell an audience the same thing, that’s more people I will disappoint. This is not to say my art is driven by the fear of disappointment, just that if you have trouble creating that’s a great way to throw fuel on the fire. At this point it’s as natural to me as air, the days I don’t create I usually feel bummed out, it truly does bring me a sort of peace. I run the risk of being a workaholic, sometimes doing upwards of 3-4 films a week, but I hardly view it as work when I enjoy it so much.
TGG: How can we support you?
JH: The best way to support me is by checking out my films and sharing the ones you enjoy. I’m still quite a small channel that is nowhere near sustainable and growing remains priority number one. I am so grateful for my loyal fans that tune in as much as they can. Like you said, I do release a lot of stuff and am shocked some people have seen all of it.
TGG: I really, really do hope that everyone who reads this watches the film! It’s wonderful! Especially if you love Dogma95