Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Isaac Mahaffey
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: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
IM: Hey! I’m Isaac Mahaffey. I’m an independent filmmaker and I’m releasing my very first feature film, Wasted Hours, later this summer.
Wasted Hours Official Trailer (2019) from Peter Mahaffey on Vimeo.
TGG: Can you tell us about your latest project, “Wasted Hours”?
IM: Wasted Hours is a slice-of-life comedy about a group of students coming to terms with their childhoods ending over the course of one day. It takes place in my hometown of Pensacola and all the stories are based on real things that happened among my friends and acquaintances when I was that age. Well, I take that back. Some of the stories are based on rumors, but rumors make for fun movies.
I set out to make an anti-Hollywood portrayal of teens and show how they really are, as opposed to how movies typically portray modern American teenagers. The characters deal with failure, letdown, and indecision. They see the future ahead of them as some great void and they’re frozen in fear but also incredibly excited. I think that, at that age, we all felt that anxiety and trepidation towards the future, but time marches on as it always does and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
It’s a movie that I wanted to feel real, which is a big reason why I chose to shoot it on Super 16mm film. The film grain imbues a sense of reality and nostalgia into the film. People thought I was crazy for wanting to shoot an ultra low budget movie (our budget was $75k) on Super 16mm, but I wasn’t swayed by what anyone said. I knew that this was the only way to properly tell this story and I knew that if I didn’t shoot this on film, then I would regret it for the rest of my life.
In a weird way, I saw how directors like Whit Stillman, Kevin Smith, Chris Nolan, and Richard Linklater all shot their first features on 16mm and I wanted to follow in that tradition. It felt like a rite of passage.
TGG: Who are the biggest inspirations in your work?
IM: I’d say the biggest inspiration to the film was Richard Linklater’s Slacker, though I can’t deny the influence of Dazed and Confused, as well, as they are structurally similar. Linklater was the guiding light on set. I think I referenced him every day and I definitely made my cast and crew watch his films. So I expect people to compare this to one of his films, but I wasn’t trying to emulate him or make some kind of Linklater fan film. I was just trying to show Pensacola for how it is, just like how he showed Austin for how it was. Both Austin and Pensacola are weird towns, so a realistic portrayal of either requires a mixing of realism and surrealism.
Aesthetically, I think I actually borrowed more from Bresson. We shot the whole film on one lens. It was an 18 or 20mm lens. I can’t quite remember, but since we were shooting on Super 16, it was a normal lens, meaning that it captures images that are close to how we naturally see things. I also cast mainly non-actors in the roles, much like Bresson, but I can’t say I subscribed entirely to his philosophy on filmmaking.
There are plenty of other directors or movies one could point to that influenced my movie. I think that most of these references are unconscious. For as much as I talked about Slacker being a big influence, at no point during filming was I trying to remake it. I was only ever focused on getting the film made and making it as best I could. I’ve seen thousands of films so no doubt those influences appear in the movie. However, if I’m gonna be honest, I noticed most of these influences after I finished editing the film or people pointed out what they thought were influences to me after film festival screenings. The funny thing is that they were usually right. It’s neat to continually discover these things about my own work.
TGG: As you mentioned on twitter, you were able to get a famous person to appear in your movie despite the low budget – how did you do that?
IM: I think it was Mark Duplass that suggested to filmmakers that they should cast tv actors that aren’t as popular as they used to be in their indie films. That’s what I did. I casted Jeremy London, who is best known for his roles in Mallrats, Party of Five, and Gods and Generals, as one of the teachers in my movie. His character is kind of a failed rock musician and he’s still a bit of a rogue. The students love him or hate him for his brashness, but he means well and serves as a mentor to one of the leads. Considering that his identical twin brother is Jason London, who starred in Dazed and Confused, we joked that Wasted Hours is the unofficial sequel to that movie.
But when I first set out to make the film, I didn’t want any known actors. I was afraid that the inclusion of well-known actors would take the viewers out of the experience, as I wanted the film to feel like a real life documentation of real people. But real life drama and moviemaking are two things that are inextricably intertwined , as anyone who has made a film knows. So, without getting into gossip, the original actor quit and I had about one day to recast his role.
Thankfully, Jeremy was a friend of mine, so I called him the next morning and asked if he wanted to be in my movie. He said yes and we agreed on a price that was good for both of us. He came to set about 2 days later and we shot all of his scenes over the course of about two days. It was when he was on set that we all felt like we were making a real movie, but I’ve got to say, it’s an absolute treat to work with people who have extensive experience in movies.
TGG: How can we best support you? (Follow on social media, buy your film etc)
IM: I will be releasing Wasted Hours in late August on Amazon, but if you want to support me or follow any updates regarding the movie, you should check out my Youtube channel, The Kino Corner. I upload video essays about how films were made and I often throw in a bit of film analysis, but I’ll also be using this channel to help promote my film.
My website: https://www.petermahaffey.com/
Wasted Hours Trailer: https://vimeo.com/328262101