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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BAMcinemaFest 2013: Q&A with Chad Hartigan

by Andrew Chan

A hit on this year’s festival circuit and the winner of the Best of NEXT Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Chad Hartigan’s sophomore feature This Is Martin Bonner has earned praise for its “evanescent, secular spirituality” (Variety) and “empathetic honesty” (The Hollywood Reporter). The tale of a divorced, middle-aged Australian expat adrift in his new adopted home of Reno, the film chronicles his unexpected, fast-growing friendship with a just-released felon and the kinship they share in their sense of loss. Hartigan, who will participate in a Q&A after the screening of his film at BAMcinemaFest this week, took the time to answer some of our questions:

1. When and how did you come to know you wanted to make movies?
It was really while attending North Carolina School of the Arts for undergrad film school. In high school, I was really into theater and wanted to be a movie star but had no interest in going to college for acting, so I went to film school as a backdoor way into film acting. But then I actually fell in love with the process of directing and my good looks started to fade anyway so it worked out great.

2. What would you be doing if you weren't a filmmaker?
My dream was to always be a professional soccer player. I grew up in Europe and have always loved the game, but I stopped playing when we moved to the States because I got asthma from the humidity in Virginia. So if film or the arts weren't an option, I would definitely try to find work in the football world. I still aim to one day make the first great soccer film.

3. What are some of the challenges you faced while making your film, both artistic and logistical?
The boring answer is also the real one—finding financing is the biggest challenge for any independent filmmaker. A personal challenge for me was to try and portray characters and their lives that are far outside of my own age and experience in an honest way. I didn't want the film to feel like a young person's perspective of older people, so that was difficult.

4. Talk about your favorite movie of the past two or three years.
My favorite film of last year was Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31. I just thought that it told a simple story, deeply rooted in reality, but also doing some pretty exciting and experimental things with sound design, music and cinematography, all serving that story. It's a difficult thing to pull off- to be simple, but do it while taking full advantage of all the tools that film allows you to play with. Paranoid Park is another great example of that, for me.

5. Are you working on a new project now?
I am, yeah. I have a script for a film that I want to shoot in Germany and I'm heading there shortly after BAMcinemaFest to start getting that process rolling. It's going to be another tough one to finance and shoot, and it's markedly different from This Is Martin Bonner in content and style, but that's what makes it exciting.

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