In advance of the online release of her short film turtleneck (2016) we interviewed the Glasgow School of Art Graduate (and 2013 exchange student at the Rhode Island School of Design) Hannah Ford about feminism, London living and slow moving cameras.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what drew you to filmmaking?
I had been wanting to make films for a while but I wasn’t all that drawn to the pragmatic media-production approach of a lot of courses in the UK, so I ended up studying Communication Design instead at The Glasgow School of Art. I figured out I could do an exchange semester at RISD and there, film is considered much more of an art form. I took a 16mm film class and have never felt so at home in a classroom. At the end of my time there, I made a 3 minute short called Terry’s Last Intern which became a sort of calling card for everything after.
How did you come up with the concept for turtleneck?
turtleneck is really a portrait of where I was living at the time. There were 11 of us living together, going to disappointing parties on Saturdays and eating on Sundays. We used to watch a lot of films together and when Clara Pluton (Shorts) played Slacker one night, the form of it really resonated with that house; with so many different characters coming and going, including whoever was sleeping on the sofa at the time.
Although turtleneck is a lot more of a solitary film, I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off if it wasn’t for that house. I always keep a journal of some kind, so the film started as all these fragments I’d collected over the year.
Then there’s this missing person element of the story which I play with in the trailer, mainly as a result of reading an interview about Kids where they said you couldn’t make a film now where you were trying to get hold of someone all day because now everyone has a phone. Also, cinema and television would lose a lot of storylines if it wasn’t for finding female bodies, so I wanted to use it as a kind of trope.
You use a lot of lingering and slow camerawork throughout the short, what was the motivation behind this?
I think most of this came about from having so much that I wanted to shoot and only really having everyone free on weekends. I knew the film was going to be about 20 minutes long and a lot of the time if we could figure out how to shoot a scene all in one shot, it allowed a much better atmosphere for the performances. The shots of Luccia Rennie (Turtleneck) and Slosi (Jules) when they’re on their own are some of my favourite moments as they’re so subtle in their expressions. Then the river scenes ended up acting as a kind of parallel to those scenes.
turtleneck is a very specific mediation on London as a uniquely lonely city - do you think living in London has influenced your practice?
I think in London there’s always this conflict within people because you’re expected to define yourself so often, and so many people instantly use their job to do that but most of the time they can’t stand it. So many people move there for these creative positions but right now it’s still really easy to get stuck in this entry-level existence, where if you want to be truly creative you just have to start your real work when you get home. Then it ends up being a question of how often do you see the people you actually care about and how do you start a relationship with someone when you might only get a chance to see them once a week, if you’re lucky and that’s only if you live in the same neighbourhood.
What filmmakers have inspired you?
There are so many that I’m just going to attempt to think of this loosely
-Godfrey Reggio for his collaborations with Philip Glass
-Derek Jarman for the narration of Blue
-Reed Morano for being both cinematographer and director of Meadowland
-Kelly Reichardt for writing, directing and editing her own work
-Arielle Holmes for writing the book Heaven Knows What is based on and then starring in her own nightmare
-Barry Jenkins for making films with male leads that are vulnerable
What place does feminism have in your practice?
Feminism is as second nature as making sure everyone on set has lunch. It can be really stifling to think of it as this separate entity. I’m always striving for my filmmaking to be inclusive and collaborative but I think it just happens intuitively, without there being too much of a quota on it.
What are your plans for the future of your practice and what kind of films do you hope to make next?
At the moment I’m in the final stages of post production for a 3 minute short film funded by the ICA’s Stop Play Record programme. The film features Slosi who plays Jules in turtleneck, only this time she plays a bike courier mistaken as a waitress from a catering company. The film is much more surreal than turtleneck and Kafka’s The Castle helped give it its shape.
I was based in London again while making this one but I’m excited now at the prospects of travelling this year. The past few years have been quite career focussed and at the moment I’m looking forward to taking a break, honing my writing and carrying my camera with me again. I’m planning to begin writing a feature film but I don’t feel in too much of a rush - if I were to make it now it would just be turtleneck 2.
turtleneck will premier on DISPATCH on 19.03.17