UNCSA film student Tim Hall (third from left) speaks with audience members after the screening of his short films, ‘September,’ and ‘Everything We Forgot We Remember and Forget’ at A/perture Cinema in Winston-Salem on Aug. 22. (photo by Keith T. Barber)
Film is the most collaborative of all art forms, and the group dynamic between director, screenwriter, cast and crew always comes shining through in the finished product. The short films “September” and “Everything We Forgot We Remember and Forget” by writer/director Tim Hall are a testament to this axiom. Hall’s films reveal a healthy give and take between every person involved with the production.
“September,” which screened at A/perture Cinema on Aug. 22, tells the story of Jonathan, a middle-aged man whose furniture factory job has been shipped overseas. Scott Parker plays the stoic Jonathan, who appears incapable of coping with this unfortunate turn of events. The story is topical and relevant to thousands of North Carolinians, but not one film lovers will see at their local Cineplex.
“I come from a journalism background before I came to [UNC School of the Arts] so I had this notion that we should try and tell a story of the local area,” said Saul McSween, a fourth-year student at UNCSA and the film’s director of photography. “We want to tell stories about genuine people in genuine situations; we want it to be real.”
McSween said he and Hall have been connected at the hip since the first day they arrived at the UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking three years ago. Producer Fred Espinosa and editor Daniel Hansen are also students at UNCSA. Hansen said Hall’s greatest gift is his generosity with cast and crew.
“He allows us to bring ourselves and he allows us in to tell this story,” Hansen said. “And even just as an editor in a role that can be a little technical, I feel like he pushes me to do my craft, do my art in a way that I can put myself in it.”
Parker echoed Hansen’s sentiments. “I have worked with over 50 different directors, films and theater plays, and I would have to say Tim is my favorite,” Parker said. “He’s got a unique combination of putting you at ease, which is really important to an actor, but also he knows what he wants to do.”
Abigail Leigh plays the lead role in “Everything We Forgot,” which tells the story of a young woman at a crossroads in her life. Leigh said Hall gives his actors creative freedom, which leads to magic moments on screen.
“I think that’s where some really special moments happen when he lets you just go with something,” Leigh said. “We would find that things would change almost completely in mood, even in that last scene.”
In the final scene of “Everything We Forgot,” which also screened at A/perture Cinema on Aug. 22, Leigh’s character visits her ex-fianc at the end of a disastrous night.
“In that scene, there was this unspoken thing in that last look where it was like, ‘It’s okay,’” said Leigh. “And she could just move on even though nothing really changes, because that happens a lot in life. Nothing really changes but you just move on — that’s reality.”
A native of Macon, Ga., Hall realizes that often it’s what his characters don’t say that gives the story its emotional weight. Hall credited McSween with bringing him the idea for “September,” and said the character of Jonathan was based on people he knew growing up in Georgia.
“What he’s going through is tough but he makes it tougher on himself the way he holds everything in,” Hall said. “He’s just a man who can’t express himself.”
McSween said he and Hall hit it off at UNCSA because they realized they wanted to tell the same kind of stories.
“We’re trying to tell the stories of real people that happen every day that may not be extraordinary to everyone but they’re extraordinary to them, and if we can get you into their heads and get you to understand what’s going on in their lives, then it becomes extraordinary to you as well,” McSween said.
McSween, Hall, Hansen and Espinosa all appear committed to telling unconventional stories in an intelligent and entertaining way. As long as they stick together, the future promises many more beautiful collaborations.
“It’s all about is finding a group of people who are willing to invest their entire selves in a project,” said McSween. “It’s about finding people who can grow with you as filmmakers instead finding someone who’s going to carry you along.”
Visit: vimeo.com/10258703 to download “September” via Vimeo; visit: vimeo.com/14360787 to download “Everything” via Vimeo.