Sweet Little Films

It’s hard for Zola Mumford to watch Hollywood movies.
She says there’s very little in them that a young, woman of color
can relate to.

"I’m interested in the stories that don’t get told,"
she told me recently over coffee at Bauhaus. "I was talking
to an Asian-American woman who had just seen Sleepless in Seattle.
She said ‘That’s no Seattle that I recognize.’ Hollywood tends to
stereotype. African-American women, for instance, are not always
pregnant and on welfare. They’re concerned with all the existential
stuff that normal people worry about.

"I’m interested in these different realities. How
can someone grow up in a neighborhood and not feel connected to
it? How does gentrification happen? How do people react to crime
in ‘a neighborhood?

"My next project is a murder mystery. What do different
types of people do when they heZola Mumford checks a shot using
an Arriflex 16mm camera.ar a scream in the night? Would you do?

Zola’s next film will be her third. She’s currently
in post-production on Dear Little Sweet Thang ‘Nita, a 20minute
short funded by the Seattle Arts Commission. Her previous effort
was a six-minute film called Charm School, which was original,
touching and funny, and succeeded in showing a black youth culture
perspective not often seen even in independent, cinema.

Dear Little Sweet Thang ‘Nita was the biggest
project Zola had handled on her own and, logistically, the greatest
challenge. She’s happy with the film’s progress, but getting it
to post only happened because she was able to overcome a number
of setbacks that would have caused some moviemakers to throw in
the towel. Just before the shoot was to begin, for instance, the
insurance she paid for failed to come through as promised. At another
point she lost 785 feet of film because one of her crewmembers loaded
the rented CP-16 Arriflex camera incorrectly. The lost scene was
one she and the cast had worked six-and-a-half hours on perfecting.

Zola Mumford checks a shot using an
Arriflex 16mm camera.

"That was really a nightmare," Zola recalls.
"The financial toll was heavy." But, as in every successful
low-budget film, it seems, certain people came through for Zola
even more than she’d hoped. Dedicated crewmembers like Production
Manager Lynn Martin were much appreciated, as was the ownership
of Bauhaus, who contributed free lattes and an ideal location.

One of the biggest influences on Zola as a moviemaker
has been, surprisingly enough, the Kung Fu films she watched while
growing up.

"They’re a real film education," she says.
"The directors have no regard for established film-world rules.
There are these wonderful time and continuity gaps. They do anything
they want- I love it."

No one who knows her will be surprised if Zola gets
to that point in her own filmmaking career much sooner than she
thinks.

I met Tom Hodgson last May at the Lucky Charm Awards.
His project, Sodi Back Bug, won the award for Best Music
Video. He is currently working on a full-length narrative called Box Head Man. We recently met at 911 Media Arts and talked
about paper mache, clean psychadelia, and Liz Taylor.


From Tom Hodgson’s Sodi Back Bug

MM: What did you shoot Sodi Back Bug on?

TH: We shot on black and white Super-8 film.
I transferred it to 3/4" video at Section 8 Films for editing.
We did all our slow motion effects during the transfer by running
the projector at a slower speed. I edited at 911 with Holly Taylor.
It took about 30 hours.

MM: How long was the final video?

TH: About five minutes.

MM:Is it hard to find Super-8 film nowadays?

TH: No. I get mine at the University Bookstore.
I’m using Kodachrome 40 for Box Head Man.

MM: Why don’t you edit on film?

TH: I’m so sloppy I would ruin it. Editing with
video is like using a word processor. You always get a second chance.

MM: So why don’t you
shoot your projects on video? That way you wouldn’t have to transfer.

TH: I don’t want to give up the look of
film.

MM: What’s the story of Box Head Man?

TH: It’s a fairy tale. It’s about a guy who falls
asleep watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In his
dream, Box Head Man appears, riding a unicycle, asking the guy for
help. The Mosquitos have stolen Box Head Man’s dog. Throughout all
this, the sleeping guy is trying to figure out whether or not   
fry this is all actually a deam.

MM: Sounds more like
he fell asleep while watching
The Bicycle Thief.

TH: Box Head Man will be what I call clean
psychadelia. That’s the beauty of a fable. It can be weird, but
clean at the same time. Box Head Man will work at levels for both
kids and adults.

MM: Are you using your same method on Box
Head Man?

TH: Yeah, I’m shooting on Super-8 film and transferring
to 3/4" video for the edit. Only this will be in color.

MM: Are you recording live sound?

TH: No. We’re doing the music soundtrack and
narration at Triad Studios. The voices are going to be dubbed in
to go along with the moving mouths on the masks.   The
voice of the dog will be played on a saw.

MM: What’s it like, working with a dog?

TH: Waddi is a gem, although he has a bad leg,
which slows things down a bit.

MM: Probably no worse
than working with Liz Taylor.

Hodgson is a multi-talent who also composes music
and constructs paper mache masks for his projects We talked about
how his maskmaking led to involvement on Bernardo Bertolucc’s latest
film.

TH: A designer for Little Buddah was scouting
locations by my houseboat. He saw my work and asked me to make a
mask for a scene in the movie.

The designer was Bruno Cesari, who did set design work
on The Last Emperor, as well as work for Fellini. The art
director said my stuff was too refined. I’m waiting to see if they
used it in the final edit.

MM: So … what are your inspirations?

TH: The Grinch. I love The Grinch. MM

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