Patrick Hoelck is a well-known photographer whose still images have appeared in such publications as Vanity Fair,Rolling Stone andBlackBook; he acted as producer on Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1993 short Cigarettes and Coffee; and he has been directing music videos from a young age—but his newest challenge is slightly bigger in scope. Hoelck’s first feature film as a director is Mercy. The film stars Scott Caan as a successful, but perhaps a bit cynical, romance novelist who has to examine his own life when he falls for the only critic who dislikes his book. The film opened in theaters in the United States on April 30; for more information, visit http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/mercy.
Hoelck took the time to answer MovieMaker‘s questions on how his past in still photography influenced his moviemaking and what’s up next in his career.
Rebecca Pahle (MM): Scott Caan stars in Mercy, but he also wrote and produced the film. Are there any substantial differences between the finished project and the way Caan originally envisioned it ending up?
Patrick Hoelck (PH): In the screenplay there were a lot of before-and-after moments that worked when you read it, but as I got deeper into the edit I found that the film worked better if I grouped the before-and-afters in larger story arcs. Consolidating them into acts made the narrative a lot smoother and an overall better film.
MM: What drew you to Mercy‘s script? How did it connect with you on a personal level?
PH: I have always wanted to direct a love story. I remember seeing Godard’s Breathless as a kid and imagined I was in the movie. Mercy’s story of being a writer was a plus for me. I have always had a passion for literature.
MM: How did your past in still photography influence the look of Mercy? Were you able to carry over the things you learned as a still photographer to films?
PH: Luckily, I began directing when I was 16 years old. My early projects were music videos when rap exploded in NYC. Photography came much later in life. My experience in photography has been helpful in the sense of using fewer images to tell more story. I really didn’t want to create something that would be visually distracting from the narrative.
MM: You’ve been directing smaller projects from a young age, but this was your first feature film. Was it harder than you thought it would be, or were you fairly well prepared? Did you have any “What have I gotten myself into?” moments?
PH: I have been around good friends that direct films for such a long time that I felt well prepared. At one point, I studied for a few years to understand the nuance in technique and performances. I found it very liberating to be able to make my first feature.
MM: What will your next project be? Would you rather go back to still photography for a while, or jump right into making another film?
PH: I continue to shoot stills and feel that I will always have a place in my heart for photography. It has been my best friend over the past 10-plus years and I don’t see ever completely letting it go. Photo is a great way to immediately express a point of view. As far as films, I have four projects that I am shopping around and raising capital for at this time. But I would love to make a film a year from this point on.