Johanna Hibbard

UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH JOHANNA HIBBARD

Can you talk a bit about your background and what led you to filmmaking?

I have always been a cinephile.  I majored in Romance Languages as an
undergrad because I loved Almodovar and Truffaut and Fellini. I
thought I would go on and do a PhD in film studies, but did an MFA
instead.

Can you talk about a moment, a film, a screening that really inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I was obsessed with Fellini in high school. I would go to screenings
on campus (at of the U. of Oregon).The audience would sit in little
uncomfortable wooden desk-seats smoking cigarettes in a science
lecture hall with the periodic table hanging next to the movie screen.
After I saw 8 1/2 at one of those screenings I knew I wanted to make
films

What is the genesis of “A Bump Is A Pearl”?

I was a first time mother, with my first job teaching at a university.
A student I was close to told me his mother had breast cancer. I went
home and wrote a poem about motherhood and cancer. That poem became
the film.

What were some of the film’s influences?

As someone who studied under Leighton Pierce and Rick Altman I am
always influenced by how they think and teach about sound. I had taken
a drawing class and I was also interested in how images can be created
by removing charcoal, rather than making a mark on a white piece of
paper.

Can you elaborate on the process of making (title of film)? How important is the process to you?

I almost always start with a script (and sometimes a soundtrack). Then
I make a list of the images I want to gather or create (in the case of
animation).  For this film I knew I wanted to have some hand
processing and some black and white images that would be sort of icons
for what was going on in the poem… I felt like the images were
really something quiet to look at while the poem sank in. I am a
person for whom the end product is just as important as the process.
The writing (at the beginning) and editing (at the end) are certainly
important for me in discovering the piece, but there is always a
moment of satisfaction for me at the end when I KNOW the piece is
complete.

Can you contextualize “A Bump Is A Pearl” in relationship to your body of work overall. Does this film relate to themes that you typically explore or is this film a departure?

Visually, the film is different in that it is not a work of animation.
In other ways, though, I think it is similar to my past work in that
it has a collage quality, and it follows similar themes. My films
generally explore the ways that love allow us to respond to the world
with more empathy.

How does your point of view as a mother and a woman inform your filmmaking? (Some women have felt that if they were to be taken seriously as filmmakers they had to be “closeted” mothers or choose between the two. Is that something you have encountered?)

My experience is that film festivals generally do not like films that
are too earnest (or have anything to do with women’s life
experiences), they prefer irony. So pre-kids or post-kids, my films
are earnest. I don’t feel like I have had to hide my motherhood, but
as with most anything having to do with women’s life experiences,
festivals don’t know how to respond to it. I don’t think a film about
menopause would be very popular at festivals (unless it was funny).

Does your role as a filmmaker inform how you see yourself as a mother?

No. I am much more of a mother and much less of a filmmaker these
days. The filmmaking part doesn’t surface much anymore.

Did you have reservations about including your kids in the project? Can you share a story about the process of working with your kids?

No, I did not have reservations about including my kids in the film.
It happened organically, there wasn’t a lot of standing around and
posing, etc.
In the brief moment where we see a baby nursing, that was my youngest,
Justine and I still remember pulling her off the nipple so that I
could keep working on the film and having leaky, uncomfortable boobs
after that.

How do you balance making films, your family, life, etc? Can you share a day in your life doing this balancing act?

Most of my filmmaking goes on in my head. With three kids I have
almost no quiet space or time to reflect.  For example, right now, as
I try to write this, children are whining at me. Working on a film
happens after the children have gone to bed.

We have shared the rationale behind putting together the Kid on Hip program. Do you have any thoughts on being included in this group of films as a screening program?

I’m just thrilled to be included.

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