UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH EMILY HUBLEY
Can you talk a bit about your background and what led you to filmmaking?
My parents were filmmakers and while I set out to become a writer, I was convinced to try making one of my stories as an animated short, and after some period, I was hooked.
Can you talk about a moment, a film, a screening that really inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Tom Joslin was a filmmaker/professor at Hampshire College, where I was a student. His biographical film Black Star: Autobiography of a Close Friend (1977) inspired me with it’s direct and engaging voice. Tom inspired a lot of personal story-telling at Hampshire and was a charismatic and energetic guy.
What were some of the film’s influences?
I loved Zbigniew Rybczynski’s film Tango (1980) and while I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, I was very happy about how the end-result in Set Set Spike had that kind of floating/fluttering movement, and a similar use of space.
Can you elaborate on the process of making (title of film)? How important is the process to you?
I was writing the script for my feature The Toe Tactic and wanted to experiment with various ways create a hybrid reality – where live actors and objects are combined with drawn animation using a pretty conventional cell-animation approach. We hand-matted the characters and a few key props and played with saturation and color. This was far too work-intensive a process to apply to the entire feature (and it would have lost its punch over time), but it worked well in this instance, I think, and it was really fun!
Can you contextualize Set Set Spike in relationship to your body of work overall. Does this film relate to themes that you typically explore or is this film a departure?
Although the (mother) character is fictional, the themes of private ritual, generation and the presence of memory are all constant in my work. This film marks my first use of (moving) live-action photography – working with a DP and actors. We shot in our home in one day.
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?)
Early on, I think I did (albeit unconsciously) down-play the influence of my family life on my work because of the notion that it was not a “serious-artist” topic. Of course, that seems ridiculous to me now.
Does your role as a filmmaker inform how you see yourself as a mother?
It may sound strange, but I really don’t have an awareness of myself as a filmmaker. Now that my kids are grown, I have an idea of what kind of a mother I was when they were young, and I think on the one hand it was good for them to know about what I did (I worked in my home). On the other hand, I think I let too much work-related stress bleed into my family life and my parenting. Maybe this isn’t an answer to your question(?).
Did you have reservations about including your kids in the project? Can you share a story about the process of working with your kids?
It’s a joy for me to see young Max (and hear young Leila) in the film. We had fun recording and taping and I wish I’d done more such projects with them. In a way, the film is an apology to my kids for spending so much time in my own head.
How do you balance teaching, making films, your family, life, etc? Can you share a day in your life doing this balancing act?
When the kids were small, they both went to daycare and after-school care; they hated the latter and I feel crummy about that now. Nothing like parental guilt! But they survived. We generally had breakfast and dinner together, worked on homework, etc. The balance act of any working parent, I suppose. Again, I wish I’d been able to keep work problems from interrupting family time more effectively.
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?
Filmmakers’ work is a response to our experience; certainly parenthood is a fascinating and complicated part of that experience. The idea of cloaking or denying one’s role as a parent makes no sense to me. I believe honesty’s necessary for any art to communicate, don’t you?
How important do you think a subjective mode of storytelling is in media education? How do you use subjective storytelling in your teaching?
When I was teaching, I felt the best part was encouraging students to express themselves truthfully and NOT try to imitate others.
What are the important messages to convey to women filmmaking students?
My kids were pretty small when I was teaching. As a teacher, I shared stories from home and tried to set an example as a working artist/mother. My kids always made me laugh – I guess I was trying to share with my students, how family life, with all it’s responsibilities and work, is also a source of enthusiasm and energy.
Do you think there is a relationship between choice of technology and development of concept? Can you explain the relationship between technology and concept in Set Set Spike?
I don’t do anything very complicated technically, but certainly digital tools make the layering of the live and drawn images a lot simpler than if I’d tried to do that on film.