What was the genesis and inspiration of Harsh Light? ^ When I was 17, I started photographing boxing matches. I made it living at it for 10 years, selling my photos to Ring Magazine, Boxing Illustrated and several magazines in Japan. I had always loved boxing, and it felt natural to use it as a subject for my film, Harsh Light. I chose to use it as a backdrop, however, and to focus more on the character, Clyde Brooks, who just so happens to be a boxer.
At a time when many up-and-coming filmmakers are shooting in DV, you shot Harsh Light in black-and-white 16mm. Why did you prefer to go that route? ^ I still favor the look of film over DV. I know how practical DV is, and I know my costs probably would have been cut in half, however I did my first film, “A Distant Chord” on 16mm, so it just felt right. Plus, I wanted a gritty look for Harsh Light, and I felt we could capture that more, especially shooting in B&W. And besides, we got to use the camera for free.
Harsh Light eschews the hackneyed insistence on happy endings and skewers the identities of good and evil. How have audiences reacted to your daring to take chances with the storytelling formula? ^ It has worked both against me, and also in my favor. Most moviegoers just want to be entertained, but they also want a happy ending. I tend to view things from a more realistic approach, and my stories rarely take the easy way out. There’s something rewarding about seeing characters in a film overcome certain hardships. I have gotten good responses from Harsh Light. I think for the most part, people enjoy these the story and the characters.
Harsh Light racked up several awards on the festival circuit. Were you able to use its festival circuit as the proverbial calling card for further projects? ^ Not really. It is still very difficult to launch a career from a short film, or films. I still think shorts are looked at more as a curio, rather than a “calling card.” Unfortunately, there aren’t many avenues for a short film, and rarely are they taken too serious. I think this is because short films are underrated. That and because everybody and their mother is making one these days.
Harsh Light is featured on several Internet webcasting sites. What kind of feedback have you received from Net surfers who’ve seen your film online? ^ For the most part, good reviews. I receive an occasional bad review, usually from some knucklehead who just gets a kick out of giving people’s film a bad review.
Get the rest of the interview in part three of E.B. HUGHES: WAITING FOR THE BELL>>>