Jim Hosking’s intriguing follow up to the innovative ‘The Greasy Strangler‘, ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn‘, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, is a fascinating story of love, loss, and all round absurdity. Lift Off spoke to Jim about his own personal influences, the idea behind the film, and why Sundance Film Festival is so important for Indie film.
Interview by Lauren Macaree
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the industry and how did you go about making it a reality?
I made a short film while I was working at MTV in New York. It was a very strange short film where I just really did what I wanted without thinking how it might be received, and I just got very excited about being able to create characters and expressing myself. Previously I had been a copywriter in advertising briefly, and I hadn’t been so excited. It was when a camera was involved and that images were being captured and made permanent that it all came together for me.
Would you say that there is a specific film that sparked your interest in the industry?
There are so many filmmakers that have made a huge impression on me. But I would think that Wild At Heart by David Lynch might have made the biggest impression on me when I saw it. I was so struck by the power of sound and image regardless of their literal meaning. It was possible to captivate while creating a very idiosyncratic sensory textural world.
Are/were you influenced by any particular directors in terms of the aesthetic or general feel of the films you make?
I’m influenced by film directors of course, but also by TV, by relatives, by people I see around me. Actually often what I do I think is simply a reaction, as in I am quite contrary and I tend to go in a different direction to the direction that others might go. I’m always keen to try to create something that feels different. I don’t want to be part of a movement. I just want to be me. So I am definitely influenced by filmmakers with their own voice. For example Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Aki Kaurismaki. Of course I admire technical skill. Or more accurately I might envy that. But creating another world, or feeling is very interesting to me.
You have various credits for both writing and directing, such as “The Importance of Awards in Advertising: A Talk by Maximillian Villivankk.”, “Renegades”, and “The Greasy Strangler.” Did you initially set out to be both a writer and director from the beginning?
I never really thought about it. I’ve never been remotely strategic. I under analyse as much as possible. I think that if you do rather than try to do then it feels more authentic. And people can feel that.
Congratulations on all of your success with “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” so far. You directed and wrote the film, along with David Wike. Where did the idea initially come from?
Every idea I have starts I think with an image. A detail. And then everything comes from that. With this film I remember having an image of a black man with shoulder length hair and he looked deep in thought. He ended up looking different in the film. But this was the springboard. I know that’s not a satisfying answer, but the truth is that I let ideas kind of appear to me, rather dreamlike and I follow them. So far that’s how I’ve written. I let them lead me a lot. Sounds pretentious I know, I apologise!
The cast in this film could not be any more perfectly suited. Did you write or rewrite any of the script with specific actors in mind?
I always write with a character in my head, but it might be an amalgam of various people, or if it’s a real actor then I won’t be wanting them to be similar to how I’ve seen them in anything else they’ve done. It’s just like when I read a book. I visualise the characters but they are of my imagination. So I try to write the characters rather than the actors. If that makes sense.
Is there anything that you hope audiences take away from this film?
I make films to make myself feel better in life, to alleviate my own angst, to escape from reality, to dream and to feel inspired and excited, and to feel like it’s OK to be me and it’s OK to feel whatever I want to feel. So I hope there is a corresponding feeling of liberation in the viewer. But I certainly don’t assume how anyone might react or feel when watching it. Their experience is different to mine because I am too involved and too close and I am desensitised.
Both “The Greasy Strangler” and “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” have been categorised by numerous people as experimental/genre-bending/dark comedies. Would this also be your favourite genre to watch as well as create?
I don’t watch comedies generally. I also think neither film is remotely dark, honestly. I think they are both fun, both human, both endearing, and I think the characters are quite innocent and childlike in both films. I think that must be the reaction from people who have very different sensibilities to me. I certainly don’t care to make films that fit a precise genre. I agree the films are experimental. Everything I do is an experiment. I leave a lot of room when I am making stuff, to find it, to keep it alive, to not suffocate the actors, or myself.
This year was your third time at Sundance, America’s largest independent film festival. Amongst all of the big budgeted franchises and countless reboots that are currently getting a large portion of the focus and attention, how important is it to have this festival/platform dedicated to indie cinema, especially more so now than ever?
It’s definitely important to give independent films a platform. Though I feel it would be a real tonic to see more films that are going their own way. A lot of independent film feels as formulaic as non-independent film. it’s hard to get peculiar films financed. Which is a shame. Actually I think I haven’t watched enough films in the last couple of years to be able to comment with any authority on the state of film right now! But I do think it’s wonderful that a lot of lower budget films are being made!
What do you think the biggest surprise about the role of a writer and or director would be to an outsider?
The first thing that occurs to me is that actually everybody else is so absolutely vital and critical. I’m an exploiter of resources. Of course my taste factors into it all. But I can only work with what other people are able to bring to me. I can say I want someone to wear a satin purple jacket. But I’m not the one out there finding it and choosing it. It’s all about other people’s taste and expertise.
If someone wants to pursue a career as a writer and or director, how would you recommend they go about it?
Make stuff. Do what appeals to you. Make it for yourself. If you like it then that’s the most important thing. If you don’t then why bother making it. But also I don’t know really. I have a particular view. I like to be distinctive. I’m not really sure how to get anywhere. I think I just do all this because if I didn’t I think I’d worry for my mental health. But then again I don’t know if it helps me or if it causes me even more anxiety. Maybe it would be better to make jam and live in the countryside. We only have one life and it’s not possible to try every path to find out what course is best. You just have to go for something. Go for it! That’s my advice! There are no rules.
Finally, finishing on just a light question, if there was one thing that you personally think would make the industry better today, what would that be?
I think it would be great if more people realised that they don’t have to understand everything, and instead it’s more important to feel something. You don’t remember films because you understand them. You remember them because you feel something.
Thank you for all of your time, and congratulations again on all of your deserved success with ‘An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn’ at Sundance & the film being picked up by Universal!
You can read our review of An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn and other films from Sundance, such as The Tale here! http://liftoffnet.wpengine.com/weekly-reviews-sundance-half-the-picture-the-tale-beverly-luff-linn/