Interview with Filmmaker Andrew Hassenruck (BEING BLACK)

BEING BLACK played to rave reviews at the October 2020 LGBT Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I make a lot of film portraits for myself, for others and for a charity called Boys in Mind. Wayne is a good friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of years so I wanted to connect again and asked him to come to my empty Barge in London to have a chat and film. I love sitting with people and enabling them to stop, close their eyes, take a breath, and let the busy world fade away. Despite the fact we were in Central London, being gently rocked on the water really helped both of us to tune in, let go and to show up for each other with the camera just recording what happens.

I love hearing people’s stories and I always look for the times when they are really present, almost as if they were being spoken from another place. Wayne dropped right in and wasn’t just telling a story he had told many times before but was really reliving and exploring his father’s experience and the contrast with how Wayne feels about being black in the UK in 2020. I think when you see someone speaking for an authentic place then it is captivating.

I say very little during the filming and reviewing the footage two films immediately revealed themselves. It is almost that when I truly listen the stories come together very simply and quickly. There is a third film about ‘Coming out’ that is just waiting for me and my partner to film our own stories.

When Wayne saw the film for the first time I think he found it hard. Seeing oneself in closeup with no place to hide can be challenging and also very moving. We are never really given the experience to look at ourselves so closely and to hear us speaking so honestly and from an undefended place. I think Wayne reluctantly at first understood the power of his words.

With Wayne’s wholehearted support we featured his film on the Boys in Mind, Men Who Care part of the library. I am the Film Lead at BiM and we go into schools and work with groups of young people getting them to film their friends talking about their mental health using iPads, tripod and a lavaliere mic so they have to sit close to each other and really listen to each other share their feelings. We have al library of about 80 films including an ongoing series of films I have made with men, though the way they are, show a different view of masculinity, leading by example. Wayne’s film fitted in perfectly and since then he has become a mentor for the charity.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

As I had shot is on my iPad I started editing on the the train home. Having been an editor for over 35 years I work very quickly and intuitively. I love the fact that you can now make quite a sophisticated edit on an iPad with Lumafusion. When I got home I transferred it to DaVinci Resolve, grabbed a piece of music and finished the edit in about an hour. The audio noise reduction and grading probably took longer as it was shot in colour but I knew I wanted it in a high contrast black and white. I didn’t want to lose Wayne into the background so applied various masks and glow effect to give him an inner light.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

A Love Story

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Birds, clouds and police sirens.

I forgot to plug the lavaliere mic into the iPad so had to use a gun mic which I also had running. This meant the traffic and birds on the canal were more audible so I had to use harsher noise reduction. This lost some of the richness of Wayne’s voice but made it more audible. Obviously in the past I would have had a dubbing mixer who would do a much better job.

It was also a bright winters day with clouds racing across the sky and the sun going in and out and reflecting off the water so I found myself chasing the exposure on the iPad which isn’t the easiest thing to do.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I cried! It was amazing to see how people had reacted to Wayne and the way he was when he told part of his story. I have won several awards for some of my broadcast films and had comments in the press but those films were joint efforts. BEING BLACK was something I had totally created myself and to actually hear people talk about my film in such a positive way was wonderful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

It was part of a series of films I was hoping to do with friends, mostly gay men, from London whom I haven’t seen since I moved away several years ago. I think it is important to capture the voices of older gay men and how we can feel more invisible within our community as we grow older. However Covid came and I’ve been unable to complete any other films. I still hope to go back to the Barge and carry on with the series as I love talking to people and it seems everybody I meet has some wonderful stories to tell.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Either Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now in all their various versions.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think FilmFreeway is great and makes it very easy. I have used Box in the past so I guess this is a shiny new version. Also you guys have been fab with your communication.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Ride on Time by Black Box and again all the remixes. It is a great track to put on, crank the volume up to 11 and to dance madly round the living room.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes I have several new films going at the moment.

I am making some film portraits over Zoom, the quality is rubbish but I think the content, the feeling of dropping in and authenticity is the same.

I am also continue working with Boys in Mind, during Lockdown in the UK we got kids to film themselves at home doing things that helped them cope with the strange situation. We made 42 short films for a strand called #GettingTrhoughThisTogether (clumsy I know but it lets you know what the films are about). If Lockdown happens again then we may do some more films like that.

I am also going to film myself and my partner Iain and maybe our two teenage foster boys as well. I made some films about foster carers but I want to make a series of films involving all parties about the foster care system and how the transition to independence is handled. It isn’t always a success.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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