INTERVIEW WITH JACK HILL by Michelle Russo
QM: At what age did you become a filmmaker?
JH: I used to shoot and edit 8mm films when I was around 14, but dropped it till I was around 28, at which time I went back to UCLA to finish my degree in music composition and took a cinema minor with the idea of learning to score films. But I got into a screenwriting course and was encouraged to make films. So I did.
QM: Where and how did you get all your filmmaking experience?
JH: Made a couple of student films at UCLA, then worked for Roger Corman, starting out shooting inserts, pickups, re-writing scripts, editing, adding scenes to unfinished films, etc.
QM: What is your favorite film and why?
JH: White Heat. Why? If you’ve seen it, you wouldn’t ask. Cagney! Virginia Mayo! Steve Cochran! Max Steiner score! The last great American film. Only Raoul Walsh could have made it.
QM: What makes a great film?
JH: If I knew that, I’d… never mind. But one person’s great film is another person’s turkey. It’s all opinion. The only objective measurement of a film’s value is box-office, and it’s a worthless measurement in esthetic terms, but it does tell you how many people liked the movie and told their friends they should see it. Go figure.
QM: Where do you get your ideas for your films? for ex.. spider baby..was it from a dream?
JH: Ideas generally come from the attempt to solve a problem. Most of my films have been assignments, where I was given the basic subject matter and had to come up with a way to fulfill the request — solve the problem — within certain guidelines. Limitations stimulate creativity, like writing a fugue. Spider Baby just came to me in some kind of mad smoke-dream — it was the sixties, after all — if you get my drift.
QM: The “Switchblade Sisters” film. I find that funny..because there is a band..called “Switchblade Symphony” and they are sisters..and were influenced from your film..what do you think about that?
JH: I think you’re referring to the group actually called The Switchblade Sisters, which I don’t think exists any longer.
QM: Do you set a certain budget for your films?
JH: The production company sets the budget. It’ s always too low.
QM: Do you have other hobbies you do?
QM: When will you stop making films? We hope you never…but would you at any given time to do something else? and what?
JH: Eventually I’d like to finish a series of novels that I’ve blocked out. There are some things I’d like to say that require that medium.
QM: Do your ideas for films come from dreams?
JH: No. It’s really mostly just hard work. Digging into consciousness. As Heraclitus said, “He who seeks gold finds much dirt and little gold.”
QM: What future projects can we expect?
JH: These days I’m collaborating with my very talented wife, Elke, on writing new screenplays. Just now getting a romantic comedy set up to shoot in England, called A Perfect Wife. Also writing a classic detective/mystery/romance called Double Bind, inspired by Oedipus Rex, but without the incest.