Meredith Hama-Brown is a multi-talented actor and writer/director from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her latest work as an actress in “Cinephiliac” saw her nominated for two awards and the film itself toured the world film festival circuit.
I have the great pleasure to interview Meredith Hama-Brown on the occasion of the release of her my most recent narrative film, “Broken Bunny”, which will be premiering at Palm Springs Shortfest in June 2018.
Meredith Hama-Brown, please tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic universe?
I’m an actor and also a writer/director, mainly working in the film realm. My favorite projects to create and take part in are films that explore the complexities of being human. A lot of my work centers thematically on identity, the ego, feminism and mortality.
Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that acting, was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
I think when I finished university I realized that I had to give it a shot. I wasn’t really sure at the time if it would be a career but I needed to try. I think I knew how much energy it takes to become a working actor and knew that it would be even harder to get off the ground if I had to work around a full time job elsewhere. I was very fortunate to be in a position to follow this path.
What kind of roles have you performed throughout your career?
I have been cast in some amazing roles throughout my life and lots of them have been very diverse.
I have played a lifeguard questioning existence (“The Lifeguard”-Devan Scott and Will Ross), a woman learning to let go of control as she is thrust through a nightmare of film genres (“Cinephiliac”-Matthew Tichenor), a struggling actress trying to find self-worth (“Medical Drama”-Sophie Jarvis) and a mother stuck in a small town that is somehow being psychologically affected by a mysterious noise (“Formica”-Jordan Findlay). Although quite varied, lots of these roles have also explored universal aspects of their respective themes and been very easy to relate to on a human level.
What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career as an actress?
So much! I really love the collaboration with different directors. From some of the best people I’ve worked with I’ve learnt how to be a better director myself: how to direct actors better, how to make set a healthy place for creativity, while also staying on track with a clear message. It’s really interesting how a good director is just able to make a safe space for exploration and how that can bring out so many pleasant surprises.
You’re not only an actress, but a writer and a director. Do you find it challenging to be a female director in a male dominated industry? Why do you think there are so few women in filmmaking?
It’s definitely challenging at times. To answer why men dominate the industry, I think I would almost need to answer why the world is the way that it is. I’m reading a collection of essays right now by Rebecca Solnit that a friend gave to me (they are all compiled in a book called “Men Explain Things to Me”, which is also the title of one of her essays). It has been a really great read so far because it really puts this massive problem into perspective (in how massive it is, in case we ever could forget). It feels overwhelming when I read things like this but ultimately it also reminds me how lucky I am to be a female director, to have an ability to pursue change.
Do you enjoy acting or directing more?
I love them both in different ways. I love being able to take part in the overall picture with directing. It’s really cool to draw everything together and create something that was only ever in your head before. And I like how with acting you can just focus on one thing. I like how a lot of what you do with acting is internal and will never really be known to anyone else. In a way they are both very related, because it is all storytelling, but how it feels to do both jobs is very different.
Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else?
Yes, absolutely, I think that we all have a responsibility to culture. But I don’t have a very rigid perspective of what a particular person should tell. I think that being honest about what you think about, what matters to you and who you are, is something that I want to see from everyone. The problem is that we need more diverse voices in film so that we actually get to see multiple perspectives, instead of just one predominant perspective.
What are the feelings you are trying to convey or expect people to have when watching your films?
Every film is very different in this. I generally have a specific feeling or thought that I want to get across for each project but they are all different from one another depending on the story. In the end though, I also try to let go of controlling too much what people will take away from the film. Sometimes I think it can create a better product if I allow some room for interpretation.
What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
The best films for me are when all of the elements come together to bring a really strong script to life. It also has to, in some way, push boundaries- whether that is in the story itself or in a stylistic choice. But I think that the script always has to be good in my mind. So often I watch a film and everything with the direction will be spot on, but it still falls flat because the script is lacking. Whereas if I see a film and the script is amazing, I could get past a few weird direction choices and still think it’s great.
Could you talk about “Cinephilliac” directed by Matthew Tichenor, for which you received several nominations?
“Cinephiliac” was a pleasure to work on. Because the film is so ambitious, it took a year and a half to shoot, on and off. It was kind of a surreal experience because we were jumping around the script as we shot and then we would have so much time in between to reflect on the story. Some portions were bound to take on new meaning as we progressed. But this was an amazing challenge for me and ultimately pushed me as an actor to constantly look further into the character.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have a few upcoming projects! For acting, “Medical Drama” directed by Sophie Jarvis and “A Backward Glance” directed by Michelle Grady will be released to film festivals soon. These are both amazing films and I was so lucky to get to work with these incredible directors.
On the directing side of things, I will soon be releasing a stop-motion film called “Mind Mirror” that I have shot over 3 years. The full film is only 3 minutes, but it was very time consuming as it is all made from thousands of individually cut pieces of paper and shot on Super 8mm film. I’m also happy to announce that my most recent narrative film, “Broken Bunny”, will be premiering at Palm Springs Shortfest this June (2018).
Thanks again, Meredith Hama-Brown, for the opportunity to interview you for Creativinn! Are there any final thoughts or words of advice you have for our readers?
I don’t really have any advice to give because everyone’s situation is so different. But something I remind myself of often is to enjoy the process. It’s so easy to get too focused on getting a project completed but the joy of this profession is in the work itself. I’m still learning to keep this in perspective.