Director, writer, producer Jamal Hodge is a multiple award-winning filmmaker that has been featured in Cannes SFC, Sundance, Tribecca, and the Urban World Film Festival among many others. His mission is to create genre films with characters of color in leading roles. He enjoys tackling social taboos in a Hitchcockian manner and considers himself a dreammaker, that is, a person who makes his dreams come true by helping other people achieve theirs. IAMFILM named Jamal one of the world’s best upcoming talents. He was recently named onto the prestigious 2017 Jury of the Albanian Film week.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Director Jamal Hodge
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Jamal Hodge: I am currently working on 7 different projects but I’ll mention the ones ready for production. “A Happy Divorce” is a show pilot. “A Debt Of Grace” is a faith-based feature Film and “The Kind Ones” is a feature film version of the short film we sent to Cannes. Yes I have no life. All I do is make things, and spend my free time thinking about making things. It’s so fulfilling!!
NY Elite: What is the new film about?
Jamal Hodge: We’re going into production on A Happy Divorce this June. It’s a sad moody pilot in a series that asks “How do you forgive the unforgivable?” The pilot follows Jenny as she falls victim to narcissism, climbing the success ladder at the expense of those who love her the most. She soon learns that sometimes the worse punishment is gaining all you ever wanted…
NY Elite: What is different about being in the director’s chair with this project?
Jamal Hodge: I’ve worn many hats, as an editor, writer and producer. Even shot a couple of films as a director of photography. What I love about the screenplay that Chase Muratore wrote with A Happy Divorce is Jenny’s humanity. She is like so many of us, so concerned about our own well being that we forget that other people have tied their sense of self to ours, that they’ve bind themselves to us emotionally. The script asks what is our obligations to those we say we love and even to our own dreams, and what can happen when we go to the extreme and fully sacrifice one for the other. Directing such excellent writing is always a privilege and while the directors chair is familiar to me now, every new project offers new challenges and has to be approached with fresh curiosity. I didn’t really answer your question because, well, I honestly don’t know what’s going to be different only that it will be!
NY Elite: How did you go about casting for the film? Which actors stand out and why are they perfect for the role?
Jamal Hodge: For casting we used Clifton King from theatrelilsamuel productions and Prosperity Casting. I somewhat sadistically enjoy the casting process. We saw so many people for the lead role of Jenny and Warren. Ultimately we decided to go with Sita Sarkar as Jenny and Rory Clarke as Warren. Two young talents that not only bring a genuine complexity to the characters but find your heart. They are the future of cinema!! You heard it here first! Just dynamic actors and wonderful people. I’m privileged to be working with them and the rest of our major league cast.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Jamal Hodge: Well no matter how great a film is theirs always some asshole out there that literally hates it. Someone out there hates The Godfather and Training Day. So film is ultimately subjective. TO ME what makes a film great is the questions that it asks, the feelings it demands from its audience, and if you leave more aware of the human condition than when you entered it. These things take mastery to achieve and I’m constantly hoping… praying and begging, that my next project will be the one to hit this holy trinity, but alas, the search continues.
NY Elite: What special technique do you use to help guide actors?
Jamal Hodge: I like the Miesner technique some, but to be honest what I use to guide an actor is unique to each actor. I seek to understand their minds, mannerisms, emotional preferences and training and like a chameleon I adjust to them until I’m their goddamn spirit animal.
We talk lots about the inner life of the character, and we seek to discover the character fully together. Ultimately my job is to create Harmony between the character, the actor’s approach, and my vision.
NY Elite: Have you thought about acting in your movies or in general?
Jamal Hodge: Unfortunately for audiences worldwide I have indeed acted in my own films before. This is simply to satisfy my inner sadist and torture both myself and all those involved. 😂😂😬
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/plays you have been involved in?
This is an evil sadistic question.
- Knockout Game
- An African American in Russia
- The Jump
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Jamal Hodge: I love the martial arts and feel it’s an art form. But before all that, before directing, as a storyteller my purest form of creative expression is writing. I just finished writing a sci-fi novel called Child Of Change and am working on a Horror novel and a book of 50 poems.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Jamal Hodge: Don’t do it!!! UNLESS you can make pain and uncertainty your friend, because no matter how much people love your work, or how much money you acquire that’s the life you’re choosing. It will get more manageable but it will never get better. If you can accept this then I believe you will thrive in this circus. Me personally, I appreciate hard work, struggle, and the unknown. Film is magic. And as an artist you get to be a wizard! You get the honor of touching millions of lives with fragments of your soul. There is no greater satisfaction.
NY Elite: Any plans to direct another movie?
Jamal Hodge: Of course. I’m on this train till the Reaper hops on.
NY Elite: NY Elite: What can we expect from you in 2017?
Jamal Hodge: Work. Creation. And more goddamn work. We have an ambitious line up this year. I believe we will go into production on a feature film, we are completing the pilot A Happy Divorce, and continuing our festival run in the fall with The Kind Ones and Knockout Game. I have a couple of commercials I directed that are dropping in the fall. Besides that, my novel Child Of Change will hopefully get published. We’ll see what the future holds but I will never stop creating or making things. It’s my purpose.
NY Elite: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website
Jamal Hodge: To keep up with me please check out my website at http://www.directorhodge.com
Or follow me on Instagram as: Directorh
The Jump: https://vimeo.com/204773945
The Kind Ones: https://vimeo.com/149076806
Knockout Game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7o6u8TL0ak
The Jump: http://www.thejumpshortfilm.com/
The Kind Ones: http://thekindones.primallinksmedia.com/
Knockout Game: http://knockoutgame.primallinksmedia.com/