KWMR 89.3 FM in Bolinas, CA *** GYPSY RADIO
with Stefano Resta:
artist, poet and musical collaborator.
Sunday, July 11, 2004: Interview with Mack Polhemus (Director)
and Ann Boehlke Polhemus (Producer)
Q: How did you evolve as a filmmaker and writer?
Mack: Well, I think my parents always encouraged me to do creative activities. They would
much rather have me be a starving artist than a doctor or stockbroker. As I became older,
writing became my main creative form because when you write, youíre alone, and I think
loneliness is a human condition, and youíre really embracing your loneliness. When youíre
writing, being alone is your friend, and Iíve always used that as a tool for life, and if
something good comes out of it, great.
Ann: My film interest came to me more as I met Mack. Iíve always been sort of an
aggressive-producer type, always very determined and not afraid of anything, no matter how
crazy it might be. Unlike Mack, I kind of came from the medical family, so I was bound for
medical school, and then I accidentally ended up in San Francisco, and then my true self
came out working at recording studios and all kinds of singing, acting, and ACT. So all
of a sudden I became this San Francisco artist, and in 1988 I was in a lesbian musical
called Intimate Friends opposite Camilla, Mackís sister, who is also featured in both of
our movies. Mack saw through my acting, I guess, and from that point on we fell in love
and our story started there. And then we continued our exclusive but artistic pursuits.
Q: You said that you were working on an upcoming movie. Can you
tell the listeners what itís about?
Mack: Okay, itís a family comedy, as we mentioned, we have three kids.
Ann: Itís called ďMy Bad Dad.Ē
Mack: Itís about this loser, biker, kind of alcoholic who doesnít know he has kids. But when
he gets in trouble for something else, the judge says, ďYou know, your girlfriend died and
you have to take care of these three kids.Ē And he doesnít want to do it, so he does
everything wrong so that the social worker will take them away, but as he does those bad
things, like ride through the Bolinas hills with the kids on the back of the motorcycle,
the social worker does take them away, but he learns to love them. So when the kids are
taken away, he tries to get them back. By now the kids are in this perfect Martha Stewart-like
household, which has everything right, but no love, and he has everything wrong, but the
only thing he has going for him is love. So the kids are taken back and forth until they
end up with one of them, and you have to watch the movie to find out which one they end up
Q: Whatís the state of the film now?
Mack: In order to choose the music, we had several independent bands submit, so weíre almost
done with the music but we havenít got the music composed yet. So itís shot, itís edited,
everything looks good, the only other creative part left is sound and music, and sound, of
course, is a creative process too.
Ann: We did delay the editing almost a year and half or so when normally it should have taken
a couple months under ideal conditions. Since the making of our last film we have had three
children, so that is now our primary existence day-to-day. To finish it all is a major feat.
We did have a little bit of setback with the editing while trying out various people down
in L.A. But we did just come across a great editor, so thatís just one of the major parts.
And like Mack said, thereís the music composing to the film, thereís the sound effects,
dialogue, editing, the mix, and looking at bands that have submitted their material that
would fit sort of a bluesy-biker theme on one sense, and on the other sense a lovely-childlike
feel, like the kids bring to the movie. And itís a comedy as well. So right now weíre sort
of in the process of that.
Q: Do you work with music as a writer or do you need solitude
Mack: I just don't need my kids around. But other than that, I can listen to music, but it's
not a choice. It doesnít bother me. I can write anywhere, even in my car--
Ann: Not driving, though.
Mack: When Iím reading, I canít listen to music. But I probably wouldnít listen to music while
I am writing. It's not like I need solitude, but it doesn't help or hurt.
Q: For this upcoming movie, what is the basic theme in the sense
of comedy, tragedy, romantic comedy, etc.?
Mack: Itís like a family comedy, and I want it to be genuine. I also want it to be heartfelt
so when people finish this, if they have children, I want them to say, ďI love my children,Ē
and if they donít, ďI love my Dad or Mom.Ē
Q: Is love a motivating force in your work?
Mack: Yeah, truth, love. Thatís what I can sit with for longest. And I can sit with
failure too if something doesnít happen in the business realm, I can still be satisfied.
Like climbing a mountain, you learn to love that mountain and even if you fail you still
enjoyed the process.
Ann: But itís harder to sit with gunshots, sex, and violence and all those things that equate
to success so weíve never really even bothered to go there.
Mack: If you make a movie just to sell it, and you donít, you feel empty. But if you make a
movie and you love it, if it sells, great, if it doesnít, you can still rest in peace.
Q: Is there an intent, on your part, as an artist, to try to
somehow transform human behavior and bring people from one emotional state to a higher
Mack: I'm just trying to entertain people and do the best I can at it. I want people to be
inspired. I want people to feel like, itís okay, if for instance, this dad is, you know,
pretty much of a loser, I want people to think, you know, that itís okay.
Ann: And that thereís hopefulness, that people can change, and that things that the worldly
eyes donít seem worth pursuing, love of the true, or finding the deeper meaning of what you
are all about, and that itís possible.
Mack: Iíd say that love is more of an inspiration for me, and when you have passion for
something, you can convince other people to do things so it has a practical value because
people arenít going to go along with you if you donít care about what you're doing or care
about their project. So what I always do is with the crew members is have them read the
script, and if they love it, theyíre going to work hard.
Saturday, September 25, 2004: Interview with Mack Polhemus (Director)
by James Williams: author of the novel
Out to Get Jack:
Mack: I wanted to incorporate some of the things that I cared about most my life into a film
and I wasnít really sure what those were. But I realized I was spending all my time with
my children. And that was what I felt I cared the most about, so I thought I could make
a movie about kids. When you make a movie, you might abandon it if itís not at a level
that you do care about at a deeper level. So I wanted to capture some of the funny and
heartwarming moments in my life in film. And since I have the knowledge to put those
moments to a plot, and I knew how to make a film, I could make a home video but make it
seem like a real movie.
I donít consider myself a bad dad, but I donít always follow the rules. However, I know
that because my heart is in the right place that the kids are going to be fine, and
probably much better off than in a perfect home that has everything organized. The plot
is to ping-pong those kids from one house to the other and hopefully play with the
audienceís hopes and fears so that the audience hopes that they will ultimately end up
with the bad dad and fear that they will end up with the perfect home.
I always have it in my mind that we will make a movie and, at this stage, having made a
movie on film is extremely expensive, even a low-budget film. It was exciting that we
could film on digital video, which looks good, is very portable, one person can operate
it, and itís very efficient. I always knew I could make another movie.
The advantage that I had was that I knew how to make it better than it was. Most people
who shoot digital projection would not know the elements that goes into it. For example,
I know that you need to establish depth in each shot through focus, through lighting,
and through background, whereas other people might point and shoot, and that would look
amateur. I also know that sound and music are essential in making a film go beyond the
It took me three months to write the screenplay. I remember when I spent two full days
writing it and I remember sitting down and when I finished, and I had a moment of feeling
as if I was finished. This is a rare feeling with writing, because you can always go back
and edit it, but I knew I had finished it because I had pictured every scene, I knew
every character in the scene, I knew every actor or person who could play the part unless
they were small parts, and it would easy to get somebody else, but all the lead characters
were taken care of, all the locations were taken care of.
Before I could start filming, my brother Joe had to learn how to ride a motorcycle. What I
also had to do was get the crew in place. I talked to a bunch of directors of photography
and cinematographers and someone who knows how to do sound, and then I needed some people
to help, and I needed, of course, someone to help on the production side. Joe could help
with some of the casting, so that was good. Filming began in the summer of 2002. We shot
the movie for 3 weeks, and then we went to Bolinas for 3 days to shoot ďpickup shots.Ē When
we were first shooting, we didnít know if the movie was going to work at all with the kids.
I remember the first shot. I couldnít get everyone to do what I wanted to do, especially
the kids, and I broke out in a cold sweat and I hadnít experienced that before in my life.
And then I walked away for a while and I thought, ďOkay.Ē And then I said to Ann, ďWeíll
take this one day at a time and if it doesnít work, weíll stop.Ē And after each day we
didnít have another conversation again because obviously it continued working.