20 Questions with Erica Hart

    Each week, 20 Questions features a Northwestern student artist in a Q&A format.

    This week: Communication junior Erica Hart, the writer and director of Developer and president of Studio 22, tells us about her adventures with expensive lobsters, a dog named Barack and Elly Lachman’s (Communication ‘09) natural glow.

    Awarded a $1500 grant from Northwestern University Women Filmmaker’s Alliance (NUWFA), it will open at the Studio 22 premiere in June 2009.

    Erica Hart and Jason Chiu. Photo by Travis LaBella.

    What is Developer?

    The story follows the main character, Isabelle, played by the beautiful Elly Lachman. Isabelle falls asleep in her darkroom and travels through this dream sequence where she meets a couple kooky characters. At the end of the dream she finds her true love, Edward, and what may be her and Edward’s future daughter. When Isabelle awakes, the audience gets a glimpse of her reality, seeing she is in a homosexual relationship.

    The story really centers around the idea of non-conformity especially at this young 20-something age. Isabelle is unhappy in her relationship and is realizing she may have decided she was a lesbian for the sake of being different rather than for her own happiness. Of course, the movie deals with the idea of sexuality, but I don’t want anyone to be offended by it. I don’t mean to suggest that my homosexual peers have chosen their sexuality just to be different nor do I mean to suggest that homosexuality leads to unhappiness.

    As the director, what did you do?

    A director’s role can differ between projects, especially when looking at the industry versus student film. I really tried to balance all the elements of directing. It was important to me that this project be a collaboration, so as a director I did a lot of delegating. I gave a general idea of what I wanted for the production design. For example, I wanted two bull masks. They had to be big enough to be worn by actors. That’s about all I said and the production designers and art crew made these two fabulous paper-mache bull heads, although one of them looked more like an elephant or a sad donkey or something.

    The same collaboration style went for me and my Director of Photography, Jason Chiu. I did as much pre-production work with him as possible but when it came to the weekend of the shoot, I really put it into his hands.

    Cast from the dream: Top left to right: Micah Gardner, Mark Underhill, Jen D’Angelo, Grayson Vreeland, Connor White, Janelle Kroll Bottom left to right: Ariela Emery, Mitch Lerner, Elly Lachman, Laila Alj. Photo by Jason Chiu.

    How long did it take to shoot?

    We shot Developer over one weekend. The first two days we were at the location by 5 or 5:30 in the morning, but it wasn’t a terribly time-intensive shoot.

    What was the biggest disaster on set?

    We had 12 live lobsters on set. They have to stay on ice to stay alive. They were donated by the Davis Street Fishmarket so we really wanted to keep them alive, but we ended up killing three of them. Goddamn, lobsters are expensive! No wonder we never eat lobsters back home… in good ol’ Nebraska. We ended up having to pay $80 for the three lobsters we killed. No other animals were harmed in the making of the film though… to my knowledge.

    Which park in Evanston that you shot at was your favorite?

    Well, we shot in two parks. We shot at Lawson Park which is just north of campus on Sheridan by the big lighthouse. That place is amazing! During pre-production we took footage there a couple times which we then projected onto a white wall during the climax scene. And then we shot there twice at sunrise during the actual shooting weekend. There are Evanston regulars at the park that bring their cute little dogs and children and things every morning to play on the beach or what not. I met a dog named Barack! Once when we went to the park at sunrise there was a little group of women having a Ya-Ya Sisterhood or something. I wanted to join and we could all get a pair of traveling pants!

    What’s the worst job on set?

    Hey now, every job on a film set is great! There is definitely a hierarchy of jobs and there are certain things you really only do when you’re a freshman. Still, the lower jobs, like grip or Production Assistant, are really good learning experiences. I mean, I have gripped so much in my life and I still love doing it.

    Now Assistant Director is a crew head, but Assistant to the Director is just my bitch. This role was filled by this awesome freshman, Ursula Ellis. I didn’t really make her do things, except give me foot rubs and sponge baths. She also helped me get into my pleather pants each morning. Thank God for Ursula.

    What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?

    I had a dream last night that I stumbled on to someone’s wedding and I had the hots for the Best Man and I kept trying to get him into this elevator so we could mack on each other. But that’s kind of like my reality, I suppose. I’m notorious for accosting men in small spaces. I don’t have too many sex dreams. I had one once and, yes, it was a lesbian sex dream and it was real dirty, like disgustingly dirty. The kind of thing I would click out of immediately if it was porn. That really wasn’t the inspiration for Developer.

    What do you hate about Northwestern?

    Gosh, I wonder if my professors are reading this! The film department has some major glitches that I know will only be fixed with time, but since you asked, let me climb on my soap box.

    First of all, everything that I have learned about film that was not theory based was outside of class. I believe the faculty really needs to recognize the work the students are doing outside of class. I would love to see more faculty support. I am the president of Studio 22 and we hold the big premiere at the end of the year and I only ever see three or four professors there. Where’s the Dean? Where’s the alumni support?

    Now don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing RTVF professors, but most of the ones people will talk about are theory professors, like Jeffrey Sconce and Scott Curtis. They are amazing professors, but not production instructors.

    It’s really like in that one Harry Potter book when they stop teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts so Harry has secret lessons in that magical room that appears only if you want it bad enough. It’s like all the RTVFers get together on the weekends to learn everything. We spend our weekends not sleeping or studying, but getting our hands dirty on a film set. It may be seen as an easy major, you know, the classes aren’t terribly difficult and there aren’t too many requirements to graduate, but we have got to be one of the majors with the most self-motivated group of students.

    What’s your worst addiction?

    Cocaine and crystal meth. And also diet soda and hulu.com!

    Favorite pick-up line?

    “Let’s have sex!”

    How often do you go out?

    Only when we need milk.

    Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?

    I worked on set with Martin Sheen this summer, which was great because now I’m only two degrees away from everyone in Mighty Ducks.

    What’s your favorite recipe?

    The one for disaster.

    One thing you couldn’t live without?

    My appendix.

    What’s the ugliest part of the human body?

    Whatever little area of the brain it is that encourages girls to wear Uggs with mini-skirts and blouses that make them look pregnant. Also the penis vein.

    If you had $50,000 and couldn’t keep it for yourself or spend it, what would you do with it?

    I would probably buy a DVD of Brewster’s Millions for every orphan in the world!

    How do you feel about nudity?

    I’m naked right now. How do you feel about that?

    What’s something that’s overrated?

    Waa-Mu. Political correctness. Shaving your armpits.

    What is the best thing about Developer?

    Well, there is some nice girl on girl action. And there are people in bull masks and a sexy matador and some lobsters. The best part though, besides for all the majesty that went on behind the scenes, is probably the fact that Elly Lachman is in every single scene. Her face just glows on camera.

    Find out more about Developer at developermovie.com


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