Jeremy Jed Hammel is an award-winning director, producer, and editor. He started his career in Hollywood as a coordinator for national network TV productions ranging from “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “ER,” and “Friday Night.”
Hammel has produced projects for The American Film Institute, NBC’s national network show, “Later,” (which became “Last Call with Carson Daly,”) ”The Legacy” a film that won Best Comic-Related Film at Comic Con in San Diego, and produced/directed/edited, “A Little Push” featuring Slaine (from “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone,”) a short film/music video for Skinny Cavallo, among others.
“The Legacy” was selected into the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, and is approaching 400,000 views on Youtube. It stars Paul Butcher from Disney’s “Zoey 101,” received national theatrical release with a mid-sized movie theater chain, Cinebarre, and is available on Hulu.com, Roku.com, and Indieflix.com.
Aside from winning Best Film at Comic Con, Hammel’s filmmaking accolades include: Best Comedy Screenplay – 2011 Action On Film Festival (screenwriter), Best Feature Film – 2007 Sansevierian Film Festival, and a Golden Kahuna Award for Excellence In Filmmaking – 2009 Honolulu Film Festival, (co-director/sole editor) for a video for music artist Lo-Fi Sugar, who went on to chart a Number One Beatport song with Paul Van Dyk’s “So High.”
Hammel’s crew credits also include work for production companies on the Universal Studios lot, the Hallmark Channel, “Access Hollywood,” and the groundbreaking motion-graphic design firm, Imaginary Forces.
Hammel is in pre-production on a reality series that he is creating with the Boston Babydolls (voted Boston’s Best Burlesque troupe for 3 years in a row,)co-creating a web series with filmmaker Kylie Gordon, and he is the Director/Founder of the charitable 4th Annual Filmshift Festival.
Hammel’s screenplays have won awards in 8 screenplay competitions, including the 2008 Woods Hole Film Festival and the 15th Annual Fade In magazine/Writer’s Network competition. One of his screenplays even made to the Top 15% (out of 5500) screenplays for The Academy Award’s 2008 Nicholl Fellowship. Films he has produced or directed were chosen as Official Selections for over 65 film festivals across the globe.
Hammel often teaches video production courses at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.
He is oddly proud of the fact that in 2011 in the span of 3 weeks, he lost both of his shoes in the mosh pit at a Dropkick Murphys show and then lost his shirt in the mosh pit at a Matt and Kim show. He believes that we are all here to help each other and he says Yo often.
Why did you start the Filmshift Festival?
JJH: Filmshift gives me the opportunity to bring together my love of film with my desire to make the world a better place. It’s important to me that I make a positive and lasting change within my community…I want to make the world a better place, and Filmshift is my way of doing that. Filmshift combines a few things that I am passionate about with what I am most qualified to do.
I feel that it is vitally important that we all donate a portion of our time and/or money to charity, so 20% of our gross ticket sales will go to a local charity called Christopher’s Haven
I am convinced that locally-based, small businesses will save our country both from this current economic downturn and from losing our diverse national identity. So, I feel that sparking a dialogue with members of the community about how local and green business can help is imperative. Organizations like one of our media sponsors, Somerville Local First, and our Presenting Sponsor, The Longfellow Clubs, as well as our audience raffle sponsor, Cambridge Naturals, have been doing great work within the communities around the Boston area. Their hard work, passion, and leadership inspired me to frame my film festival around local and “green” issues.
Lastly, I believe that entertaining and thought-provoking films can inspire change not just on a grand scale, but within ourselves individually. For me personally, after seeing an entertaining film, I feel motivated, fired up, open to new ideas and new possibilities…and if I didn’t enjoy the film, then I want to find a way to try to do it better…but either way, I feel inspired after I see a good film. My goal is to have Filmshift audiences feel that same way.
It’s in my nature to bring people together, it’s in my blood to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve spent over a decade working in both the studio and independent film/TV industry, so it just made sense to me that I create Filmshift.
You spent some time in LA, did that scene/culture influence you or your work as Director/Filmmaker/Entrepreneur? Do you see a different community in Boston vs LA?
JJH: A majority of my film/TV production work was in LA, though I have worked on a number of films and TV productions in Boston. There is a huge difference between the film communities in Boston and LA. Boston has a much smaller and more tightly knit community, for one. Boston is a tough town to get to know, but I found LA to be frustrating for almost the opposite reason.
Over time, I was lucky enough to meet and collaborate with many serious, dedicated, hardworking filmmakers in LA who are doing great things. But on a shear numbers level, you have to sift through a lot of people selling you baloney to find truly motivated, sincere, and hard-working filmmakers in LA. The same could be said about Boston, but here I’ve found that “big talk” is kept to a minimum. Boston tends to say what’s on its mind, LA tends to tell you what it thinks you want to hear.
When I met people around LA and I’d say I was going to produce or direct a film, I’d actually make it happen, but to them, saying they were going to make film was just an abstract notion that they presented as fact…and I know this to be true because years later, I have a number of completed films to show for my hard work, and they have more stories how “they’re developing a script.”
It’s only frustrating because I love making films and with the connections and talents they have at their disposal, we could produce 10 shorts or a couple features in a year…Instead, we just talk about what they “will do” in the future. Again, that’s not everybody in LA, just a lot of people I’ve met.
Boston and New England has so many diverse film festivals and so many passionate and talented filmmakers here in the area, I’m hopeful that collectively we can start seeing a consistent stream of high-level independent films, produced on the local level.
To answer the question of how did the two communities/scenes influence me: LA has so many different kinds of scenes going on and new ones bubble up all the time…Everyone there is so excited to be in LA that there’s always this vibrant energy throughout all the scenes, and I definitely miss that feeling of constant new possibilities and fresh ideas. That said, I see that feeling being created more and more here in Boston.
The one lesson that I’ve learned from my time in both Boston and LA is one that I cannot stress enough: No one is going to Make It Happen except you. So go do it. Now. Make your film Just don’t bet the house on it and don’t expect you’ll be rich and famous once you do.
What advice can you give to an novice filmmaker: How can a low-budget film compete in the film festival circuit? Where is the best place to start? At the idea? Raising money? Etc.
JJH: The first thing a filmmaker should do before embarking on making a film is to ask themselves why exactly they’re doing it, what do they want to get out of it, and what is it that they expect will ultimately come from it?
Oftentimes, the process of completing a film from idea to distribution can take 3 to 10 years, with the only recognition being a Q and A attended by your friends and family at a small local film festival and an article in your town paper. That doesn’t mean it’s the only Reward you get though. Being a part of the creative process, working as part of a team, perfecting your craft, meeting new friends, seeing new places, and offering a part of yourself (your film) to an audience (no matter how big or small,) are all reasons why I enjoy making films.
Whatever your personal reasons may be, they need to be something other than to make money or to become famous. Because although those things may come to you, the process, the business models, and the realities of independent filmmaking are not designed to get you those things…regardless of what you may have heard or read.
The amount of time and money that is required to make a film that a mass audience would pay their hard earned money to see, and the cost it would take to market such a film is far beyond the means of 99% of filmmakers out there. What makes things harder for new filmmakers is that those who came before you aren’t usually totally honest about their budgets or how much they earned from distribution.
The reality is, a vast majority of independent films never make more than they cost. There are a few exceptions, but a lot of those films are, in fact, not independents but are simply marketed and presented as if they were. So, a lot of films pretending to be grassroots/indie, as well as the “truly indie” films that try to seem successful, give new filmmakers a false impression of how easy it will be to make a profitable/award-winning film. The point is, if you end up making money on your film, great, but don’t mortgage your house counting on a film to be successful. Truth is, I wouldn’t have heeded this warning when I started out, we filmmakers are a stubborn and endlessly hopeful bunch, but trust me on this one.
The sooner that you’re on board with the idea that a film is the most expensive and time consuming thing you’ll ever do besides raise kids, the better. Once you get to that point, you can then determine if, or how much, you truly love the process, and how important expressing yourself in this medium is to you…and then ask, what are you willing to sacrifice to do so?
For me, through a difficult series of trials and errors, I have found ways to continually make inexpensive films, with friends new and old, that win a few awards on the festival circuit, get me some press, and satisfy my desire to create. Any other rewards I receive from my films beyond that stuff is just icing on the cake to me.
As for getting into festivals: If your goal is to have the “festival circuit experience,” then my advice is to try to make a film that have the same elements as films that festivals in your genre present.
Also, friends help friends, so become friends with people in the community (real or online,) of the genre your film is in. Bloggers, other filmmakers, festival directors, fans, actors, etc.. I don’t mean network with them, which can be part of it, but become a genuine friend. Repost their stuff, connect with, support, and praise them honestly, wholeheartedly and without thought of reward…Once you do that, rewards will come to you without you having to try.
If you want a good festival “run,” you need to be aware and honest about the differences between what you personally want to see in your film and what an audience would want to see in your film. Filmmaking is one part art and one part business. What that means to me is: I don’t make films for audiences, but I do keep the audience in mind when making films.
Because if you aren’t creating films for an audience to enjoy, why are you doing it? And if it is just for you, why waste money submitting it to a festival? Right, because we all want people to see, appreciate, and praise our work…And from the festival’s perspective, a major goal of theirs is to sell tickets so they tend to pick films that they believe could pack the house.
With that in mind, here’s another fact: No one is going to promote your film except you. Friends may repost/retweet your status updates/event invites and film festivals may put your posters up at the festival, but you and only you will get most people to come to your screenings or to buy your film. You need to remind them, make the process easy for them, beg, plead, preach, bribe them to show up for or support your work.
Most people need all the energy they can muster to just get through the day, so your film may not be as high up on their list of priorities as you’d like or expect. Regardless of how amazing your film is, that alone will not get most people to the theater or to buy a copy. You need to get them there, get them to act, get them involved. It is a draining, never-ending, thankless job, but it is what it takes to get your film into film festivals and to the masses. And if you’re like me, it’s fun!
How important is community? Where does one start? How does a newbie get involved?
JJH: Community is all that there is. Aside from the obvious benefits of being a part of a community such as friends and emotional, financial and spiritual support…Not to mention networking contacts…Unless you are independently wealthy, you need others to help you in order to get what you want. And the only way to help yourself is to help others. But the help you offer needs to be authentic, it needs to be genuine, and it needs to be consistent.
The way you get involved in any community is to embrace and appreciate the existing culture for what it is and help it thrive on the community’s terms, not your own.
In simple terms, this means working as a grunt, a PA, craft service, a driver, whatever is needed. This means showing up early and staying late, all with a smile on your face. This means doing whatever you can to help the production. I got my job at NBC Late Night, Imaginary Forces (motion graphics), Hallmark, and pretty much all of my producer credits that way.
I’m not saying you should let yourself get taken advantage of by people who could never help your career or who you are questionable in their modus operandi…I’m saying that hard work is usually rewarded by those who also work hard themselves. So volunteer on indie films that are run by people who get steady paid work in the production world and just build your network from there.
What parting advice can you give us about Boston Film Festivals?
JJH: Boston and New England has so many diverse film festivals and so many passionate and talented filmmakers here in the area, we are starting to see a consistent stream of high-level independent films, produced on the local level.
The one lesson that I’ve learned from my time in both Boston and LA is one that I cannot stress enough: No one is going to Make It Happen except you. So go do it. Now. Make your film. Just don’t bet the house on it and don’t expect you’ll be rich and famous once you do. Do it because you love it, do it because you are a filmmaker and filmmakers make films.” – So Says Jed
Reprinted with permission from Glovebox Film and Animation Festival