Shy Hamilton - Me & my boy

12:39, 2011, Documentary
A single father and former addict struggles to raise his son in Oakland, California, USA on the verge of the 2008 presidential election.
DirectorShy HamiltonProducerShy HamiltonWriterShy HamiltonCameraShy HamiltonEditorShy Hamilton


< overview


Who is Shy Hamilton?
Well, Im daughter, and a mom, a sister, a friend. A lot of things. I make films. I read a lot. Im an artist. I make things.

What is Me & my boy about?
Me & My Boy is about a single father and his son in Oakland, CA.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I fell in love with films as a girl. I just had so much to say and I thought it was the perfect way to tell a story. So I have been writing stories and sketching since I was about 6 at least. As I grew up, I couldn’t devote as much attention to it anymore. I was too busy trying to live as an adult because I didn’t have the easiest childhood. It never left me, the creative process, but I had to begin to give real attention to it again about 8 years ago. Thats when I went back to school to formally study theory and the medium. I have a BFA from California College of the Arts and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
I try to listen all the time. I carry around a little moleskin, and write what comes to mind, all throughout the day. I take pictures and write notes on my phone as well. I record sounds. I have snippets everywhere. Eventually, those anecdotes and photos reveal themselves to be a story that needs to be told. I do work at my alter too, talk to my ancestors about what they need me to say. So far, my work comes from the need to be liberated from something or someone. Its a running theme. So no matter if it is a single father struggling to raise his son, how police dogs are trained and used to brutalize or a grieving parent, you will always find the need to for freedom. Its important to me because it is such a strong desire for me, personally.

How long do you usually work on one project?
It depends. My last film, I spent 5 years. Thats the longest time so far. But that was a full length film. My shorter pieces dont usually take so long.

Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
If I am working with actors, I plan mise en cine but I allow my actors be the character, do what they do. As long as they get the point of the scene across, thats okay with me. The performances are always better that way an everyone is much more relaxed. If it is a doc, I am super anal about pre-production details but once I start filming, thats it. I have no control. And its frightening but thrilling at the same time. Both processes are very different, yet I have to be intuitive with both. I have to anticipate movement.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
The title is a direct quote from Tony in the film. I found it was perfect because he summed up his life and what he lives for and that is the essence of the film. He said, "Its just me & my boy." I thought about it when I was editing and I knew he was right and thats the beauty of it. Its just a man and his son, surviving the only way they can.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
For this film, the inspiration came from my own father. I was raised by a single father. I know how hard he tried to give us what we needed. He worked hard to become a very accomplished man. I really admire that. I know even in this day and age, people still believe single parents are mostly women. But men do it too, everyday. I wanted to talk about that. My inspiration comes from my life, my friends lives, the people in the community and the stories they tell me, things I see, things I hear.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Sound is the most important thing really. If the sound is terrible, the film can fail as a whole. It really depends on what Im working on. In my experimental work, I take quite a bit of sounds I find in my waking life and I use them. I have quite a collection of sounds like the sound of my backyard, the sound of rain or the sounds of making love, the park on a sunny day when folks are celebrating...For a doc, I prefer native sound--always.

How does content relate to the form of your work?
I think that so far, its been a good match. I am an interdisciplinary artist so the outcomes are exactly how they should be. I call it work because thats what I do. I work at creating. If something calls for an animated serial, I need to learn how to animate. If something is requiring wood I need to learn how to cut that...thats been my experience so..lately Ive been in video but I used to paint quite a bit...I think Ive adapted pretty well.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
The possibilities are endless. I do know that it should not be censored and it should be free.

Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
It has changed my view of making art. I think there are so many beautiful possibilities in terms of what kind of work can be made with the web and how the web can be utilized to exhibit art. Its really exciting because the possibilities seem endless right now as long as it isn’t regulated and censored.

Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?
Im an Afro-Surrealist, the grandchild of Negritude. We are opposite of post-racial or post-black. We are the past, the present and the future.

How influential is the reaction to your film by the audience?
It holds some weight. I am interested in the audience response to my work. I like to hear what they take from it.

What is your next project about?
I just finished a full length documentary about 4 teenage suicides in Black youth in a single community in Denver, Colorado, USA. All of the families knew each other but it wasn’t a suicide pact. The environment, which was a wealthy one, and post traumatic slave syndrome, really played a role in their deaths. It is called, "A Little Bit Colored. A Little Bit White." You can see it here: http://vimeo.com/23809246

I am in pre-production on several pieces, not sure what they will turn out to be. I am also writing a script right now. So far it is about a relationship and the banal, strangeness of the everyday within the relationship. I want to explore the sensual, the boring, the anger, the regular. All of it. I want to film it this summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Im searching for my actors now so we can work together in creating the narrative.

< overview
< Artists interviews