We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Hall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
“I have just described an unforgettable event in my life, and yet I hardly ever get a chance to speak of it. It doesn’t fit the framework of social discourse.”
I love this quote that I recently read in Ruth Klüger’s book, Ruth Klüger, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered. She’s talking about some of her experience as a Jew in the ghettos in World War II Europe. This is a powerful statement in a powerful book about not being able to talk about her experience publically when she was a part of one of the most tragic events of the 20th century. I think as an artist it’s important to remember there are so many stories out there and within ourselves. The diversity in voices are in the billions just from humans alone. We all have stories that impact us from inside out and don’t talk about them. I think these are the stories, as artists, we must pull out (from ourselves and others) when we are creating art. These stories, these feelings that we may feel like we’re not supposed to tell in normal discourse.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What sets me apart from others is how I evaluate what we can do with the material once it’s in hand. My forte is that I put together stories in a strong, engaging format. I get to a feeling or a thought by experiencing all the material I gather to make the art. From this I let my experience guide my presentation in the art piece. The goal is to focus the art of this thought or feeling to the point that it is overwhelming to the audience so they can’t help but remember the experience for themselves.
I’m proud of videos I directed and a song I wrote. The song is called “Wasted.” I perform it live a few times a year and can move a crowd. It took me years working on it in my bedroom until I could perform it. I finally have it paced out and love to perform it – although I’m still always a little nervous each time I do it as it involves me yelling and is an intense song about true love. My first documentary I edited pudding bet is still great even though it was really just practicing editing with some footage I had. I still have it on my website. Halfway Home: A Father’s story is an incredible vérité documentary I edited with my friend Elizabeth Chatelain that captures the frustrating aspects of being on parole. My short Prologue lays out the tone of the feeling it is to be in a dream and incorporated the thoughts Piper Werle, an incredible writer, who captures what it feels like not to be heard or to doubt one’s own voice. Artist & the City is a series that documents about how expression is a constant battle and how the environment around you can affect who you are.
I also am proud to make art by creating the change I want to see in society. The biggest gaps I’ve seen statistically is that women and the Latinx community are by far the most underrepresented groups in the motion picture industry in which I focus most of my work. Each of these groups’ experiences are unique, but as a group, people experience things together. Since these large groups of our American population are seen less in our art, we, as a society, understand their common experiences less. This is why I make efforts to work with these two communities in particular more in my work in my companies Fourwind Films and Quatre-Vents.
On a practical side, constant planning and my technical knowledge of motion pictures are something I know gives me more command to tell a story efficiently. The more we can create with ease over our medium (in my case audio and motion pictures), the more time we have to experiment. It allows one to concentrate less on technique and more on form and storytelling. I have dedicated a lot of my time to learn aspects of producing, animation, marketing, and audio on a professional level, just to understand more about our industry even though I don’t really enjoy those jobs. I work as a Director, an Editor, and a Colorist. But learning other jobs in the industry well makes communicating with other departments much easier. Movies are one of the most expensive and complicated art forms and it is much easier the more we learn to communicate well in the language of our co-conspirators.
Then you ask, was it easy getting to where I am today? I’d say no, but I’m sure everyone else in the industry says the same thing. There are economic restraints in my art, there are advantages certain people have over me and plenty of advantages I have, and have had, throughout my life. I think it’s important to recognize the advantages that we’ve had that let us get to where we are. To me it’s important to think more about where I had an advantage over someone else to then reach back and help someone who struggles in a different way than yourself. We need to look towards people who struggle more than we do to make the world a better place.
One thing I believe and that scientific studies have reported, is that complex problems obtain better solutions when there are diverse perspectives solving the problem. The old parable of six blind people trying to describe an elephant and arguing about what they experienced – a leg, a tail, a trunk, an ear, a tusk, it’s body. Instead of listening to each other to describe the whole complex elephant, they sat and quarreled about their experience being correct.
This plays well into your next question about how to overcome challenges? I think it’s talking to people, taking a step back, around the issue and if you don’t succeed take time to reassess the situation and try another problem solving technique. Tenacity and assessment are equally important in problem solving. It’s important to keep trying but without pairing it with learning from our failures and attempting new modes of problem solving, trying hard can be a fruitless and frankly even a stupid endeavor. Likewise it’s equally important to not just think about challenges, but to do something about them.
Then finally, what I want people to learn about me? Just that I can tell a story well and better than most. Especially if I have the time and the materials to do so. I think about it non-stop. I am always looking to entertain and create a memorable experience for whoever my audience is. I want them to sit in a thought or feeling and be affected as if it were their own feeling or dream. I specialize in re-creating the feeling when you dream, because one of my favorite things to do in the world is to dream.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I live in New York and my best friend does come visit often. His name is Sean Feilen and I take him to see amazing people and eat great food. I try to show him the things that affected me in my time here. My life is similar to my work because I enjoy sharing the feelings and thoughts that have impact. For example, we often go eat at my recent favorite food spots when he’s here. We sit, we talk about each of our experiences that have impacted our life, share a beer, and discuss. I love all of that.
For my upcoming wedding we’re planning to go to Salento in Italy. My fiancée suggested it, but it’s a place I think is beautiful. We’re headed to a destination that I want to share with other people. Salento holds a special place in my heart and on my palette (they have spectacular cuisine in the region).
I’m excited to make the wedding experience special by sharing what I’ve already experienced. However, sadly now, many of beautiful olive trees have rotted in Salento due to a bug that eats Olive Trees migrated to the area. Now the region literally looks different and is full of death and lost beauty. It’s not the same as before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth experiencing. Change is part of life, you may even say change is life – for better or for worse.
It’s important to think about the good, the bad, and how they affect situations and to remember there may be nothing permanent. Enjoy what you enjoy while you can. That’s a simple philosophy in how I enjoy my life.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
In my story, who should I shout out to? I suppose my parents who gave me all the opportunities I’ve experienced to be where I am today. They took time to teach me what they knew and believed and let me make the decisions I for myself. They have continued to support me even if they were worried, and I know not everyone gets that kind of support. I was offered education and a freedom of choice. I am where I am today because of them.
Other: My podcast: https://www.fourwindfilms.com/feature-and-a-short/ pudding bet: https://www.fourwindfilms.com/puddingbet Prologue: https://www.fourwindfilms.com/prologue Artist & the City: https://www.fourwindfilms.com/artist-in-the-city
Stephanie Gould Marcellus Hall Daria Huxley