More nurture than nature - an interview with filmmaker Gina Hirsch

A film that’s sure to move you to tears of laughter featured in this year’s Les Girls program, is a short by Gina Hirsch called 'You Move Me." This comedic lesbian buddy movie deals with a topic we are all too familiar with—the break up. I recently had the chance to ask Hirsch, who works as a film editor in LA about her filmmaking foray.

BottomLine: Well, I guess first off, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Gina Hirsch: Sure. Hello! I’m Gina Hirsch. I currently work as a film and video editor and an assistant editor in L.A., where I grew up. Before starting to edit about 3 years ago, I was acting in theatre in New York. I’ve always been surrounded by movie making—my father is a film editor and as a tiny kid I played with film cores as building blocks, so this world is happily familiar to me. As a director, You Move Me is my first film.

Have you always aspired to be a director or did you become a director through happenstance?

I never ever thought I would end up directing. My whole life it was acting or death, no other choice. I was an actor for many years, and then I got frustrated with the business of acting and needed a change of pace, so I moved to LA and learned film editing. In editing I loved that I could have a real impact on the rhythm and texture of the work as a whole, but I missed the craft of acting terribly. In many ways editing is the opposite of acting. In editing you have to think about the way lines of dialogue landed in performance and how that will work rhythmically in the film, whereas with acting you can’t focus on the way your dialogue is landing or it will kill the action of the scene. Editing is result-oriented while acting is process-oriented. Directing seemed like something I had to try because a director takes those two sides of filmmaking and builds a bridge between them.

What makes short filmmaking so attractive—is it because a shorter format allows a director to take more risks?

Sure, short films can take risks because they are almost always made not as commercial work but as art for art’s sake. And a short can remain true to itself because fewer people handle it than a feature; from script to screen, it doesn’t pass through as many filters and there are fewer opportunities for it to become muddled. But to me the appeal of making a short is that it has to be simple. Even if a short is a meditation on death or religion or illness or something quite complicated, the filmmaker must address it in a direct and simple way, otherwise the short might feel inconclusive. And when you simplify properly, you clarify. I love shorts for their clarity.

The mise-en-scène of the shot where Tru runs into a plumber at her ex’s apt is outstanding—you have to be a product of a film school! Is that true, or is your film savvy inherited from your father, renowned film editor Paul Hirsch?

Hey thanks! No, I didn’t go to film school, and yes, I do owe most if not all of what I know about filmmaking to my father. But I think it’s more nurture than nature. I’ve spent hours and hours with him going over scenes that I’ve cut or that he’s cut—dissecting them, challenging some choices and observing why others work. He’s a master, there’s no better way of putting it, and he’s an incredible teacher. I mean, the guy has edited over 40 films. Actually You Move Me came about because I was thinking about film school and decided to spend the money on making a short instead—thereby giving myself my own film school. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t graduated yet—I still have a lot to learn.

Does being his daughter open doors for you in the film industry or is it a double-edged sword?

I’m going to come out and say that being the daughter of an editor as experienced as my father is huge for me. It does open doors and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to walk through them. What I do on the other side of the door, though, is up to me, so the connections aren’t everything. Okay sure, I guess there’s a double-edged sword aspect, but it’s only when I encounter bitter and frustrated people that I feel it. But ultimately being his daughter isn’t a huge deal. I get to meet a lot of people in the business, but none of the very big doors will open until I make work that merits that.

So what’s next for you? More shorts or do you want to make the leap to feature films?

I’m currently honing the cut on another short I shot called facedancing, but I do have my eye on making the leap to features, ultimately. The next step for me will be to direct something I’ve written myself, so I can continue to specify my voice as a filmmaker. I’m writing a feature screenplay and I hope to make a small section or scene from it into a short, and then see what happens. The larger goal is to be able to direct a feature that my father would cut. That’s the dream.

Anything else you want our readers to know about yourself or You Move Me?

I think any kind of art should speak for itself, so I won’t say too much—but I will say that my great hope for You Move Me is that audiences will watch it not only as a ‘gay movie’ but as a comedy for all, with a classic arc and universal themes that everyone can relate to. A lesbian story can be an everyman story, and I think when we as a society start embracing that, we will start gaining a greater understanding that those who are different from us are also, in heart and mind and spirit, very much the same.

IF YOU GO — The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films and Film Market, June 22-28. All films are screened at the Camelot Theatres at 2300 E. Baristo Rd. in Palm Springs. For tickets, information and a complete schedule of films and events, visit psfilmfest.org or call 800.898.7526.

Source: BottomLine »

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