MEMBER MONDAYS | Jim Hickcox
is a filmmaker with a wild and hilarious artistic voice! He is the director of the comedic horror feature film Soft Matter, which was shot predominately in East Austin. We got a chance to chat with him about his wonderfully weird world of filmmaking!
Where did you get your start? What pushed you to pursue a career in film?
Jim Hickox: I'm pretty terrible at almost everything else. I guess I made a couple videos when I was really young, but I'm going to say I started here.
What was your experience like as an MFA student at UT? What would your advice be to someone interested in going to grad school for film?
JH: The things that will help you learn and improve, both technically and artistically, are smart/supportive peers and experience doing the work. It's cheaper to find those on your own than to go to film school, but a program can be a good way to force yourself into situations. For me grad school was a great opportunity to work on a pile of projects with access to equipment that nobody involved would otherwise have been able to afford. I was working a lot before I went, but the level of production value I was involved with jumped up considerably. It also provided an amazing community, and I met several people there who I suspect will be close friends and collaborators for a long time.
Tell us about your experience at Fantasia Fest. How were you chosen? What did you present?
JH: The Frontières market at Fantasia is great and I'd definitely recommend that anyone with a genre project in development apply. My producer Makena Buchanan and I were there with a script called "Close to You" we were trying to find funding for - a coming-of-age film about a young woman who finds the body of a middle-aged man behind a dumpster, takes him home, and then starts wearing him like a suit and living his life.
How did you come up with the idea for your film God's Urine? What made you decide to do it in the experimental medium?
JH: My friend and frequent collaborator Jason Michelitch and I shot a three-reeler back in 2012 on high-contrast 16mm. At the end of production we had some short ends and though we'd burn through them with a smaller project. When Jason was a kid he had thought that the final iteration of a film was the trailer, and that the full-length cut was just a step to get there. So we decided to make a movie that fit entirely into the shape of a trailer.
How did Soft Matter come together? Why did you need to make this film?
JH: Nobody needs to make a film, it's an unhealthy compulsion we all submit to. I actually had a different script I was developing as my next project, but I scouted the building that most of Soft Matter is set in for a different film I was shooting (I work primarily as a cinematographer). It was super inappropriate for that film, but was prime for a horror and slated to be torn down, so I wrote the script for the location. We went from idea to final cut in a few months, and for very little money. The whole thing was a blitz.
The film has a lot of incredible special effects makeup. Was that a challenge? Did it turn out like you thought it would?
JH: The sea-god was the most complicated/expensive thing in the film, and we blasted through all of her scenes in one day, which was a challenge. We had sketches, but that was all we saw before we got the first shot of her up. The other creatures were all under construction in pre-pro, so we had a more solid idea what they were going into the shoot.
I worked with vfx artist and filmmaker Amanda Gotera on the look for the lightning, which she hand-drew frame-by-frame because she is a champion and an artist. There are a few other invisible vfx shots, but basically everything else you see is practical, and I was pretty happy with how all of it came out on set. There are two explosions that I wished had been bigger but we had to curb our impulses and consider safety.
What are three things that you are most excited about that you have in the works right now?
JH: I'm making a grilled cheese that I'm feeling pretty cocky about right now, but I'll have eaten it before this goes live. I have about six screenplays in various stages of development and I'm pumped about all of them. You'll have to corner me at a coffee shop for more specifics.
A couple of other folks and I are in early days of starting a small production company, Demon Janx, that I think will get into full swing by next year. Right now it's just a placeholder webpage, but I'd encourage anyone who's interested to check back occasionally or follow me on twitter where I'm sure I'll post updates alongside my dumb jokes.
INTERVIEW BY: Mia Garza
MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and take a deep dive into their work. Gaining an insight into what makes them, them.