In Memoriam: Jack Hartmann.
“Baby stay right here with me, ‘cause I can’t see you anymore.
This ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. I feel I’m knocking on Heaven’s door.” Bob Dylan.
” I only had the honor of meeting him once, and even then only briefly. It was after the 2013 “Best Of” screening for the 48 hour film project. I saw someone with a camera blending into the crowd as he captured pictures. Since he was with Kera I met him but only briefly. I got the sense when watching him, the way he moved through and blended in with the crowd, that he knew what he was doing. When I saw that he was with Kera, that was another queue that he must be pretty amazing. Later, when I saw his pictures posted, any doubt was removed: he must be an amazing human being. I was absolutely captivated by his talent and clicked through all of his FB albums. His shots are rich & deep. Each one tells a little story or leaves you ‘left with something.’ He touches the viewer through his lens. “ Jeanette Rainey.
“I met and spoke with Jack on several jobs when Kera and I worked together. Jack was friendly, approachable, and talented with a lens. He took some amazing photos of me that I still use. I know he was deeply devoted to Kera. They were very happy together. I am stunned, bewildered by his death. I don’t get it at all. He was a good man.” Joel Nathan King.
“The first time I met Jack I was already on edge. It was during a 48HR film shoot and he came with one of our stars, Kera O’Bryon. I’d never worked with Kera before and was slightly intimidated, not wanting to make a bad impression. I knew that Jack was a professional director and photographer, so my freak out meter went to 11. But it was all for nothing. Jack was great. He just stayed in the background, taking photos. Every time I saw him he was smiling, laughing with the team and really having a great time. He couldn’t have been nicer to me and in the end, greatly boosted my confidence and the confidence of the whole team. I believe we even talked about taking our crew to Richmond to work with him on a 48HR film there. After that, he was always the first one to congratulate us when ‘The Audition’ started winning festival showings. I was looking forward to the next time we could work together, this time as collaborators. I knew I would have learned exponentially from him.” Ernie Smith.
“I remember Jack Hartmann. I met him on set in Richmond, for a series of hospital spots and he could not have been more gracious or encouraging. I did it mostly as a favor to Kera, who had called me after the original actor had suddenly bailed. I already knew the story: she was deeply, magically, blissfully in love with a new paramour. And she said this to me, ‘Mike, see if you can figure out who it is. You’ll meet him today.’ I didn’t need to be Columbo to ferret out any pesky clues. Their chemistry together was blazing hot and I immediately understood the attraction. Jack was movie-star handsome, with a rapier like wit and a warmth that drew even the most cynical into his presence. And he had fantastic hair. I should have hated him, but how could I? Sure, we bonded over movies (we hated the same actors) and music and even bounced around a few script ideas, that sadly never came to fruition. But most of all it was his devotion to Kera, my spiritual sister ever since we met on ‘Annie’, that aced the deal for me. They were that ‘it’ couple, the ones that always turn heads in a crowd. They were perfect for each other. They were beautiful, and they were my friends. Robert Anderson, in his magnificent play ‘I Never Sang For My Father’, once said, ‘Death ends a life. But it does not end a relationship; which struggles on the survivor’s mind, toward some resolution, which it may never find.’ How true, yet I remember Jack Hartmann. Allow me to repeat; I remember Jack Hartmann. And I always will.” Mike Schaeffer.
This interview was conducted Feburary 22, 2014 at the 3rd Street Diner in Richmond. It has been transcribed from audio tapes recorded by Kera O’Bryon.
MS: John Milius is quoted as saying directing is a lot like being a general in command of an army. Do you agree?
JH: I agree with that, but not the terminology. I think I am more like a “benevolent dictator.” For me, it’s so many things to control, you know, that can get out of control. Or controlling as much as you can before you start shooting, so you can get the best performance out of that actor on that day.
MS: Do you storyboard?
JH: No, I don’t. Because my hiccup is—if it’s a commercial, I ask them not to send me boards. I request them not to send me any boards because the last thing I want is their image in my head. And then it becomes an exercise in how to execute what they want—I can’t do that. I’ve never been able to do that. Let me get my own images in my head because that’s what you’re paying me for. There usually isn’t a big penalty to pay for being honest and sometimes there are great rewards.
MS: How do you prepare for a shoot?
JH: I need a great DP. Then that’s one less hamster in your head. That, and the ability to just wing it. Because every shoot there will be something. What was Kubrick’s quote? “You don’t work with what you wish you had.” It’s like, you get on set and then go—“oh I wish I had a dolly!” You get all caught up in this idea that you would execute if you had all these things—but that’s where the real creativity comes from. It doesn’t come from having everything you want. It comes from working with what you have. Jack White, for example (The White Stripes), always has three things. He’s always got voice, guitar and drums—and that limitation is where all his creativity comes from. I used to shoot, I shot every Hanes Furniture commercial in the 90s. And I would get a script at 9 in the morning. I would have to pull people in, pull some shit out of my ass—so I can have it shot by noon and edited by two so it can be at the beach by 4. That’s the real chemistry—how do I do this? Your mind starts working. If it’s just option, option, option, you’ll never get anything done.
MS: You mentioned the ad for Haynes. What else have you done?
JH: I was shooting the lottery, some national stuff. Did some work for Stihl chainsaws, lots of hospital spots, bank spots. I did a mustard spot that won a bunch of awards. I got to burn a house down. That was fun. That was cool. We used the song “tragedy”, from the 60s.
MS: How about awards?
JH: Lots of Best in Shows, VA Film-maker of the year (2008), Best in Show in Baltimore two years in a row, too many Tellys to count. I don’t even count them! You can’t drive by the Tellys without them throwing one in your trunk! My production company has won production company of the year four years in a row.
MS: Tell me a little about your auditioning process. How do you find actors?
JH: There has to be something “unreal” about casting talent. Hyper-real. I am looking for archtypes. There is something in me that decides, “this guy is tv. This guy can communicate well through a visual medium. Certain people you see in films, they just don’t have the right look. They have the look of somebodys friend. You stop suspending disbelief and start wondering who they know. I see it a lot in short films. I didn’t see it in THE AUDITION—you had real actors in THE AUDITION. But some of the other entrys in last years 48HR Film Festival….I don’t want to mention any names.
MS: What do audiences want? Or expect from a film, or commercial?
JH: People want to be entertained more than anything. If you are walking to the electric chair and you pass a tv monitor, you’re gonna watch it. Even if you’re dead in two minutes!
You’ve also got to have an element of mystery. The audience has got to wonder, “what’s going to happen next?”
MS: How do you feel about political messages in films?
JH: Whenever you try to put a political viewpoint in there, it’s usually pretty clumsy. And it stops entertaining and that’s what the medium is supposed to do.
MS: Any aspirations to make a feature someday?
JH: I am so ADD commercials are perfect for me. I would love to make a feature if I felt like I could love it. I like ideas. If something affects me, then I wanna do it. I had 30 jobs before I turned 20 and people said, “this guy can’t hold a job”!” But this is the perfect business to be in. I can work in a bank for a week shooting your campaign, and then the following week I’m the Hospital guy.
MS: Are you satisfied?
JH: Sometimes. There are things I know I didn’t do my best on…in my career. Some things you do for money, others you do for love. Regardless, you throw yourself into it. I have done political spots for politicians I would never vote for but I was just as creative, worked just as hard when I worked for the enemy as I am with something I really cared for.
We have to do what we have to do. There isn’t another option.
Jack, died on Sunday afternoon, October 19, 2014, at his mother’s house in Tennessee at the far too young age of 46. He had gone there to recuperate from a third spinal operation that, it was hoped, would relieve the deep and chronic pain that had plagued him for several years. It was, instead, ended by a blood clot. If the real person is the person at his or her very, very best, you should have seen this guy. He was beautiful. He had the combination of love and patience that made him a terrific father, a heart which allowed him to give whatever he could whenever he could- his time, his studio, his thought. He was a gifted video director and editor, a musician and photographer, a speaker who could write, a man who possessed the wisdom to make work his friend. And, he was funny. Don’t know anyone he didn’t make smile, one way or another. Surviving in a world made less are his children, Hannah and Johnny (the 5th); his former wife, Dawn; his partner, Kera O’Bryon; his brother, Erich of New York City; his sister,
Rebecca McClintock and her supportive husband, David, of San Miguel, Mexico; his stepfather, Jon Cremer; his utterly loyal and loving mother, Karle Cremer; his aunt, Ginny McBride; uncles, Thad and Bill; friends and co-workers; the Burford family, Rick Warner, Andy Montague, Bob Clarke, Steve Lyons, Mark Mervis, Charles Ajemian; the folks in the studios at BES, Studio 108, his clients, a hundred others and me. It was a leaf’s journey. The earth grew close. The sea of winds rocked him, just as if they loved him, cradle like.
Author: Mike Shaeffer