I'm Harvey Hubbell. I make documentaries. But to support
my habit, I work as an Assistant Director on other people's
movies. And that's how I came to make Loop Dreams.
Being an AD drives some people crazy. But for me feeling
comfortable in the midst of chaos seems to come naturally. Maybe it comes
from growing up in a large dysfunctional family.
Over fifteen years ago I was a Production Assistant
on a low-budget movie made by George and Mike Baluzy called Memoirs
of a Madman. It was the story of a psychotic murderer who
leads a group of mental patients on a Christmas Eve killing spree.
By the time it was over two AD's had been fired or quit and I
had my credential as a First AD.
I saw the Baluzys intermittently after that. At their Halloween
party they dug graves in the lawn and attacked the arriving guests with
chain saws. Life imitating art, I guess. Meanwhile, I began working with
a talented team of documentary makers. Andie Haas produced The
Roots of Roe, a documentary on the history of abortion and contraception,
which won a host of festival awards and three Emmys. In a moment of inspired
madness, I married her. Writer and Fulbright Scholar Jeremy Brecher added
lugubrious ponderousity to our team. (By the time we were done with him,
he was writing comedy.)
My own documentary Electronic Road Film was what
they call a critical success. It won an Emmy, and Telluride IndieFest
Director Michael Carr called it "The best 'grassroots' depiction
of current American values". That and the credit cards it
was produced on were enough to buy me a cup of hemlock. The poet
William Blake once said, "If a fool would persist in his
folly he would become wise." I don't know if we became wise,
but we certainly persisted in our folly and in seven years of
production our team won a total of six Emmys.
Meanwhile, I kept AD-ing features and 35mm commercials to
support the documentary folly. When the Baluzys and their Producer Mike
Delfay asked me to AD their new feature Blackmale, I thought, why
not combine two kinds of folly at once? I said I would -- but only if
I could make a documentary about it. They agreed, and signed releases
for a dollar apiece. George demanded a box of Evermore cigars as well.
When I signed on as 1st Assistant Director, George
and Mike had a crew of seven including George and Mike. With two
weeks to go we needed at least 50 bodies whether we could pay
them or not. We pushed back the start date and got down to work.
I worked on assembling two overlapping teams -- one to help
make Blackmale, one to make the movie about the making of Blackmale.
We assembled an intern army. As professionals came on board for Blackmale,
we recruited a few of them to be our double-agents. Roger Coraggio, one
of my old interns who started his own business, showed up with a state-of-the-art
DVD camera. We immediately hired him to work as primary cameraman for
the documentary and to shoot video inserts for Blackmale.
The feature began like most low budget features -- an ambitious script
and not enough money. In an interview, my wife asked their producer, "Why
work on low budget films?" His reply, "Cause nobody's stupid
enough to give us money for high budget films!" Brian McAward the
Director of Photography told her, "Everyday's a battle and you have
to have a battle plan."
But not everyone in the crew had a plan, some people were just following
their dreams. A stunt double told our camera, "I'd love to be an
actor, I would, but the only thing I don't like is remembering the lines."
And amidst the chaos my wife yelled to Director Mike, "Do you lose
your temper a lot?"
"Do I! I get a little psychotic I think."
"Is that a part of filmmaking?"
"I don't think so, I think it's a part of being
So be it; that was our crew. These were the people
who put their lives on hold to become devotees to a cause. We
had 40 locations in 30 shoot days, stars pummeled in bar room
fights, actors nearly run over on location, sixteen hour shifts
from unpaid crew, and one destroyed dolly.
Barely intact, and out of work at the end of Blackmale
production, I convinced a third of the crew to help on Loop
Dreams, logging over a hundred hours of tape and working long
into many nights to create a rough cut. Remembering early cable
TV work, I called my now established working buddy, Patrick Ahearn,
to look at the tapes -- and he became our Editor. Patrick brought
15 years of on and off-line editing experience to our team and
the ability to tell a story with comic and dramatic pacing.
Initially I saw Loop Dreams as a behind-the-scenes,
Entertainment Tonight-type program. As incompetence compounded
chaos I began to think of it as The Gang that Couldn't Shoot
Straight. But gradually I came to realize there was a deeper
No one who ever worked on Blackmale may ever
win an Academy Award, and some won't even be able to make a living
in the movie business. But for a time, everyone who worked on
Blackmale was touched by