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“I’d like to start a movement to create WAY more opportunities for older women in film” With Director Lisa Hammer

There certainly need to be WAY more opportunities for older women in film. When I was coming up in the 80’s and 90’s, it was still a boys…


There certainly need to be WAY more opportunities for older women in film. When I was coming up in the 80’s and 90’s, it was still a boys club, or as my friend Dame Darcy calls it, a “BROdeo” (lol!). Now there are multiple opportunities opening up for young women to launch their careers in film. I see a niche that is not being filled, a group that’s not being serviced, and that is women filmmakers over 35 who weren’t lucky enough to get a leg up in the industry in their youth, and are still struggling. There is a ton of talent, experience and wisdom out there being un-tapped. If the opportunities are out there and I’m not seeing them, then they need to be publicized WAY more to get to the right people.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Indie film director, musician and actor Lisa Hammer. Lisa is an award-winning film director, writer, composer, singer and actor. She is best recognized as the voice of Triana Orpheus on the Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros. She has directed independent dark comedy feature and short films such as Pox and Pus$bucket, and the CMJ Film Festival winner The Invisible Life of Thomas Lynch which she co-directed with James Merendino (SLC Punk). Her fairy-tale fantasy silent films, musicals and dark comedies have toured the world in festivals, museums and one-woman shows. Her surrealist silent film Empire of Ache was recently acquired by The Getty Museum’s feminist film collection, curated by Miranda July. Hammer’s most recent film The Sisters Plotz, starring Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch) was recently acquired by Amazon Prime. She can be seen in the comedy series Maybe Sunshine now on the Seeka Tv channel on Roku. Her new screenplay Ghostapus is winning and placing in festivals and is set to film in Canada.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up doing lots of musical theater, directing plays in my neighborhood and school. I got into Emerson College on a musical theater scholarship, but when I got there and saw the theater department reenacting songs from “Fame” on the front steps of the school, something inside my dark, goth-girl head just snapped. I had never touched a camera before, but I went up to the film department and switched majors immediately. I was the lead singer in the gothic rock band Requiem in White, so my musical and stage passion was already being fulfilled. Oh to be in the Boston music scene in the 80’s! What a dream it was!


Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I would say directing Courtney Love on my cable-access TV show Turn of the Century in 1996 was a really bizarre experience, as well as Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth writing and performing a song about me and my co-host Dame Darcy on our Christmas special. That was so sweet! Being in a goth band (Mors Syphilitica) in NYC in the 90’s was INSANE. We played CBGB, The Limelight, The Pyramid… and went on crazy tours. I highlight some of these stories in my series Maybe Sunshine.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was a very young gal right out of college and I was trying to raise funds for my film Pus$bucket. I was being interviewed a lot by a big indie film magazine back then, and the editor convinced me to advertise free nude photos of myself in exchange for donations. At first I thought it was HILARIOUS as I was making schlock exploitation B-movies and it fit right in with that whole aesthetic. But then the pervy letters started rolling in, and I realized I couldn’t ACTUALLY send nude photos out, so I wrote a mock angry feminist letter to all the donors. Every single one of them was a good sport and laughed right along. Can you imagine a male magazine editor suggesting that now in the #metoo era? Yikes!


What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have a lot that is starting up now. I’ve been on a two-year break due to cancer, which I totally kicked. While I was recovering, I got my latest feature film The Sisters Plotz picked up by Amazon Prime, my original series Maybe Sunshine picked up by Seeka TV on Roku, and I wrote a new feature film screenplay Ghostapus, which is winning screenplay contests and festivals. Its set in Canada and I am about to begin talks with producers and have a few stars attached already. Ghostapus is an absurdist comedy in the same vein as Airplane!, but with a sea monster attacking a small village, like in Jaws. There are also stewardesses and water protectors protesting fracking. I also sing in a band, Radiana, and we’re working on a new album.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Being an underground, cult director, I have been in SO MANY weird situations, and kept the camera rolling! Let’s start with the time I directed Courtney Love. She had ditched a press conference for The People VS Larry Flint to come play around with me and Dame Darcy. Courtney was a huge fan of Dame Darcy’s hand-made dolls, so we filmed her as a guest on a doll-making episode of our show Turn of the Century. Her guitarist Erik played a toy piano in the bathtub between shots. It somehow spun out of control and Erik ended up spanking Darcy with a belt while Courtney screamed and ran around the room. The time I filmed Pox in a weird silent-movie star Hollywood mansion was pretty intense. I had a cast of over 50 in and out of this house I was renting; the previous tenants had done a séance so the vibe was always eerie. So I was directing a funny scene starring Clayne Crawford (Lethal Weapon), and I was BLOWN AWAY by his total immersion into the role of Pox’s coked-out manager Julius. At one point he grabbed a real steak knife and kept waving it around his own head and then he pointed it at his chest and ran toward Pox, landing on top of him. I didn’t see him drop the knife so I was expecting total gore! But he was so professional he fooled everyone in the room. We also had James Duval (Donnie Darko) play himself in that film, and cameos by Jeff Lieberman (Director of Squirm!), Aarti Mann (Big Bang Theory) and many more infamous celebrities. I have collaborated with Ben Edlund (The Tick, Supernatural) and Doc Hammer (The Venture Bros) both of whom are total GENIUSES and mind-blowingly creative, funny and prolific. A few years ago I had the honor of directing H. Jon Benjamin (Archer) as the voice of a satan puppet, and also Jonathan Katz (Dr. Katz) and Arden Myrin (Mad TV) in myPox TV pilot. My most recent film The Sisters Plotz (Written by the incredible Lisa Ferber) which is now on Amazon Prime, stars Eve Plumb, who was Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch. She’s a good friend, a HUGE talent, and a real hoot of a person! She was kind enough to sit with me and my husband Levi Wilson through all of my chemotherapy treatments. Speaking of Levi, I think he may be the most interesting person I have ever worked with. He’s creative, funny, brilliant, dark and kind…the best partner!


Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Don’t stop creating just because you get a lot of rejection. Your career will be filled mostly with rejection. Take each rejection as an opportunity to study the situation, learn what the winners are doing, and improve your craft. You’d better spend your time perfecting your art and getting ready, because eventually it will be YOUR turn!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There certainly need to be WAY more opportunities for older women in film. When I was coming up in the 80’s and 90’s, it was still a boys club, or as my friend Dame Darcy calls it, a “BROdeo” (lol!). Now there are multiple opportunities opening up for young women to launch their careers in film. I see a niche that is not being filled, a group that’s not being serviced, and that is women filmmakers over 35 who weren’t lucky enough to get a leg up in the industry in their youth, and are still struggling. There is a ton of talent, experience and wisdom out there being un-tapped. If the opportunities are out there and I’m not seeing them, then they need to be publicized WAY more to get to the right people.


What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

In general I am extremely pleased about my career and so grateful for everything I have. But if I must answer this then I will dig really hard into my memory.

Here goes…

I wish someone had told me how to write a grant proposal in film school. We learned a lot of nonsense and not a lot of practical knowledge. We really needed some grant-writing classes. When I graduated and moved to NYC in the late 80’s I had to start from scratch researching ways to fund my films. I was able to teach myself, but it was painful and I only got a few grants. That’s why I had to resort to the “nude photo” publicity stunt.

In the same vein I wish my film school had incorporated producing classes, like the business of producing. I understand that usually is taught at business school, but I really needed to learn the business of producing film the way it was being done in the industry. If you’re going to learn lighting, camera work, editing, etc, you really need to also learn the business end of making a film, so you can go out and hit the ground running.

Third, I wish someone had told me to not listen to nay-sayers who tried to talk me out of pursuing my film career. Whether it’s family, friends or other filmmakers, the only people you should surround yourself with are people who believe in you and cheer you on. Don’t diminish your light to make others feel less insecure!

I wish someone had told me any tricks or secrets to getting further ahead in my film career as a woman. I had no guidance or mentors that were women. There weren’t many female filmmakers around in NY in the late 80’s that got much attention. I joined all the womens’ filmmaking groups, but unfortunately they catered mostly to feminist social justice warriors who made documentaries about atrocities and womens’ issues, which are extremely important, but I was making films for pure entertainment and comedy. I definitely did not fit in there either!

I wish someone had told me to buy a loft or other property in NYC in the late 80’s, the prices were insane because it was a bombed out, forgotten city with empty warehouses and lofts everywhere! I kick myself every day about this lost opportunity!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so others won’t feel insecure around you. As you let your own light shine, you indirectly give others permission to do the same.” — Marianne Williamson

I love this quote the most (as I mentioned above), because in the past I have often been acutely aware of other people’s feelings and downplayed my own accomplishments and my work when I noticed a mate or friend feeling insecure. I am now striving to change this bad habit. Maybe it’s something that women of my generation were taught, I have no idea. But what I DO know is that it is totally useless to hide your light. That doesn’t mean you should be a braggart, I believe in humility and gratitude. I just think by hiding your gifts and your passion, you’re not helping yourself or the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are too many people to thank for helping me along the way. We all get help, and hopefully we help others. Whether it was a teacher, a colleague, a friend, a mentor or a family member, the help we all get is immeasurable. No one gets where they are alone. Even now I have an army of people helping me. I get advice from other filmmakers daily, referrals, tips, clues, you name it. People really want to help others. You just need to allow them to help, with an open heart. I have strangers taking meetings and calls with me to help me make my next film. These are busy people who don’t really have time to help me, but they DO anyway. I love to return the favor any time I can! Thank heavens for these people!




Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Right now I would love to sit with the amazing Elijah Wood and discuss my script, Ghostapus. He was recently a producer on the stunning psychedelic horror film Mandy and I am so impressed with his taste in choosing such a creative, ground-breaking script. I would also like to sit with Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) and ask him to make a cameo in my film! I would love to sit with director Patty Jenkins and inhale the perfume of her talent! Let it fill my lungs!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Official web site: www.lisahammer.com

IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0358478

Twitter: @thelisahammer

Instagram: @thelisahammer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thelisahammer

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thelisahammer/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/lisahammer

Production Page: www.wilsonarts.weebly.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

I am truly humbled to be interviewed, and I hope my words help shine a light on other people’s path toward realizing their dreams! Keep going ’til the bitter end! xoxo


Originally published at medium.com

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