Steve Hanft

"I got to rework his script and put some weird ideas in there... like Kate Moss making the guy eat Fruit Loops."
Interview by Jamie Krasner  
Portrait by Cali Dewitt

Radar Brothers, House of Mirrors, 2013

So you’ve made a lot of videos recently?
I’ve made six music videos since the start of 2013.  The momentum of traveling shooting and editing is sending me into a whole new level.  I’m stoked. It's a great way to live you know? 
So what happened to the screenplays?
Well, one is in pre-production. It’s a comedy.
What’s it about?
I am sworn to secrecy about it. I am allowed to say that it's a comedy and that it takes place at the edge of the world in a real location that's on an uncharted part of Earth. 
What about the other film?
That’s a suspense film called Dream Baby, named after the Roy Orbison tune. I want to use that song for the opening credits, like they did in Blue Velvet and Pretty Woman. We’re still looking for a studio or production company to hook it up. It's a hard-boiled LA crime film that takes place in 1965 about an insurance investigator who uses photography to crack cases.  It gets pretty hairy.
What about your recent documentary? How did that start?
A friend of mine runs this club in LA called the Dub Club. All my friends were spinning records there and reggae bands would play. One of ‘em started flying in his Jamaican DJs—they call the DJ the guy who raps on the mic—flying these legends in from Jamaica. 
I started getting really interested in sound system culture. I got to meet all the main artists because they’re not so popular in Jamaica anymore, but they’re popular here. All the underground rockers and DJs, who understand that the root of hip hop is reggae. They want to hear  the original style of toasting on the mic. So I was documenting the performances as well as interviewing the people who came out to see these guys on those nights. 

Return of the Rub-a-Dub Style, Trailer, 2008

It’s shot super raw.
We were basically just filming over four years with like really cheap cameras—camcorders that could film in like no light. Just trying to capture something that’s happening. 
It sounds good though.
It’s got good sound because it’s just 3 tracks... a 45 vinyl that’s a great Dub band recording in Jamaica from 1970. Then another wire is coming right off the microphone of the guy doing the live lyrics. The lyrics are so live, they make up the lyrics on the spot, and so it's going right into that sound.  Into the mic line on the camera.  It's just immediate.
I really like the female DJ, Sister Nancy. 
I mean, she is the greatest female DJ on the mic, ever. Her song Bam Bam is a huge hit, and mashes up any dance floor.  I am ultra inspired by her. When you're around her, it's intense. She keeps it very very real.
Does that club still have those nights? 
It’s like a thousand people every Wednesday night. Nonstop. It’s been really blowing up.
What are some things that inspire your films?
Growing up surfing and just being out in the ocean and in nature has always been the biggest influence on my film making. Watching the light is really important in film and just experiencing the elements. Hanging out in the outdoors where it’s totally different from the digital world— the outdoors are where a lot of creative things happen. 
What else? 
Watching Mexican TV and not being able to understand it. In Mexico, people are working with what they have  and that’s what I do. Mexican film producers, and television producers are an influence because their humor is a different style than like, Two and A Half Men. 

Delinquent Habits, Return of the Tres, 2001

This is cool. One more. 
I would say that Mark Gonzales is one of my biggest influences.
He’s been in some of your films, right?
Yeah, he was in Southlander. He was in the Beck Pay No Mind video. With that one Mark Gonzales, and Beck together, the three of us collaborating on that video... it was perfect. Mark Gonzales skateboarding at midnight all around L.A. And then at the bar some of our moms having some drinks. 
That part was creepy. 
It was meant to be a little creepy. We were trying to get at Beck’s poetry.  I think it’s one of his best songs.
Beercan is great too. 
Yeah, those guys in the video raiding the house are real homeless guys. We just went to the mission, and were like “we’re filming a video, and we’re gonna pay you guys to come crashing into this house and eat all the food.”
Oh my God.
It was a friend’s house. That was a real learning curve, working with that many homeless guys.
Wait, you work with homeless dudes a lot?
I put a lot of homeless people in my music videos. I also always pay a lot of money.  A lot of them will want to get dropped off at the liquor store after.
OK. My last question is... I am in, like, 2 bands right now. Would you consider making a video for me?
Will you send me the track?
I just finished two different albums, I’ll send you both of them.
Yeah, that’d be cool. I can’t wait to hear it.
Yeah, I’ll send it to you. Cool!

Beck, Pay No Mind (Snoozer), 1994

From Sex Magazine #3 Spring 2013
Labelled Film