Interview // Sterling Hampton
Interview // Sterling Hampton

Interview // Sterling Hampton

What do you want people to take away from your films?

I think I would like people to take away from Merman that the things that make us different are the things that make us special and that we should champion the things that make us special because that’s what makes the world a better place. I think that altogether with my films I would like people to challenge the way that they think, challenge their prejudices, challenge their dispositions so that they can appreciate their fellow human beings much more.

What is your process like for directing a film vs when you score/compose?

At least when I make a documentary film everything is very intuitive. I haven’t thus far done a lot of pre-production for my documentaries at all. So, when I shoot them, I’m walking into it with just only enough context to know the subject enough but I’m not really trying to carve the narrative before I film the interview. It’s really just about an exploration of curiosity of the person to learn about them and then in post-production, that’s when I carve the narrative to whatever the film wants to be, not what I want it to be, but what the film wants to be. So, I kind of go crazy too. It’s short films so I’ll edit and color and compose all at the same time, very sporadically, so if I feel like 30 seconds in I just kind of want to see what it looks like with color, I’ll start coloring it and if I think it would be cool to have a drone sound here, with some intense low end and add some drums on the side, it all kind of comes together simultaneously in a sense. Because I’m doing multiple things—multiple jobs, if you will, then it all kind of happens at the same time without me doing it in steps.

Do you consider yourself a musician?

I wouldn’t characterize myself as a musician only because that’s not my primary discipline. I think that folks who live, eat, and breathe musicianship and music-they’re really amazing people. I don’t think I’ve earned the title of musician in that sense. But I do make music and I do make electronic music. My influences, and friends, and mentors—being around them I learn how to make music just by being in the room. As an extension of that, I think I know how to make certain kinds of music, like electronic music.

A lot of artists I speak with have to fight imposter syndrome, is that something you have to work past?

All the time! Yeah, I still feel like I’m a 15-year-old kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Constantly. I think your work does that for you-it takes care of it. As long as you love what you are making, and you do it with all your heart there’s certain validating things that occur that confirm your artistry. After a while it’s kind of like you can’t help but think ok you are who you say you are. What you say you are. You can’t take it away and you can’t diminish it. I think I’m getting closer and closer to saying I am who I am as a director.

Will you tell us about Merman, your Tribeca Film Festival entry?

It’s about a 59-year-old black, queer man who is an emergency nurse, a leather enthusiast, a husband, and a body builder. The doc is about his trials and tribulations as a young man and now as an adult. He was in adolescence in the tumultuous 1980’s, battling bigotry, being closeted, not allowing himself to accept himself for who he is because of his surrounding circumstances such as the time period and culture. Later, he finds a new lease on life and finds the things that make him different are the beautiful things and then having that self-acceptance moment and saying “I am good enough, I am ok as I am.”

What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?

I have another short documentary that I’m about to start putting in the festivals that I’m really excited about. It’s centered around boxing and mental health, and I also have a short, narrative scripted piece that I just shot last weekend about mental health, schizophrenia, within the POC community and how we have to talk about it more overtly and not sweep it under the rug as much out of fear of perception and labeling of different mental health experiences. So those two products I’m very excited about and I’m also about to direct a feature documentary that is about car culture, and I’m tapped to do a possible biopic series later in the year.



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