Whatever your political affiliation, no doubt yesterday was an historic day. But now that we’ve imposed artificial meaning on the fact that both Hitler and Bin Laden were announced dead on May first, now that we’ve scoffed at Donald Trump’s fixation on Obama’s birth certificate, now that we’ve scoured Twitter for Katy Perry's response, let us turn our collective attention to something truly vital: my May crush of the month.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, filmmaker and teacher Aaron Greer has developed a diverse portfolio of documentary, narrative and experimental films. His award-winning feature film, “Gettin’ Grown,” has screened at film festivals around the world and is currently being adapted into a web series, he has co-authored the award-winning screenplay "Fruit of the Tree," which was selected for the Tribeca All-Access program in 2007, and he is currently producing a documentary about Cuba, titled “Merchant in Havana.” All that and he still finds time to dodge my calls.
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Profession: Filmmaker and Professor at Loyola University Chicago.
Hobbies: I’m a fan of professional football and basketball. I like reading historical fiction and listening to “This American Life.” Nothing else I do on a regular basis that could be considered a hobby.
Our Town What drew you to filmmaking?
Aaron Greer Acting makes me self-conscious; music requires carrying a tune or playing an instrument, and art requires you be able to draw or something. Film was the way I could figure to be creative without having much artistic talent. Also, I believe in the Hopi saying: “He who tells the stories rules the world.”
OT Which filmmakers inspire you?
AG My first filmmaker “crush,” the first director I thought of as an artiste was Spike Lee. I still see all his films. I don’t always like them, [but] I’m always glad I saw them. I was also inspired by the Cuban filmmaker Tomas Gutierrez Alea [and] really dig Pedro Almodovar. Finally, I kind of want Clint Eastwood to make me his adoptive grandson.
OT What made “Getting Grown” seem appropriate to transform into a web series?
AG When we made the film—in fact, part of why we made the film—there were relatively few serious films for and about tweenagers produced in this country, especially inner-city kids. Unfortunately, that’s just as true now; so there’s an unfulfilled niche in the “marketplace.” Also, that age group is just as likely, more likely really, to watch stuff online. Making GGTV a web-series is a ‘taking the mountain to Muhammad’ kind of thing.
OT Explain how you’ll include viewer-generated content.
AG Each webisode has moments structured [to] include media, images, lines of dialog, sounds, provided by the viewers. Say there’s a scene with the main character talking on the telephone. That other person’s voice can as easily be recorded by one of our viewers as it can by us. In advance of an episode’s premiere, we’ll put out a call for specific kinds of [media] to include in that next week’s episode. Viewers [can] upload or send us that media and we’ll pick our top choices and drop them into the official version of the episode on our site. Once that particular episode premieres, viewers will be able to re-edit, remix and customize that episode.
OT How do you balance teaching, creative pursuits and family life?
AG The most productive I’ve been was when I was single, living alone in a new city and had no social life. It sucked, but I got a ton done. I work at a much slower pace now, but my life is filled, so it’s worth it. During the semester, I try to spend one full weekday with my son, the rest of the workweek dealing with teaching, creative projects, a couple hours on the weekends, evenings, during naps, etc. [During summer break], I go into full-time filmmaker mode. The hardest part of the balancing act is giving myself permission to be a less prolific filmmaker than I used to be.