A beautifully realized portrait of a close-knit community on the outskirts of Baltimore, PUTTY HILL is the second feature from filmmaker Matt Porterfield.
Continue Reading Synopsis
I was raised in a Baltimore suburb wild with unkempt hedges, disheveled lawns and porches, yards full of car parts and swimming pools, and a church or a bar on every corner. This neighborhood, located just inside the city line, is the inspiration for much of my work and sets the scene for Putty Hill.
From 2007 through 2009, I was at work writing and developing an original screenplay, Metal Gods, a coming-of-age tale about a group of metal-heads skirting the fringes of Baltimore city. It was a timely script. And we were poised to make it in the summer of ’09, but financing fell through. In its wake, I developed another scenario, using many of the actors cast for Metal Gods and others I’d found along the way and wished to work with. On paper, it was a five-page treatment anchored by one line of written dialogue and 15 precise locations I wanted to shoot. During production, however, it became something else entirely: a work of intense collaboration and magic.
Putty Hill is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. On a most basic level, it is an amalgam of traditional forms of documentary and narrative realism. But it is an approach to realism in opposition to the anthropological, lyrical, and romantic currents present in most of the genre. More importantly, though the structure of the film was plotted, the details of individual scenes were largely improvised, breathing life into the dialogue and bringing an enhanced degree of naturalism to the relationships between characters. I had already established firm bonds with my cast working with them on Metal Gods, so they trusted me enough to take risks and bring a level of emotional honesty to the material that will resonate with audiences.
Culled together from the aborted cast, crew, and locations of Metal Gods, and then conceived, shot (in 12 days), and edited in the span of only four months, Putty Hill is guerilla filmmaking in its purest state. Neither wholly fiction or documentary, but constantly switching between the two in a seamless, freeform fashion, the film is at once about the characters and the actors playing the characters, about a real and fictive Baltimore, about a story invented for the screen but true to life, and one in which the director himself plays a pivotal role. Most of all, it’s about an artist using limited resources to synthesize his ideas into a work that reflects an honest fascination, and love, of the people and places depicted on screen.
Putty Hill is therefore moving on two levels: on an emotional level, as the audience witnesses characters grieving and coping with the death of a loved one (a death which, however fictitious, managed to touch all the actors personally), until such mourning transforms itself into a greater understanding of the world and one’s place within it. And on an aesthetic level, as we marvel at the raw creative energy and cinematic beauty that comes from a project built purely on desire — a project that, like his micro-budgeted first feature, Hamilton, reveals Matt to be a director who makes movies like nobody else.
Matt Porterfield - Director
Matt studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and teaches screenwriting and production in the Film & Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. His first feature, Hamilton, was released theatrically in 2006. Metal Gods, his second feature script, was selected to participate in the Emerging Narrative Program at IFP’s Independent Film Week, where the screenplay won the Panasonic Digital Filmmaking Grand Prize. Putty Hill is his second feature film.
Rob Schwartz - Executive Producer
Rob Schwartz is a film and music producer and journalist who splits his time between Japan and North America. He was Executive Director of the now-defunct Japan-based dub, breakbeat and reggae record company Play Label and runs his own music label, Dynastic Records. His writing has appeared in Time, Newsweek, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Melody Maker, NME and Interview magazine. He is currently the Japan correspondent for Billboard magazine and collaborates on film projects for the Japan-based entertainment management company SomethingDrastic. He has coordinated documentary film shoots in Japan and Putty Hill is his first producing credit for a feature film.
Jordan Mintzer - Producer
Matt and Jordan, the operating managers of The Hamilton Film Group, met their first year at NYU, in 1995, through the 16mm film series Jordan developed and operated out of his dorm room. Before producing Hamilton, Jordan worked on projects by directors such as Hal Hartley, Amir Naderi, Tony Bui and Vojtech Jasny. Currently based in Paris, he works both as an international tax consultant and as a film critic for Variety.
Steve Holmgren – Producer
A graduate of Boston University’s School of Management, Steve is now a New York-based independent film producer and sales agent. Steve previously worked in production at HDNet Films (Redacted, Bubble, Broken English), and handled international sales of documentaries for Cactus Three (loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies, Sketches of Frank Gehry). Currently head programmer at UnionDocs in Brooklyn, NY, Steve has also worked with several film festivals, including Telluride, Sundance, Sound Unseen, and the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. He was integral in developing Metal Gods, as well as Putty Hill, and continues efforts to distribute Porterfield’s first feature, Hamilton.
Joyce Kim – Producer
Joyce earned her BFA in Film/Video from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Since graduating in 2007 she continues to live and work in Baltimore, where she is involved in the production of documentary films, collaborates on various art projects and focuses on her photography. Joyce began her collaboration with Matt Porterfield and the Hamilton Film Group as Art Director on Metal Gods. Putty Hill is her first feature film as Producer.
Eric Bannat - Producer
Eric grew up in New Holland, PA, and earned his BA in Film from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He began his career in Washington and Baltimore, working as a cameraman, associate producer and editor for numerous reality television series and documentaries. After an editing stint in New York, Eric returned to Baltimore, where he served as location scout for the final three seasons of The Wire. He continues to work as a scout and manager for feature films and television series, and currently resides in Annapolis, MD.
Jeremy Saulnier – Director of Photography
A graduate of NYU, Jeremy received the Undergraduate Cinematography Award in his senior year and went on to study with John Toll, ASC. Jeremy’s work on Hamilton proved a monumental asset, and won the film many admirers and an award for “Best Cinematography” at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival. Since Hamilton, Jeremy has directed two shorts (including the award-winning Crabwalk), numerous commercials, and another feature, his own directorial debut, Murder Party (2007), released by Magnolia Pictures.
Marc Vives – Editor
Also an NYU alumnus, Marc lives in Brooklyn, creates abstract videos and short documentaries, and edits films. His first feature as editor, the documentary The Painter Sam Francis, enjoyed a successful run at New York’s Anthology Film Archives, and played internationally at festivals and museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Louvre in Paris. Putty Hill is his first narrative feature.
Sophie Toporkoff – Art Director
Sophie creates magazines (Rendez-Vous, Agenda), collaborates with great brands (including Colette, Kiehl’s, and as the new Communication Art Director for Maison Martin Margiela), artists (for Palais de Tokyo and Galerie Kamel Mennour), and musicians. She also draws a lot. Always in search of a new idea or impulse, her eclectic body of work has continued to gain exposure over the last few years, with solo exhibitions and installations at Allodi-R (Toyko), Colette (Paris) and galerie La Bank (Paris).
Download our press kit to learn more about the creative team behind Putty Hill. And check back for updates, downloads, and reviews in the news feed below.
Bret McCabe and director Matt Porterfield discuss making Putty Hill.
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody takes a sneak peak at Putty Hill.
Read Variety’s analysis of Putty Hill, written by Ronnie Scheib.
Michael Sragow reviews Putty Hill at its Maryland premiere.
Tom Hall talks to Matt Porterfield on Maryland Morning – 88.1 WYPR.
Marc Steiner interviews Matt with stars Dustin and Cody Ray.
The filmmaker talks with Jack Patterson about Putty Hill, Baltimore and its changes, the portrayal of adolescents in American culture, and the possible adaptation of a Russian novella.
Pamela Cohn interviews Matt Porterfield for the BOMBLOG.
Matt Porterfield selected as one of 2010′s “25 New Faces”.
Download the original 5-page scenario for Putty Hill.
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