Q/A w/ Liam Lockhart
Jackalope sat down with Liam Lockhart, the man who taught your favorite Horror genre class, about his new position as the interim associate chair of The Film School. He was thrown into the position on Aug. 31. a few hours before class started. Lockhart, who has taught part-time at SFUAD for the past four years, speaks about: his new duties, his mother and the perks of having a primo parking spot. With a recording device in one hand and a tobacco pipe in the other, Lockhart graciously answered the question so many students have been wondering about the Film School and its future.
Jackalope Magazine: Where were you when you found out that you were becoming the new interim Film Department head?
Liam Lockhart:It was lovely. I was visiting my mom back in California, two days before her birthday. I really didn’t have a present to give her, so when the phone call came with the news about the position, it was the best present I could possibly give her. She was over the moon when she found out. You don’t have to print this but she can now move on knowing that her little son is safe. (Laughs)
JM: You used to be a part-time teacher here with us at SFUAD. How do you enjoy the full-time employment?
L.L.: Wow! Well full-time employment I think is everyone’s dream.
JM: Is it?
L.L.: In our economy these days, yeah. I still get to keep the two courses that I have been teaching, and I get all the fun administrative and bureaucratic stuff that goes with being the chair of the department. I don’t mean to be facetious when I say that because there is a lot of paperwork, but by the same token there’s a lot of great opportunities to do more than just teach classes. I think Chris Eyre and I both have the same dream of making SFUAD’s film school not only the best in the state, but in the nation. Now I got a chance to help make that dream come true.
JM: How do you enjoy your new parking space?
L.L.: The new parking space is brilliant! I think there was a little quibble at first as to who parks where, but it’s all good. (Laughs) Let me put it this way. It’s the only time that I’ve been able to drive on campus and not have to worry about where I’m going to park. How beautiful.
JM: Are people treating you differently now that you’ve sat upon the chair, so to speak?
L.L.: The bribes have slacked off a bit, which is so strange. I thought they would have increased. No people aren’t treating me different and that is something I’m really happy about. In fact, that’s one of the first things I said to my students. If they were to see me change in any way, because I’m now wearing a suit, so to speak, to let me know. I don’t think that I was selected for this job based on being someone other than who I am. I wanna point out that the students really had a big part in my getting this job full time.
JM: Would you mind explaining that process?
L.L.: Yeah, there were a few students, one in particular, Aaron O’Brian, who started up a petition to get me hired full time. I thought it was a beautiful gesture. And later I found out that it actually bore weight in me getting hired. I was excited about that, obviously, not only because I got the position, but because it showed that the students have a voice and people are listening. For me, that was the most exciting thing, cause now it’s all of us taking the department to where we want it to go.
JM: And why did you take the position?
L.L.: It’s giving me the chance to do more than just what I do in the classroom. It is a chance to elevate The Film School, and it gave me a much greater purpose. Teaching, I felt—not that it’s never a challenge or I could say I’ve already done it because I’m always learning in my profession—but it’s nice to have a new challenge. It’s reinvigorating for me. New blood, new ideas, new thoughts. It’s really something that I needed on a personal level.
JM: Have you ever had a position like this before?
L.L.: No I haven’t. Really teaching is something I did not start until I moved out here in 2004. I’d been an editor for years back in Hollywood. And I came out here and wanted to redefine myself because I was tired of only interfacing with a computer for 12 hours a day. I said, ‘There’s gotta be more to life than this.’ There are other people, with wonderful thoughts. I liked getting into a classroom environment and seeing the future of cinema coming up. I thought, maybe I’m in a position to influence [students] and turn them on to works of art that were really important to me. Nothing has been more satisfying than showing a film that’s 90 years old and having the class say, ‘oh my god, that’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.’
JM: What was your first official act of duty?
L.L.: Boy, do I have a benchmark for that? You know I really couldn’t tell you. I felt like I was thrown in and trying to play catch up with everything. What I do love about the job is that it gives me a legitimate excuse to really spend time with students, instead of just hanging around with them after class and talking about a film. Now they can come to me and talk about other concerns in their lives, the projects they’re working on and things like that. I really appreciate them asking me to become more involved with their lives and their work. That, for me, is the most exciting thing.
JM: What else are you planning to bring to the table?
L.L.: I already went up to the Telluride Film Festival, representing SFUAD. I’m reuniting us with two of my old classmates from UCLA, Alexander Payne and Pamela Tom. You probably know Alexander Payne. He directed Nebraska, The Descendants, Selection, Citizen Ruth. I’m desperately trying to get him out here. He promised me he would come and speak to my class. Pam Tom just had a documentary [Tyrus] that was showing at Telluride… The subject matter is about a Chinese-American immigrant who was responsible for the whole look of the film Bambi. And I also want to take advantages of the students’ symposiums that they have for the Telluride film festival, for next year. In the immediate future, and it’s not something that I’m necessarily bringing, but we are happy to say we will participate with both the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival as well as the old Santa Fe Film Festival. I’m very happy about that. I don’t want to make any promises that I can’t keep. I have been stalking my favorite American independent filmmaker, who I’m also hoping to bring in the spring—a gentleman named Jon Jost, who no one has ever heard of, yet the man has over 40 feature films under his belt, and in my humble opinion is America’s greatest independent filmmaker.
JM: So how long are you planning to stay?
L.L.: As long as they will keep me. Unfortunately right now my official title is Interim [Associate] Chair. I would to get rid of the word interim. I will be throwing my name into the hat along with everyone else in this nationwide search and doing my damnedest in the next year to prove that they don’t have to look further.
JM: Last question: How the hell do you stay so positive doing all this?
L.L.: Man, I ask myself the same question every morning. I don’t know. I was blessed to have the greatest parents I could ever ask for. I’ve kissed the blarney stone three times. It’s supposed to give you the gift of the gab, but I’m sure it probably gives you something else too. But probably first and foremost is when you realize that life is a gift. We didn’t ask for it. It’s not something that comes with expectations or needs that we have to meet. It is a gift that has been given and I think that our primary objective is to be thankful for it.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.