Article by Marc Lewis
The walls in David Hambridge’s rented office in downtown Raleigh, just above Café Luna, are bare and a pale shade of blue, a color reminiscent of an innocent sky or the ire of certain college fans across the state. The film equipment and large computer and scattered papers could be packed and moved over a lunch break if his work ever called for a change in setting. Hambridge shares the space with frequent collaborate Beau Vorous, and while the office has all the trappings of something professional—glossy hardwood floors and a reception area out front—it is an artist’s place, just enough to get the work done and too little to inspire any worrisome notions of permanence.
This is a portrait of a filmmaker as a young man, or a version of it, as any allusion to the highly regarded novel may be a stretch since James Joyce most likely did not sit down to create in a tank top and red Vans sneakers.
New Raleigh readers are familiar with Hambridge’s work. He directed two music videos for the local hip-hop group Kooley High. The first, “All Day,” moves from a coffee shop to a record store to a nighttime concert at the Pour House, the group bouncing on a stage just a half block from the office where the video was compiled. “Regular Shit” was released earlier this year and is more playful, as the group rides mopeds and speaks to a pickle. Hambridge likes “All Day” more. He speaks about how it was filmed and how after its release it achieved a steady, organic growth, being shared on the Internet, now with nearly 330,000 views on YouTube. But in his liking the first better, something with which Vorous agrees, Hambridge reveals himself as an artist not content with lateral moves.
"Music videos are fun," Hambridge says. "Because you're not selling anything. It's a short film. Something for people to enjoy. But it is also not where I'll end up. I want to move toward more narrative short films and documentaries."
Hambridge is in Raleigh now, having been away for a number of weeks. First he was in Mumbai, filming videos for the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The spots highlight university and alumni successes in India and around the globe. The shoots have taken him to Brazil twice and Los Angeles, where he profiled Hulu CEO Jason Kilar. In the India videos, beneath the corporate mission lies an exercise in contrast. Smiling faces of young locals against an impoverished backdrop and a tired countryside shifting before the smiling faces of visiting American students.
“You can’t look away from it,” he says of the poverty. “The sounds, smells, sights of India are a sensory overload. The second time I went I knew more of what to look for and I’d go back tomorrow if given the opportunity.”
A filmmaker learns what to look for and then brings it home. He takes what he sees and constructs it in a delicate way in an office with bare walls so an audience can sift through the differences and find something recognizable.
After Mumbai he was in Boston, working for another client, and at Fenway Park a video he created played on the jumbotron. “It looped,” he says, with some concern. Having stayed up the night prior to create a tightly knit two-minute package, he felt something was lost in the endless rotation. He cares about his product and is interested in how it’s handled, the way a painter would care about the fabric of a couch beneath his effort’s place on a wall.
The narrative steps Hambridge wants to take will begin with the coming release of a music video for another local hip-hop artist, King Mez. The video, created for the single “The Queen,” is shot largely indoors, offering Hambridge a more controlled environment and in turn more decision-making opportunities. Shot with Vorous, the video explores heavier themes like violence, love and loss. It is a stride beyond riding mopeds on familiar streets. Stay tuned for "The Queen" on New Raleigh soon.
One of the best pieces on Hambridge’s website is a video titled "Oregon Coast Line in a Day" and the video is just what it says it is—shots compiled on a Pacific coastline over the course of a day. But watching it alludes to more. It is prequel of sorts made by a filmmaker with bigger things in mind, things beyond corporate sales spots and hip-hop music videos. "Oregon Coastline in a Day" is a preview of the career Hambridge is capable of. When asked how the piece came about, he tells of a day between a contracted shoot and a bachelor party on the West Coast, how he pitched the idea to a client and the client agreed the shoot would be valuable, and Hambridge spent a day watching and shooting, filming waves come ashore near Portland. He smiles and in his smile acknowledges that he’s figured something out, achieved a stability many older artists strive for. Hambridge has managed to undertake the odd and winding pursuit of a career spent doing what he loves and has managed to get paid to do it.
“It sounds corny, but right now I’m trying to live out a dream. I am living a dream.”
In his office he talks about people who inspire him and filmmakers he admires. He recounts projects he started and some he left behind. He tries to give form to where he wants to go and his ideas, as they do for any good artist, build like a crowd at the bus stop below his window, some departing for another place while others linger until the right route arrives.
Hambridge has been commissioned to direct a short documentary for North Carolina State University on victims of rape and sexual abuse. The project is in the early stages of shooting and its release is scheduled for the close of 2012. It is being made with professors from N.C. State’s counseling program and features individuals relaying their stories to his camera. The project is a large step, both in scope and subject matter, and a project Hambridge believes in. The documentary was a major reason he remained a freelance artist when other more secure opportunities were available. He wants to maintain some control and pursue projects he feels matter.
When you ask Hambridge to look far into the future, beyond the King Mez video and the forthcoming documentary, he smiles again and circles the conversation back to whatever is next and in his disregard for what lies in the distance he reveals himself as an artist still young and talented enough to focus solely on getting better, moving forward.
David Hambridge is a filmmaker and a young man, and this, in a sense, is a snapshot of a search for autonomy. He’s found a way to see the world, collect all the sights he finds and bring them home. David Hambridge is moving forward and has yet to pause long enough to decorate his office walls.
To view David Hambridge’s work, visit his website, and check back with New Raleigh for the release of King Mez’s video for “The Queen.”