Brett Hannam’s smile is cautious and shy. He speaks softly at first, but once he gets going, the timidity falls away. Hannam knows what he wants to say and has an assured and controlled way of saying it. If you let him, he will tell you stories both engaging and wonderful.
Hannam is the director and screenwriter of a recent short called Deep End. The film debuted at the 2011 Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax. It has since been around the world, from Mumbai to Newport. Deep End is about Dane, a 13-year-old lifeguard whose brother has recently come out. The film revolves around the teenager as he wrestles with his own homophobia and that of his peers.
“The story itself is something I find very interesting, that I have not seen often,” Hannam says. “Using the experience of being gay as a springboard instead of a main focus.”
Hannam grew up in Annapolis Royal, a small community two hours outside of Halifax. “Growing up, even though I was surrounded by people, I didn’t feel connected to anything,” he recalls. “As a kid, I was always delving into my head instead of into the world, making my own worlds and people. Writing and filmmaking seemed logical.”
Hannam now has a dozen shorts under his belt, both as a director and a screenwriter, and he’s even had a few turns as a producer. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre, Hannam sees filmmaking an opportunity to share. “As human beings we’re wired for stories,” he says. “I love how, when you have a good story, everyone will stop and give you a moment of their time, their life really, and listen. I feel like when someone does that I want them to come away with a little more insight and understanding than before, even if it’s microscopic.”
is a story about an outsider who doesn’t understand the changes in his life. The film has the same emotion as some of Gus Van Sant’s recent offerings
and the audience is invited into the mind of a 13-year-old.
When Dane discovers his older brother in the woods being comforted by his boyfriend, he peers through the trees like a voyeur, unsure and unsteady. For Hannam, telling stories from the perspective of a younger character allows a film to feature growth and change. “When you’re young, everything is new and changing,” he says. “You feel things strongly and everything seems heightened – life or death. It gives things more vitality. I suppose it’s also appealing because that’s a moment in life when there is a huge amount of growth in all aspects of yourself as a person.”
Hannam is growing as well. He’s currently working on getting Deep End made into a feature film and at the same time is developing another script, titled Unicorn.
“Parts of the story are ripped directly from my own experience growing up in the country,” he explains. “I was the strange kid that couldn’t relate well to ‘normal’ people, so there’s a lot of that awkwardness in there as well.”
If Hannam’s awkwardness worked against him as a child, it seems to now be a way he can help others. “Through the power of story we can see ourselves reflected,” he says. “I’ve found myself many times, in many different stories and will continue to do so, though I will most definitely change.
“I want this for other people, too. I want them to see the people they could become, for better or for worse, through the stories I tell.”
Sat, June 16, 3pm
For a full program, go to outeastfilmfest.com
Deep End is also screening at Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
Sat, June 16