Sundance Institute Alumni Spotlight: 5 Questions With Hank Willis Thomas
It’s easy to draw parallels between photographer Hank Willis Thomas’ foray into transmedia storytelling and the blossoming New Frontier programs at Sundance Institute. Thomas has expanded his craft to include sculpture, painting, video, and other mediums, seemingly in harmony with the introduction of New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival and the subsequent New Frontier Story Lab. Appropriately, he is an alumni of last year's inaugural New Frontier Story Lab and most recently premiered his transmedia megalogue project Question Bridge: Black Males at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Thomas is the latest subject of our Alumni Spotlight series, and he checked in to talk about what recent work has inspired him, his favorite Sundance-supported films, and his secret society suspicions regarding the Sundance Institute Labs.
1. What film, play, album, book, or other work of art has inspired you recently?
That's always a hard one. I saw two plays last month that I really dug. An Illiad was presented to many people supporting Sundance Institute and that was an amazing one-person show. I also saw Clybourne Park on Broadway. It's an incredibly well written contemporary ensemble piece related to A Raisin in the Sun. I could watch Passing Strange on DVD or stage about a dozen more times. I loved that project. Film-wise, 5 Broken Cameras rocked me at Sundance and I think Shame was one of the most underrated films (as far as Hollywood goes) of the year. As I write this, Terence Nance, the brilliant young director of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, is visiting before going to Sundance London. I really can't wait to see what he does next. I hope to be involved in some way. I contributed an essay to Rebecca Walker's current book project Black Cool. It was really fascinating to read the contributions of the other writers about something so idiosyncratic, yet pervasive. I also just picked up Baratunde Thurston's How to be Black and Nell Painter's History of White People.
2. Where do you feel most at home?
I am living in Paris now. This feels like home even though I don't speak the language so well. My parents just got remarried after getting divorced when I was two. I've been back in the U.S. a lot in the past few months and it has caused me to spend more time with my parents together in NYC than ever in my waking life. It's incredibly rewarding and makes "home home" more amazing than ever.
3. What magazine, website, or blog do you read most frequently?
You mean Amex? Yes. I am a sucker for Delta Sky miles, though I think I should get more miles for admitting it. Freelancer's Union Health Insurance, National Rental Car, Navigo (so I can ride bikes around Paris), Centre Pompidou, and MoMA. And of course I never leave home without my trusty "Race Card" given to me by Omar Wasow. It even works in France!
5. Which Sundance film or play would you most enthusiastically recommend?
Not fair. I would probably support anything Sundance-related. Even if I squirm around during it, I always feel like it was worth it afterwards. I would probably enthusiastically recommend New Frontier 2013 because Shari Frilot does an amazing job each year and not enough people get to see it. I think it should be a traveling exhibition. I also want to plug the New Frontier Story Lab because it was the closest I've felt to being in a secret society (or was it?).
For more on Hank Willis Thomas watch his recent video post: