Matt Porterfield

229Matt Porterfield


MATT PORTERFIELD: Hi my name’s Matt Porterfield.

Putty Hill’s my second film. It’s shot in Baltimore, where I live, in this neighborhood in Northeast.

The fictional idea that the film is built around is that there’s been a funeral, or there will be a funeral—there’s been a death. A young man dies of a heroin overdose. The film is built in the two days before his funeral, so family and friends are gathered, thinking about his life.

We have these documentary style interviews that pepper the film, or interrupt the fictive scenes. And in these interviews, the cast, who are performing throughout as versions of themselves, are asked questions by an off-screen interlocutor. And the questions are both of the fictive world but a lot of the questions are sort of about their lives. And so that way we have a cast who are able to share their own stories.

We cast the film by holding open auditions over the course of a year and a half, at churches, museums, community centers. I did a lot of street casting, met people at bars.

It’s a neighborhood I just have a real visceral feeling for, and want to depict on film, because I think in a way this neighborhood in northeast Baltimore is–sort of normal. There are cities, communities just like it all over the United States–postindustrial cities.

I’m interested in sort of depicting the diversity within the American working class. I don’t think it’s done so well, or fairly, in American movies. So, I don’t know, this neighborhood seems like a really perfect template to explore that.

Joyce Kim, production still for Matt Porterfield’s _Putty Hill_, 2011. Chromogenic print, 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm) each. © Matt Porterfield; courtesy the artist and the Hamilton Film Group