'The Well': The Hammocks Did It Well
Just because an entomologist is cast in a Hollywood movie, that doesn't mean there will be bugs.
Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and his wife, Lassie, recently headed to the Los Angeles Film Festival for the premier showing of “The Well,” directed by their son, Tom Hammock.
The parents play minor roles in the film, a thriller set in a futuristic dust bowl.
“It was too cold for bugs,” said Professor Hammock of the December 2013 filming in a secluded area of the high desert, near the Mojave.
“No bugs were featured in the film,” Tom confirmed. “But there were bugs around the set. A few velvet ants, for sure.”
The film marks Tom Hammock's debut as a director and Bruce and Lassie Hammock's debut as actors.
At the edge of a barren valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings and the memories of Kendal, a seventeen-year-old girl who can barely recall when the valley was lush. It's been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Only Kendal and a few others remain, barely scraping by while dreaming of escape. When a gang leader named Carson lays claim to what little precious water remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for what little she has left in this post-apocalyptic thriller.
The film stars Haley Lu Richardson, Booboo Stewart, Max Charles, Nicole Fox, Michael Welch and Jon Gries. Critics are praising the Tom Hammock-directed film as "superb" and looking forward to more of his work.
Wrote“Hammock's direction is superb; every moment of every scene matters, and the film shifts between action and drama superbly. Cinematographer Seamus Tierney also deserves kudos; considering how many scenes in the film incorporate both dark hiding places and the sun-razed landscape around them, the shots are always clean, clear and, in their way, beautiful. The Well"has its pleasures and powers, as well as a distinctive take on what could have been familiar, dead material; Hammock may have begun his career making worlds for other directors, but given a chance to create his own here, he not only succeeds but excels.”
Although new to acting business, Bruce Hammock is not new to "directing." In addition to his joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, he directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. Bruce also is an athlete who loves rock climbing and white-water rafting and water balloon battles. (He will host the annual Bruce Hammock Water Balloon Battle--10 minutes of aim--on Thursday, July 24 on the Briggs Hall lawn for his students, researchers and colleagues.)
In "The Well," however, Bruce Hammock does not look like a professor, a researcher, an athlete or a water warrior. For the shoot, he grew a beard, donned his father's old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking (1) forlorn and haggard and (2) like a corpse.
“It was very interesting,” the professor told us last December. “But my, the producers work hard. We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. We worked until dark, in weather well below freezing, with high winds blowing sand. The professional actors and actresses put in amazing performances under quite adverse conditions."
“They're a very professional and fun group. I had never realized the complexity of filming a movie. I hope they pull off their vision.”
Tom Hammock is obviously multitalented. He served as the production designer for the critically acclaimed horror films, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" and "You're Next," and also worked on such film productions as “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." A 1994 graduate of Davis High School, he received his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and then studied film design at the American Film Institute. He is now very much involved in the hugely popular young adult and horror film genre, but showed more of his talent when he authored the original graphic novel, “An Aurora Grimeon Story—Will O' the Wisp." (See previous Bug Squad blog)
Release date of "The Well?"
Well...the next step is to find a buyer. Directors are fully aware that sometimes this can take months or years.
Meanwhile, Bruce Hammock doesn't intend to quit his day job, but he could--if he wanted to--add "acting" to his resume./span>
Professor Bruce Hammock in his office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)