February 15, 2008
"Mike Hampton Checks His E-Mail: A Short Film by Mac Thomason"
By day, he's a 30-something librarian in Tuscaloosa. By night, he is an auteur of some of the most popular films on the Internet. If you're a regular reader of Braves Journal, you know exactly who I'm talking about: Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Mac Thomason.
This week, the ardent Braves fan and burning-hot filmmaker has taken the baseball blogosphere by storm, posting several films that have been called early contenders for next year's Oscars. Offended by Braves' pitcher Mike Hampton's ability to make only 12 starts since 2005 and buoyed by the belief that 68-year-old Phil Niekro would fill out Atlanta's rotation better, Thomason has created a devastating series in which he both directs and stars as Hampton, the star-crossed lefty.
Simply put, viewing these films makes Fellini look like your old Italian uncle who owns a faulty Super 8 camera. Indeed, they are lasting tributes to the human condition as seen through the scope of American cinema. There is no doubt we should treasure them as such.
Bravo, sir! Bravo!
After the jump: An e-mail interview with Mac Thomason on what it's like to be one of the hottest directors on the Internet.
Big League Stew: Mac, after watching these films, it's obvious you don't place much trust in Mike Hampton's ability to stay healthy. Was there one specific episode that motivated you to start the series?
Thomason: On Nov. 22 ('07) — a fateful day in history, of course — Hampton attempted to make a start in winter ball. He majestically managed to make it through the first inning before leaving with a hamstring pull. It was clear to me then that his fate had to be addressed.
BLS: Such a great undertaking would probably be daunting to even the greats like Scorsese, Coppola and Spielberg. I'm impressed with how you've handled yourself. Just how did you summon the creativity and energy to tackle such a life-altering and momentous project?
T: Mostly large amounts of mind-altering drugs — meaning caffeine. (I can quit any time.)
BLS: You not only write and direct the films, but you also star in them. Can you explain to us the challenges of being a writer-director-actor?
T: Actually, I serve as cinematographer and music editor as well. As a quintuple threat, the main problem is that I don't have anyone to abuse except for the equipment. And unlike people, equipment is expensive and won't work if damaged.
BLS: If you don't mind me saying so, your scripts are very layered, dense, involved and complicated. They are true works of art. How many edits they usually go through?
T: I often edit them for several hours. This seems like a short period, but relatively speaking they are among the most heavily considered pieces in all of film, just because of their extreme brevity. A day's work on a 20-second film is easily the equivalent of 5 years' work on a two-hour film.
BLS: You portray Hampton's character with excellent undertones of dread and an inescapable fate. What's your approach to playing such a weighty character?
T: Mike Hampton represents us all. All of us are doomed to decay and death, but made unaware, save for brief moments, by their slowness. Hampton, in the sudden disasters that afflict him, allows us to perceive our inescapable doom.
BLS: That is really beautiful, just beautiful. May I ask if there are any more Hampton films in production? If so, can you share some of the plot details? How many films do you envision making?
T: I think there is no limit to the character's applicability. I have plans for several more films, though they may not be shot for some time, as funding issues are a concern for "Mike Hampton Plays the Ukelele" and there are concerns that "Mike Hampton: Air Guitarist" may conflict with a projected film about Joel Zumaya.
BLS: This might sound crazy, but would you ever approach Mike Hampton to do a cameo in an upcoming film?
T: He would have to play another character, perhaps Mark Prior or Kerry Wood. I would really like to get Bruce Sutter, but he's still under contract to the Braves.
BLS: Have you thought of producing any other series, perhaps something to do with the ejections of Bobby Cox or the triumphant return of Tom Glavine?
T: I have considered a companion piece on Mark Kotsay, but must see him get injured in a Braves uniform first. Also, I am looking for an attractive young blonde woman to play his wife, if anyone is interested.
BLS: I'm sure you will have plenty of takers. Finally, give me your expert's take: What's the over-under on number of starts Mike Hampton makes for the Braves this season?
T: Given all factors, it seems unlikely that he could make more than one start before pieces of his body begin to fall off, though it's quite possible that his arms, legs, and head stay sufficiently attached to make two starts. It's hard to see him making fewer than zero starts, but if anyone can, it's Mike Hampton.
BLS would like to thank Mac Thomason for his cooperation and fantastic sense of humor. You can view his complete "Mike Hampton" series at Braves Journal (www.bravesjournal.com), which is in its 10th year.
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