I’m trying to connect with people, even though I go about it in an odd way
Holding a 16mm Bolex home movie camera, much like the first one he picked up in 1964, Hiler focuses his lens on a field of dry grass being caressed by the late-afternoon wind in Dogpatch. The camera, all black and chrome as cameras once were, is loaded with the last run of Kodak reversal film the world may ever see.
The roll is 100 feet long and allows Hiler to shoot for only two minutes and 45 seconds before it stops on the last frame. Hiler, however, is known for superimposing one shot on another shot — sometimes he does it three or four times — to achieve a stream-of-consciousness effect.
It’s a scary recipe, but it can lead to works of genius such as his 2011 “Words of Mercury’’ — a 24-minute, “Fantasia”-like masterpiece of swirling colors and textures.
“It’s all superimposed in the camera, and I don’t know what the results will be until I get it back,” Hiler says. “The thing with film is, you can’t manipulate it and take it to the computer and improve the image. What you get back is the only thing you have to work with.”
Hiler’s films are always silent. There is no plot per se, no actors. He films things he sees in the world — it’s how he expresses himself.
And the audience feedback? “The thing that I hear most is, ‘When I see your films, it makes me want to go out and shoot my own films,’ and this is exactly what I want,” Hiler says. “I’m trying to connect with people, even though I go about it in an odd way.”
This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, May 5, 2013. It was written and photographed by Mike Kepka who also made the brief video portrait of Jerome. All this happened through a chance meeting on the street while Jerome was wandering with his Bolex.