Interview: Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn On His Directorial Debut Film, ‘Mall’

Those of you who listened to last weeks episode of the Filmdrunk Frotcast might be aware of the fact that I recently conducted a phone interview with Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn about his upcoming directorial debut – a feature film called Mall. For those of you who didn’t listen to the Frotcast (I’m going to assume that is most of you, otherwise me, Vince, Bret, Brendan, and Ben would all be drowning in bitcoins and twitter poon), my summary of this interview was as follows:

1) This was my first interview.

2) I am very bad at interviewing.

3) Joe Hahn seems like a nice dude, and a talented filmmaker, but his movie is really bad.

Before the interview, I gathered as much information on Joe Hahn as possible. I learned that in the band Linkin Park, Joe was the DJ. Not the dude who sang “Everything you say to meeeeeehhh.” Not the dude who then rapped “Takes me one step closer to the edge, and I’m about to break.” But the dude who put the music behind those two other dudes. And he also directed multiple Linkin Park music videos. I prepared for this interview by watching the film, watching multiple Joe Hahn music videos, and listening to as much Linkin Park as possible while desperately trying to fight my brain’s Pavlovian urge to play Counter Strike. (I also get this urge whenever I hear songs by Slipknot, Marylin Manson, and Tool.)

To be completely honest, getting through Mall was a chore. I still am not at all sure what the movie was about and all of my attempts at trying to explain the film are so convoluted that anyone hearing me describing it would question whether or not I actually watched it. I honestly did. I swear to God. I just don’t know what it’s all about. And rather than trying and failing miserably to describe it, here is a synopsis I pulled from

Malcom’s done with his life. Only the noise of Crystal Meth gives him a reason to keep going – everything else it has long regardless. Equipped with a bag full of weapons and self-made bombs, he makes his way to the nearby mall to really stir things up. On his personal war campaign, he not only changes his life radically, but also the fate of other people who are in the wrong place at the same time: a teenager whose favorite pastime is smoking pot in his dreary existence, a housewife, where their best days have been left behind, a greedy businessman whose only desire is to increase his wealth and a depressed pervert. Written by uwotm8fightmeirl

So that’s what the movie is about. Any questions? Me too. A lot of them. After seeing the film and reading multiple synopses and still not quite grasping the point, I decided that the entire purpose of this interview would be to see how many ways I could ask Joe what the movie was about. My only regret was that I pussed out and said I loved the movie when Joe asked if I had actually seen the movie. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview.

FILMDRUNK: Were you or Vincent D’Onofrio fans of the novel (By Eric Bogosian) before you became attached to this film?

JOE HAHN: This was Vincent’s project before I got on board. Sam Bisbee sent it me and that’s how I became attached to the film. I met with Vincent and told him that I love the script.

FD: So, what was Mall about?

JH: It’s about 5 different perspectives of 5 different people. We wanted the film to intersect around Jeff.

FD: Were you and Vincent friends before you collaborated on this film?

JH: No. This was the first time we met.

FD: You’ve been directing music videos for over a decade and have also directed a short film. But this is your first ever feature film. What was it about this script that made you want to have this be your feature film debut?

JH: I’ve been trying to find the right script for a while. [And with Mall] there was a real honesty about people. There was an awkwardness but also an honesty. I liked the way the story was formed around those people.

FD: How would you describe this movie to someone who hasn’t seen it?

JH: It’s about 5 people that are connected through the life of Jeff. Through his perspective. These are all pathetic people. Jeff learns from their experiences. They are all brought together by a guy on crystal meth. They story is about he deals with it.

FD: Is Jeff also pathetic?

JH: Yes. Well… he is smart, but also arrogant. The events on this day show him that there is a choice in life.

FD: There is a scene where Vincent D’Onofrio [who plays a pervert/peeping Tom] gets raped in the back of his own car by a high school girl. What did that scene mean to you?

JH: There is a subtext of violence in this film. Each one of these characters has their own way of being violent. [The rape scene was meant to be] a bit of revenge and a bit of humanizing his character. It makes you ask about what happened in her life. It isn’t clear.

FD: Is this film a statement on senseless violence?

JH: I think so. I think it’s a statement on violence. When bad things happen, there’s a reason.

FD: Did you hang out in the mall a lot when you were a kid?

JH: I hung out at the Glendale Galleria. It’s a place where people go for some kind of therapy. Retail, or catching a movie, or just getting out of the house. But the movie shows that people aren’t really happy. They are just masking their shit.

FD: How long did it take you to shoot “Mall”?

JH: We took 18 days.

FD: How did shooting this film differ from shooting music videos?

JH: Music videos are just a couple of days of shooting. This film was shot over a few weeks.

FD: How does directing a feature film differ from directed a music video?

JH: Each music video is it’s own challenge. [My experience in directing music videos] helped create the ingredients for something like this. I wanted to show through music and imagery what Jeff was going through. With any kind of filmmaking, as a director you have a notion of a vision you are trying to fulfill. Sometimes its like a circus, everybody operating with a level of skill.

FD: I saw some imagery from Mall that was reminiscent of the Papercut music video.

JH: I suppose there was a similar feeling.

FD: What are some of your favorite movies?

JH: Um… True Detective, Breaking Bad. Kubrick. Fincher. Gondry.

FD: A lot of the films you mentioned are actually TV shows. Do you like the medium of TV or film better?

JH: I appreciate all of it. TV and movies are both great. For me, I start out as an artist. Painting and drawing. During that discovery process, there is something very personal about what you and your brain and your heart are making. I see all these things as connections of who we are as people.

FD: Is there an underlying message about kids and violence?

JH: Did you actually see the movie?

FD: Yeah, I saw it. I loved it! 

There’s no underlying message. These people are representative of people that actually exist. This is the kind of film that if you and a friend go to watch it, you’ll probably talk about it after. Like “what is it about?”

I’m still not sure what it’s all about, but I’ll say that I hope Joe’s next project has better source material.