Laura Newman was working as a barista at a Starbucks in Manhattan when she had her first political awakening. She’d just met the performance artist and activist Reverend Billy while studying theater and film at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. What she learned from the Rev about the coffee behemoth prompted her to rip off her apron, quit her job and don a choir robe to perform with his Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Eleven years (and one arrest) later, she’s taken all she’s learned from him and fashioned an independent feature comedy, ‘WE ARE THE HARTMAN’S‘ that clearly anticipated the spirit of Occupy Wall Street long before protest signs began sprouting up in Zucotti Park.
“The timing between the Hartmans release and the Occupy Wall Street movement is remarkable considering that we wrote the script two years ago,” says Newman. “Both are about diverse groups coming together to protest the corporate takeover of their lives. Both are about people seizing a symbolic place. Our protagonist, Jordan (played by “Dell Dude” Ben Curtis) works at the town’s only rock club, Hartmans, which is facing foreclosure. In an effort to save the place and his job, he declares ‘This is an occupation!’ and leads a motley crew of patrons to barricade themselves inside while the police amass outside.”
Chamberlain plays Hartman, the pot-smoking hippie owner of the local hangout in a town overrun by big box chain stores. When Hartman falls ill, his estranged family swoops into town set on selling the property to a fast food franchise–only to find themselves embroiled in a neighborhood uprising. Newman’s flair for the outrageous attracted Chamberlain who is known for his work playing 60’s TV heartthrob Dr. Kildare and Father Ralph in The Thorn Birds. “I thought it was a great script and that it would be a blast to play a Willie Nelson type of character,” explained the actor.
Newman’s association with the activist vanguard led her to co-produce and shoot scenes on Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland which was nominated for the Academy Award and helped spawn a massive anti-gas-drilling movement. “Film is one of the most powerful forms effecting culture and politics right now,” says Newman. “I think people want to see films that address the serious concerns of their lives, but they also want to laugh and walk away with hope.“ Gothamist calls Hartmans ‘a comedy parable for our gentrified age’ while Huffington Post describes the film as “a joy ride from start to finish”.
Hartmans also stars Jennifer Restivo and features a soundtrack with songs from Freelance Whales and Iron and Wine. The script was penned by Newman and Emmy-award winner Peter J. Brash. Filming took place in Manhattan, Peekskill, East Hampton, New York and in Jersey City, New Jersey. The film held its world premiere as a Gala Presentation at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival and was an official selection at the CMJ 2011 Music Marathon and Film Festival.
“A joy ride from start to finish, pinked with great acting, witty writing and topics that the 99% can relate to“. – Huffington Post
“We Are the Hartmans” is a very important powerhouse that will shock you back to life. Clad in eye-watering comedy, it is a film that no one can afford to miss.” – Film Threat
“A comedy parable for our gentrified age.” – Gothamist