Neal Hemphill

Neal Hemphill is an actor, filmmaker, and photographer.

As an actor, Neal has worked in 31 states and 3 foreign countries, performing everything from off-off-Broadway solo shows to feature films to major touring productions.  He's always had a camera with him, and has taken photos everywhere he's gone.  This lifelong interest in performing and looking through a lens has led to third passion - filmmaking.  

Neal's passion for storytelling is now being expressed through screenwriting, directing, producing, and acting, as well as photography.  The common threads are heart, humanism, and love of life. 


"Whiplash" and Teaching by Fear

I know that, for me, I've always responded much more to kindness and encouragement than I have to fear and intimidation.

The teacher in "Whiplash" isn't someone that I could or would handle. I never would've put up with that shit. Throw a chair at me? Slap me in the face? Something bad would come out of all that...most likely me blowing up and doing something crazy.

But it was compelling to watch, and the combination of charm, manipulation, drive, and brutality that the teacher used was powerful. The actor, J.K. Simmons, was masterful in the role, and he had a live one in the drum student played by Miles Teller.

The premise of genius being borne out of fire, out of abuse, to me, is false. I mean maybe it happens that way on occasion, where manipulation and abuse bears fruit. OK. I want nothing to do with that.

But I believe in support. Real support, as in structure, being given tools, being given the opportunity to fail along the way to succeeding, and being given the direction and encouragement to be authentic to who I am - that's the beauty in life, and the beauty of being taught and being a student.

My high school football coach once kicked me in the ass - real hard - in front of the rest of the team. It didn't make me a better player, and it surely didn't make me care more about our team or to have pride in who I played for. Quite the opposite in fact, and my rather considerable potential as a football player was largely wasted by a very neanderthal-ish coaching squad mentality.

All in all, that's OK. I'm an artist, anyway. And those who believed in fear as a motivator just helped me to find that out.

And I don't believe in intimidation.

And I don't believe Charlie Parker became Charlie Parker because Philly Joe threw a cymbal at his head.