This heart-warming short doc by longtime Santa Barbara filmmaker Russ Spencer is set in Willie’s Barbershop on Figueroa Street, but is really about complicated father-son relationships. See bisonfilms.com.
Why did you decide to focus on this barbershop?
There are a lot of people who just kind of hang out at Willie’s because they need a place to be safe, and Willie offers them that refuge. I got to know one of them because I would walk by there a lot on my way to the French Press Cafe. Her name was Annie and she always came out to say hi and give me a hug and tell me what she was up to and see if I had an extra buck or two. After a while, we got to know each other pretty well and when she found out I was a filmmaker, she made me promise to make a film about the barbershop. So I did.
Did you go into this knowing that it would be a father-son story?
I didn’t want to make a film about what a cool barbershop it was. I find those kinds of films boring. So I sat down with Gilbert one day and talk to him for a while. Eventually a story came out that I really wanted to tell, about he and his dad, a universal story about fathers and sons. And it just so happened that it was set in this masculine, visually rich place.
What do you think makes a good father? What makes a good barber?
A good father, that’s impossible to say. There are a million kinds of good fathers. A good barber is one who knows that the haircut is only about 10 percent of the service he’s providing.
Do you get your hair cut there?
I didn’t get my hair cut there before but, yes, Gilbert is now my barber.