Short Film Produced About Completely-Tattooed Federal Hill Resident Jim Hall

| March 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

When Jonathan Bregel moved Federal Hill, the first person he met on his block was Jim Hall. The 78-year-old Hall, also known as “The Blue Comma,” has tattooed his entire body blue and navy with comma designs.

Bregel met him and said, “Wait, are you blue?” Hall then invited Bregel on his porch to talk where Bregel learned about Hall’s extensive knowledge of Baltimore City. Hall worked for the Baltimore City Department of Planning for 40 years.

“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Bregel. “Don’t judge a book by its cover. I found myself judging him, but it’s a reminder to take a second to sit down and listen to someone.”

Bregel is a filmmaker who grew up in Towson and spent many years in Federal Hill visiting his parents’ business. Bregel moved to New York City after graduating from film school and started a production company where he worked on commercials, shows, and documentaries. He also worked on a project in China where he met his now wife.

Bregel got burned out by the fast pace of business and the competitive nature in New York and decided to take a buy-out from his company. He spent two years teaching film in China and spending time with his future wife. They decided to relocate to Baltimore last year.

Bregel described coming back to Baltimore as a return to a “normal life” and a “humbling experience.” He began volunteering with Thread and the COR Health Institute.

Bregel freelances in the film industry, which leads to him traveling often, but wants to use his skills to tell positive stories about the city. His long-term dream is to be a known as the “documentary guy” in Baltimore and to bring work to his hometown like John Waters has.

Hall was the perfect subject for Bregel’s first Baltimore short film. Hall has an agreement to sell his three homes on Grindall St. and will be moving to Texas soon to be closer to his cousin, who will help him out and hopefully get Hall into assisted living. Bregel said he was hoping to make a film that made Baltimoreans feel good, and that will serve as a way to remember Hall when he leaves the city.

Bregel invited in friend and co-director Steve Hoover to work on the project. Hoover and Bregel produce films together under the name ‘friendzone.’ The short film about Hall is called ‘out of the blue.’

The film shows Hall in his home and getting out and about in Federal Hill. He visits Maria D’s for a gyro, takes multiple visits to Federal Hill Park, and watches the 4th of July fireworks. The film also captures some of the intrigue when random people interact with Hall.

In the film, speaking about his tattoo, Hall said,”I knew it had to be simple, so it had to be one primary color. It was a color chosen essentially because it was free of meaning, it didn’t have the meaning of red, it didn’t having the meaning of green, didn’t have the meaning of yellow.”

Hall spent years working on the tattoo, which was hidden by his work attire, but three years after retirement, he decided to finish his face and hands. “There’s places that barely hurt at all and there are places that are outrageously painful,” Hall said talking about the tattoo.

Hall also decided to get three plastic balls added to his scrotum by a plastic surgeon.

“I’ve made a choice nobody else in the history of man has made. That’s kind of neat, not important,” said Hall in the film. “There will be pictures of me after I’m dead. Here was this blue man.”

Talking about his job as a city planner, Hall said, “I planted more trees in the city of Baltimore than anybody has ever planted in the history of the city of Baltimore and that’s my biggest piece of pride.”

He talked his commitment to the citizens of Baltimore, rather than to the planning department.

The film also documents Hall’s struggles with memory loss. He has a complex system of Post-it notes around his house with important phone numbers, addresses, and reminders. “Even my systems are starting to not be functional, so it’s going to get worse,” he said.

Bregel said Hall has a memory for a couple days before he forgets things. Now, every time Hall watches the film is like the first time he’s seen it. “He loves it and he’s happy to be acknowledged,” said Bregel.

The video has made its rounds on social media in Baltimore and has been viewed 137,000 times on Vimeo where it is also a “Staff Pick Premiere.” Bregel also did a Q&A with Vimeo about the film.

“It’s cool to see people saying such great things about him,” said Bregel.

Bregel is thinking about entering ‘out of the blue’ into film festivals.

It the film, Hall says his goodbye to Baltimore, “So my game plan is to get out of here hopefully by December [2019; Hall has not left yet, but will by the end of April] and go to Texas. I’m going to miss Baltimore and I keep my fingers crossed Baltimore is going to do okay. And then I can let go, I have to let go.”

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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