Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Interview with filmmaker David Hastings

Sustain will premier at the Straight-Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival

*How did you get into making films? 
I got into filmmaking because of my folks, who encouraged me to watch as many of them as I could when I was growing up. So, things from Hammer Horror films, Godzilla, classic movies and pure drama films, as well as many more. The more films I watched, the more I was in awe of them, and eventually (especially with horror films), started wondering how they were made. So, I read books on them (no internet in the 80s folks!), and went to conventions with my Dad, and met some of my favourite actors. It all spiralled from there really. 

*What inspired you to make your movie? 
We were starting to finish production on our previous film House of Screaming Death, and as much as I love horror, as a director, I want to keep trying different things with differing genre, pushing myself as a filmmaker, challenging myself. So, I’d already mentioned to a few people that I wanted to tackle something without ghosts, vampyres and necromancers. And one of the stars of Screaming Death, Brett Dewsbury, wanted to do some little scenes after we’d wrapped, to get a showreel going. After we’d bounced ideas around, Brett came back with, what was meant to be a short 2 minute piece about a brother lamenting on the loss of his half-brother due to a racist attack. Problem was, the more we discussed it, the more it kept growing in scope, and within 2 weeks, we’d decided to instead mould it into a full feature film, because all these characters we were tinkering with, just couldn’t be contained in a mere 2 minute piece. So, Brett would write some scenes, hand them over to me to see if I could embed them into what I was writing in the script too. And it felt like it was needed. There is so much injustice in the world, especially over these past few months, and Sustain just needed to be told. And so far, audiences have noted that as well as enjoying it too. 

*How has your style evolved? 
I think a filmmaker’s style is always evolving. And that’s the beautiful part of filmmaking; it’s never set in stone. It’s always adapting, whether it be via technology or other avenues, so my own style adapts too as I go along, trying new ways to tell a story. With Sustain, I drew very heavily from one of my favourite directors, Michael Mann. However, while I was very conscious of him throughout the filming, I wasn’t letting his style affect how I was approaching the material myself. Of course there are little homages in there in terms of framing and composition of certain shots, but I was looking at a director I admire, his visual styles and adapting them for my own storytelling techniques, same as how directors like Spielberg continually look up to Hitchcock in what they do. It’s all a continually revolving door, and its exciting to see what we all do as filmmakers because of it. 

*Tell us any strange or funny stories while making the film? 
I think we have enough footage to probably make a musical version of this film. A lot of the times, the cast would burst into many a song and give us a full-on concert performance while we were setting up scenes! As much as the film is very serious and grim in tone, we had to have laughs behind the scenes to keep the energy going and to distance ourselves momentarily from the script, because these wonderful actors were all giving truly powerful performances, complimented by an equally fantastic crew, so it was fun to allow us all to just have some time to bond and have a few giggles. Lots of fun! 

*The Misrule Film Movement & Pink8 manifesto bring what to mind? 
They suggest autonomy and working outside institutions. Allowing for more freedom of artistic expression away from the demands of executives whose only interest is to make money, which is seen as far more important than crafting and creating stories which have heart, can provoke thought and conversations, as well as being an area that encourages everyone to pick up a camera and make a film, regardless of budget, experience and background. Personally, I find the films that come from very little to be better than those where the money has been splashed across the screen. The latter lack the warmth, the passion and the visions of those who have fought tooth and claw to make their films within a community they are associated with outside the institutions and big studios. No matter what, you can make a film. And you’ll keep growing and finding your own styles and techniques as you go along, and that is just fantastic to see all over. 

*What can we expect from your next film? 
I’m really busy already in post-production on two more feature films, the first being another departure genre wise, with You Are My Sunshine, an LGBTQ romance that charts the story of Joe and Tom, from when they first meet in the 1970s all the way to present day, and how their relationship has progressed over the decades, despite hardships. I’m so excited to show audiences this film when it is finished. Additionally we are in the midst of another anthology film, this time tackling the most wonderful time of the year with Advent, a Christmas film which stars a multitude of fantastic regional actors again, while Arthur Bostrom (from BBCs Allo Allo), is also in the film as well. So far, it’s looking wonderful but lots of work to still do once normality resumes after this horrifying pandemic. There’s a multitude of short films coming too, while more feature films are in development including Borderland, and (coming back full circle) the horror film Spineless! So, lots to keep me busy over the next few years to come.