Richard Harrison is a presenter on Future Radio, a former film studies lecturer, an archivist, writer and most importantly for this blog a film-maker! His production company ‘New World Cinema’ has been responsible for several short films, some of which have played in film festivals. After studying Film at the University of Kent Richard became a teacher but has since dedicated himself completely to creative endeavour. I am a former student of Richard’s and have appeared in two of his films: God Given Right an experimental meditation on the value of religion and in an upcoming crime short where I play an escaped convict, both of which are available to view here http://www.youtube.com/user/
When and how did you first start to make short films?
I did some volunteer work at Seachange in Great Yarmouth in 2000. They ran a short film course designed for Super 8mm. filmmaking which I enjoyed. I then appeared in ‘Bad Vibes’ which they produced. I didn’t really do much after that, but, when I was ill in 2005, I decided that I should just seize the moment and make things. I once read that directors should make films if they have something to say. I feel that applies to me.
How has technology changed to make film-making more accessible to the average person since you have started?
It’s got massively more affordable. What was once an elite thing has now become do-able for Joe Average, although whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen, as some people consider it really easy. Making good films isn’t easy. You now get better quality cameras for your money, and editing has become easier on the whole. Editing Super 8mm. requires sellotape and scissors- it’s very tangible- but any edits made are rather more permanent than the ones made on a computer! I shot initial test footage on Hi 8 video tape, then on DV. I now use high definition.
What influence has the local area had in your work and how important do you feel regional film-making in this country is?
It’s had a massive impact. All my films are set locally, using mainly local people and making use of locations I want to immortalize. Film-making is no longer just something people in London do, and that’s great- it’s nice to reflect the diverse landscapes of the country. I’m strongly influenced by the coast, where I grew up, even if not all my films have been set there.
Making films independently gives you full autonomy however having little to no budget does limit you, to what extent does this dichotomy give you a sense of freedom and a sense of frustration when going into production?
I think one becomes much more aware of costs of items, the need to ‘make do and mend’, and the need to source economical props. For me the major frustration is not being able to pay a cast- sometimes I know of semi pro actors who are available but can’t work for nothing. It’s also impossible to “buy out” people that work part time simply because I can’t justify the expense of say a £50 fee. The good news is that it makes me feel more creative, and I can also do anything- the kind of semi-experimental films I do would be unthinkable to most people as they won’t make any money back.
Is the collaborative nature of film-making something that attracts you to it? Do you see it as a much different creative pursuit than writing for instance which is more solitary and direct?
I like collaborating. If you get someone who is totally on your wavelength it’s very uplifting and positive. It’s also good to talk over ideas and get someone else’s perspective. However, I’m often a little protective of my “vision”- I have sometimes a very clear idea of how I want things to look, and if people start to mess with that it becomes less of what I want. Actually, I see it as very similar to writing- both require you to translate what is in your head onto physical media by way of expression- the camera is the filmmaker’s pen. I’m aware that this makes me sound like Alexandre Astruc!
As a former Film Studies teacher you have worked with a lot of young people and many former students in your films. Are you inspired by young people?
Young people inspire me hugely. There’s a whole layer of society that says ‘I don’t want a conventional job- I’m going to be a….’ whatever it is. Actors, directors, musicians, artists- the country needs them, and, if they have a natural talent, I believe they should be supported. They are the country’s future really. If you have a real talent for (say) acting or musicianship why should you work in a shop all your life?
I think lots of people would say the same- working with young people keeps you thinking and feeling young. I like to work with people I know and have respect for, and I also feel that certain people would work well on/in certain projects. It’s all about trust, feeling relaxed and feeling comfortable- and you get these aspects from working with people you know. There’s also the good sense of humour that a lot of young people bring to films, and a freshness of approach. I’m inspired by the French New Wave directors, so I guess this all ties in with that.
Do you have any plans for a feature film?
Yes…very much so! It’s about finding the right project and planning it out. I think that funding is something to try and gain. I have a few ideas- one in particular- which I think would be really effective, but it’s all under wraps at this stage!