Coventry and Warwickshire Filmakers Network
I have recently joined the Coventry and Warwickshire Filmmakers Network to seek film lovers in the local area so I am able to celebrate their achievements both via this blog and my new radio show – Rewind Extra on Radio Plus Coventry.
In my research I read of award winning film maker Brian Harley, founder of Short Night Films based in Coventry. I decided I had to get in touch to ask Brian what makes him “tick” and, at the same time, celebrate home-grown talent.
What is your initial inspiration for you film making?
Director Brian Harley – Photo by Ben Cook
I’ve always been interested in film. My dad was an amateur filmmaker so I think there might be some influence from him too. Initially, I had my sights set on being a comic strip artist, and this is where I formed some of the skills that I later transferred into my filmmaking (such as script writing and visual composition).
The filmmaking really came into focus though when I discovered Kevin Smith. Granted, he’s not the most visionary filmmaker but his independent spirit inspired me to take the initiative and just get on with it and create something and I haven’t looked back since.
Where do your ideas for your scripts come from?
I don’t think you can always trace where ideas come from. A good idea sometimes just imposes itself on you. I often take a personal moment or experience as a starting point and then write around that and twist out the ends. They’re not strictly biographical scripts but I do reflect myself into them and protract my own experiences of life into the characters.
I prefer to discover it as I go along but I always bury plot mines up ahead and find ways of driving over them so they detonate into the story and open it up, make it more dynamic. I day dream a lot. There is always a fraction or more of my mind that is wading through another world entirely, going through conversations, lines, ideas, stories and characters.
You have written, directed and edited films, which part do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy directing the most because I this is where I feel the most intuitive and sensory. It can be pretty tense though as time is so often against you, so you have to find a way of elongating the time you have and you do that through a combination of being prepared and being tactile!
Can you describe your up-coming short film Apostle’s Manoeuvre?
It’s about a young guy who needs to borrow money so he can pay a debt. He turns to his estranged father to help who invites him to play bingo to see if they can win the money.
Up until recently, I thought it was about probability and how events and circumstances can drastically shift your course in life. It still is of course, but recently, I realised that it’s actually about reconciliation and that made me realise that my last few films have also explored reconciliation as a primary theme.
What are your highlights from making this short film?
There are many highlights of making this film. It was a good natured, relaxed shoot. Seeing people you’ve brought together getting along so well is a really encouraging thing. You feel a bit like Cupid in that sense, in that you’ve invited the right chemistry into the room. This is certainly the case working with the cast. I really enjoyed the chemistry between the actors and framing their performances so they were as truthful as possible.
I have watched Eventide and A Dream I Had online, both extremely powerful and emotional films, how do you ensure your actors find and keep that emotion?
I don’t like to rehearse the material too much. Obviously I like the actors to know their lines but I’d rather they didn’t get too used to saying them out loud as the risk is the performances can become a bit dead behind the eyes if you over do it. I am becoming more and more liberal with my scripts, allowing actors to paraphrase here and there and improvise.
A Dream I Had
Any techniques that naturalise the performance I will use. I often tell the actors not to stop themselves if they make a mistake because it’s in those little moments where moments of humanity exist – stuff that you just can’t write or ask for. I study body language and facial expressions too. This is where you can create communicate the emotional stuff subliminally and intelligently to your audience.
You dedicated Eventide to your father, can you describe how it felt watching it completed for the first time?
Well, by the time I declared it completed I already knew what it consisted of as I had to review it so often in the edit. I was alone the first time I watched it all the way through.
It was late at night, early hours. I guess it was a rather private sacred and proud experience for me because I got to tune in to what I had made and finally experienced it as an audience would. Watching someone else watch it for the first time though is where I really got to see how bewitching it is. I discovered that it was a personal film which everyone else found personal.
Have you ever filmed in Coventry/Warwickshire and what do you look for in location?
Eventide – Photo by Tom Thorp
Coventry is such a dynamic backdrop to tell stories. Personally, I tend to avoid depicting postcard Coventry in my films. I find it very unimaginative.
I’d much rather find ordinary, immersive locations that serve the story and the characters appropriately. Locations can overstate or understate and it’s very important for a filmmaker to be aware of the location’s impact on the scene they’re shooting.
What advice would you give to local people who want to make films?
Write and shoot within your means. Get involved with Call the Shots and Roots to Shoots and take the time to get to know your fellow filmmakers and collaborate. Be instinctual, listen and observe carefully and stay calm!
If you could have written, produced or directed any film in history what would it have been and why?
Jaws. It’s a masterpiece. It was shot against so many odds and yet it emerged as one of the most engaging films ever made. It’s a proper film text. From the performances, the visual style, the music, the direction. Everything. It considers the audience with such precision that there could be no superior version of this film.
What is the best song that you have heard from a film and why?
‘Falling Slowly‘ from the film Once.
It encapsulated the process of falling in love within the process of making music so wonderfully and teases out all of the nuances of a genuine simpatico relationship.