Discover Tuesdays / Interview

Interview with Harry Macqueen, director of Hinterland


Lindsay Harvey, Marketing Administrator at Picturehouse HQ talks to Harry Macqueen, director and star of this week’s Discover Tuesdays gem, Hinterland.

I know that you were able to make the film because of receiving £10,000 inheritance money, but did you have plans to direct before that?

Not really, or at least, not yet. I have always written in my downtime from acting and I think I knew I would like to try and turn something into a film at some point, but making Hinterland was very much a situational thing. I had some money, as you said, and suddenly a bit of time off between acting jobs. I was also not living anywhere permanently all of a sudden, so it seemed like a good time to try and make something. I love acting and being a conduit in other people’s stories – Hinterland was my attempt to tell my own.

How long did it take to write? Are the themes in the film subjects that you always wanted to write about?

The script was being rewritten constantly, which was an intentional way of working. Lori and I improvised quite a bit on the day and really played with the 45-odd-page screenplay I had written. The script itself took me about a month to write, but after that the process was really communal. We worked hard to sculpt their relationship aided by our brilliant friend Rosie Morris, who had introduced us in the first place. What you see and hear on screen is basically a halfway house between the written word and what Lori and I felt most natural performing in the moment. I definitely wanted to explore love and friendship and make a very intimate film about those two things. I also wanted to make a film about being 20-something in contemporary Britain. The ennui you can often feel at that time in life too. It’s a love story when you boil it down – but then everything ever made is, on some level, I guess.

Did budget constraints limit the story that you wanted to tell? Were there certain scenes you really wanted to shoot but couldn’t?

 Not at all the story we wanted to tell, but it did shape how we told it at times. I knew I wanted to explore the road trip genre and that the film would hinge on the very intimate and natural relationship at its heart. Luckily you don’t need too much money to achieve both those things. Very obviously cars are limiting places to shoot in, and in any case I wanted to try and make a film that observes the characters and lets the performances dictate things – an exercise in framing really. But there is a huge amount of creative freedom in not having any money, if you can channel it in the right way.

I’ve read that Richard Linklater has been a big influence on you. What other filmmakers have had an impact?

I think he’s a complete genius and I had the honour of working with him a few years back when I had a tiny part in Me And Orson Welles. He also invited me to his Q&A for Boyhood at the BFI last year and is incredibly supportive of anyone who wants to try and make something. If you are making independent films I don’t think you can avoid being inspired by him, how he works and what he stands for. There are loads of filmmakers who I admire, obviously, but the ones who directly influenced Hinterland are people like Joanna Hogg, Kelly Reichardt, Wim Wenders and Peter Strickland, as well as films like Chris Petit’s Radio On.

Was Harvey and Lola’s relationship something that you had firmly defined in your head before filming? Did it develop during the shoot?

Yes, I had a very clear idea of the dynamic between them, their history and where the relationship would lead, but how we got there, scene by scene, really developed as we went along. Lori and I only met about two months before we started shooting, so we spent a lot of time together in that period developing the characters as well as our own relationship, which was a lot of fun. As a performer you usually bring a lot to the table in terms of the creative process (or at least you should be allowed to) and Lori certainly did that, so it really became a tangible dynamic after a few weeks of workshopping and rehearsing (and drinking). The film hinges on the natural and organic quality to their interaction so we worked really hard on this, and then let it go where it needed to when the camera was rolling.

As an actor, how was it directing yourself?

It’s fundamentally a pretty stupid thing to try and do – especially if you’ve never directed before! But it was essential in this instance because we didn’t have any way of involving another person. It became an exercise in totally switching off from directing when I was in character and vice versa. I couldn’t have done it without an amazing team though – it was a completely collaborative exercise.

Starting off in the film industry can be difficult but you made it look easy! Any advice for first-time filmmakers in similar situations?

Ha, thanks! Pulled the wool over your eyes! I think the only advice I can give is to stick to your vision and not let it go, but be open to other people’s input as much as you possibly can. Make it a collaboration and make sure everyone is having fun – it has to be an enjoyable experience. Make sure when you’re finished it’s a film you are proud of – that is, at the end of the day, all that matters.

Was the whole thing an enjoyable experience overall? Would you do it again?

Making Hinterland was without question the most difficult thing I have ever done. It’s been totally all-consuming for almost two years – but that’s just the way it goes. We had loads of fun when we were shooting, all huddled together in a little house against the freezing weather outside. It really felt like we were in it together and that’s really important. I’d definitely do it again… if someone will give me some money…

You can buy tickets to tonight’s Hinterland screenings across Picturehouse Cinemas, here.

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