David Harkin Illambra Interview

Another great interview with an Irish filmmaker David Harkin who’s short film ”To F” you can watch HERE in our library. David is talking about his beginnings, the importance of visual aesthetics, features of his style and influences on his work.

ILLAMBRA: Tell us a bit how you became a filmmaker, and why are you doing it?

DH: At an early age, I began to question why certain shots were placed in a specific sequence during a film. Not being able to speak until I was five years old has perhaps accelerated my appetite for all things visual. Outside of making my own films, along with young people, I also produce films within the sphere of education, or also either writing about cinema – film is everywhere in my life, I’m not sure what else I would do.

ILLAMBRA: Why film? In which way the motion image enhances your ideas and do you see it as the best tool to express yourself?

DH: Film is king. It’s the best medium to express yourself because everyone can do it. Everyone has a camera in their pocket, all within their mobile phone – It’s become so accessible. 

make up artist Gosia Kustosz with actress Paula Roberts

ILLAMBRA: Do you consider yourself an independent filmmaker, and what are the benefits (and flaws) of it?

DH: Yes, I do, the benefit of independence is freedom – the flaw is getting the film seen in a world jam-packed with film and video.

ILLAMBRA: How does the process of developing your scripts look like? Do you draw your inspiration from the literature?

DH: Indeed, it does to an extent, currently the work of Edgar Allan Poe. More regularly, a single image can sometimes develop into entire screenplays. Ideas gather up, and before along, a scene is designed – then a story and a cast of actors is built around it.

ILLAMBRA: Your films are dialogue-free, you mostly use other, non-verbal means to develop your plot. How does it influence your work with the actors?

DH: I am fortunate; I have a terrific pool of actors who find the lack of dialogue a challenge. In this regard, there is much more discussion on the framing, pace and mood of a scene. The actors who appear in my films are very aware of the importance of the visual aesthetic contained within a scene. Telling a story through non-verbal means reveals the significance of casting – if a film is well cast, chances are, it will be well acted.

Photo of the crew from filming ”To F”

ILLAMBRA: Naturally, visuals represent a crucial element of such storytelling. Being also a camera operator and editor you are fully in charge of creating specific imagery and atmosphere in your films. Could you tell us a bit more about the cinematic language you’ve developed?

DH: Cinematic syntax is naturally essential to all filmmakers. It is even more important if you develop a narrative through non-verbal means; therefore, the juxtaposition of images to create an emotion or an atmosphere is critical to my film grammar as I have no dialogue to bandage the film together if I don’t get it right.

Intrinsically, I place my camera, ready for the scene, aware that the cutting and placement of images is where the film will ultimately be developed. This style’s development has evolved through trial and error, learning how best to communicate visual ideas. Using a static camera is a device I have adopted recently, as it seems to draw the viewer into the frame more. 

ILLAMBRA: Haunting, surreal atmosphere is one of the key features of your style, conveying motifs of identity, trauma, memory… Could you tell us about the influences on your work?

DH: This has developed over time and is highly influenced by the old masters; Welles, Hitchcock and Bergman, and drawing inspiration from Agnès Varda, John Grierson, Brian de Palma, Paul Rotha and Chris Marker.

Inspiration also derives from post-war British cinema, the ‘Free Cinema’ movement, and Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon’s glorious history.

actress Paula Roberts as Frances in ”To F”

ILLAMBRA: Most probably, it is easier to make a film made than to get it seen, shown and distributed. Can you tell us some of your experiences with the audience, audience feedback, and the channels you used to get your films to the people?

DH: I never enjoy sitting with an audience. It’s much too nerve-racking. Although, the times that I have done so have been enriching. The feedback has generally been excellent, although some audience and viewers have questioned my sanity! 

Film festivals are the best, as you have the audience’s attention. In the past, I have had some films produced on DVD in the past, which have been sold in shops as well as having some small public screenings. However, online engagement with an audience has its advantages too as a viewer can watch your film at their convivence.

ILLAMBRA: What do you dream of working with film?

DH: I would like to shoot a film with no script or story and give the actors more freedom: no running time, or effects – just a theme.

ILLAMBRA: Tell us about your latest project.

DH: My next project is ‘Serenade’, a crime film that deals with memory and identity recollection. It will be the third part of a trilogy which includes ‘To F’ – and ‘The Sleeper’.

Thank you for the interview!

The film of David Harkin is available for streaming on Illambra – click HERE to watch.