Interview with Harry Baker

2015_HARRYHarry Baker’s thrilling short film THE SWALLOW, about a honey trap set in nineteen sixties Soho, played at the 2015 Cambridge Film Festival as part of the Film Hub Central: Shorts collection. We spoke to Harry about his film making process.

Garry Pope: How did it feel seeing your film up on screen playing to a live audience?

Harry Baker: It’s a great experience. There’s a kind of magic about a big screen in a dark room, and seeing your own work up there is very special. That’s still the ultimate goal for any film.

GP: What was most enjoyable, writing or directing, and why?

HB: Writing is more my comfort zone, I’ve been doing it longer, and it’s nice to be able to lock yourself away and re-draft until you get it right, which is a luxury you don’t have on set. At the same time, the energy of working with cast and crew transforms the creative process. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when I wished I could crawl back into a dark room, but the feeling when things start to come together on set really is unbeatable, and that’s what I’d miss the most if I was focussing only on writing.

GP: What would you do differently if you could make the film again?

HB: During the shoot I was sleeping on a friend’s sofa because I’d prioritised the film over house-hunting – I think I’d try and avoid that situation if I did it again…

GP: What blockers did you face making the film, and how did you overcome them?

HB: It was a very ambitious project for a student film – we were building a replica Soho nightclub in a studio, seeking out period-appropriate locations, costuming a cast and trying to make the whole thing look as though it was shot on a proper budget. Combine that with a very tight schedule, and just keeping on top of the logistics was a real challenge. It took a lot of careful planning, and a fair bit of frantic panic, just to make sure that everything was ready for the shoot.

In a way, though, the biggest challenge for me was to put all of this to one side once I got on set, and concentrate on directing the film I wanted to see. It would have been very easy to lose track of story and character in the midst of so much behind-the-scenes difficulty, when those are really the only things a director should be thinking about. Fortunately, I could count on a very hard-working crew and cast, and between us we muddled through. I’m a fan of muddling through in all walks of life, but it seems to be a particularly crucial ability in filmmaking.

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GP: What directors/writers have inspired you and why?

HB: Too many to list, but a couple of key influences on the look and feel of THE SWALLOW were KLUTE (1971) directed by Alan J. Pakula and written by Andy and Dave Lewis, which is one of my favourite films in any genre, and the 2011 adaptation of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY directed by Tomas Alfredson and written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan.

Inspiration is a funny thing, though – sometimes that feeling of wanting to run out and make a movie as soon as the credits end follows a masterpiece, and sometimes it follows an absolute stinker. You can’t control what causes the spark! I do try to read and watch as widely as possible, in the hope of encountering it.

GP: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to get their film made, which you wish someone had given to you before you started?

HB: Worry less. I probably wouldn’t have taken it, but I’m working on that.

GP: What’s next for Harry Baker?

HB: I’m working on quite a number of short film projects in various roles, principally as editor. I also have a script about an online troll – quite a departure from the world of THE SWALLOW – which I’m hoping to shoot in January as my graduation film from the London Film School. And after that, there’s the real world, which I’ve heard an awful lot about…

 


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