Shot on the lightweight Panasonic Lumix GH3 this week’s short is the story of an arcane experiment being conducted on an imprisoned individual directed by Hunger Creative Director Vicky Lawton. Having directed fashion films, commercials and music promos in the past Hertz is Vicky’s second narrative short film with her first being Ablution in 2012. Today Vicky takes us behind the scenes of chatting to us about some of the more the technical shots in the film and how her background in photography and graphic design has informed her filmmaking.
HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF FREDDY WHITE’S SCRIPT?
I’ve always like the idea of someone being confined to one space, and the complexities of changing character or personality within a controlled environment. I also wanted to have an opportunity for an actor to be able to go through a variety of different emotions in one scenario. So with this as a basis Freddy developed the script.
HOW DID YOU FIND SHOOTING ON THE PANASONIC GH3? WAS IT EASY TO ACHIEVE YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
Yes, it was great working with the camera. Having the opportunity to test it out and really push it to its full potential was exciting as well as teaming it with more complicated camera movements and seeing the results.
CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH HOW YOU ACHIEVED SOME OF THE MORE COMPLEX SHOTS AND SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT THEY PRESENTED?
One of the most complex shots I wanted to achieve was the sense of the camera moving through glass (the interrogation room screen). So to do this scene, we have to track right up to the glass, pause the actors and remove the glass and then continue through.
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU NEED TO HAVEA HIGH LEVEL OF TECHNICAL EXPERTISE TO SUCCEED AS A FILMMAKER?
No. I’m certainly not a trained filmmaker, but I definitely have a vision and technical knowledge to a certain extent, and I’m constantly learning more all the time. I make it my job, when on set, to keep asking questions. I want to know why something works and what I can then do to experiment with it in film. I think determination and passion is probably just as important.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A FILM SHOOT?
I’m pretty methodical in my approach, I like to think through every shot and almost choreograph the movements of both the camera, the light and the actor. The planning is therefore the most stressful for me. I have a set of (badly drawn) story boards that I can work to. I think having an editing background helps, because I see the finished product (in my head) and how it can be cut together before I shoot it. So that helps with shot planning.
HOW DOES HERTZ COMPARE TO YOUR FIRST SHORT ABLUTION?
It’s actually quite similar. Both male leads and both in a confined space. But in Ablution I was focusing on how to bring two characters together while in Hertz I was aiming to show two sides to one character.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO EMERGING FILMMAKERS WANTING TO IMPROVE THE VISUAL AESTHETIC OF THEIR FILMS?
Visual aesthetic is important to what I do and I’m not ashamed to say so. To me it’s another character in the film. I think it’s hard to give advice on what other people’s style should be. I think you have to explore, research, watch and read and pull out the visual cues that you like. Once you’ve selected a batch, you get to see what you like, and probably what your style should be influenced by. I say “influenced”, it’s always about finding a way to make it your own.
COMING FROM A BACKGROUND IN GRAPHIC DESIGN AND PHOTOGRAPHY IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU ARE A ‘SELF-TAUGHT’ FILMMAKER? WHAT ADVANTAGES DO YOU THINK THIS HAS OVER THOSE WHO HAVE GONE TO FILM SCHOOL?
There are great advantages to having my Graphic design and photography degree. And the most prolific for me, is what I learnt from day one, which is “What are you trying to say? What’s the purpose of your project, what are your influences, and what medium are you going to use to explore the concept?” I spent a lot of my degree time doing a lot of provocative photography both fashion and documentary, and everything had a reason, something to back it up.
YOU’RE THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR FOR HUNGER MAGAZINE. WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE AND HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM FILMMAKING?
Hunger is my baby, for sure, but film making for me is a chance to really stamp something with purely my vision. On a stills shoot, I am in control of all aspects, but without being the one clicking the camera, it’s not quite the same control you have over it. Directing film ensures that I get what I want. I think I’ll probably have to start doing fashion photography again, I think it makes sense now for me.
YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A ‘MULTIDISCIPLINARY CREATIVE’. DO YOU THINK EMERGING FILMMAKERS WOULD BE WISE TO DABBLE IN OTHER DISCIPLINES SUCH AS ART, PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN?
No, it’s not right for everyone. I’m just greedy.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR VICKY LAWTON
Probably moving into stills as well as film. I want to try writing more too. There’s a short film I’ve roughly written based on a personal experience, so that would be a good one to start on.