"I wanted to explore the lost love we experience in our 20s" - An Interview with Harry Macqueen, director of Hinterland


Written by Esme Rees
16 Monday 16th February 2015

Just shy of his 30th birthday Harry has already checked off a mighty list of achievements and not prepared to sleep on his successes he has undertaken the role of actor/writer/director/budget manager - you name it, for Hinterland, his 10k budget, shot-in-13-days debut film.

So, Harry, please tell us a little bit about what we can expect from Hinterland?

Hinterland is an intimate, original British road-trip movie. A travelogue of sorts about two friends who escape city life for a weekend to re-connect after some time apart from one another. If you are a fan of character driven, naturalistic relationship pieces on the backdrop of beautifully shot, epic landscapes this is the film for you! 

Hinterland is appropriately set one weekend in February, ahead of its release by Curzon Cinemas on the 27th of this month. Was that a timely stroke of luck or a scrupulously planned order of events?

Yes, it’s complete chance that we open in cinemas virtually two years to the day we wrapped filming. A lot has happened in that time and it feels lovely that there has been a cyclical element to the whole thing. It almost feels as cold today as I write this as it was back then in the wilderness of Cornwall too!

It's hard to imagine that the filming only took 13 days! Comparably, how long has it been since pen first touched paper, and the writing began? 

I think the speedy turn around is reflective of how free we were when shooting, and how dedicated we were to getting it all in the can, as well as the knowledge that we didn’t have many resources for it to take any longer then that anyway! I think I began actually putting pen to paper in October 2012 and we started shooting the following February so that was pretty quick too. The plan was always to create a script that was flexible enough to allow for us to play around with it and improvise when needed. In this way it ended up being more of a firm-ish template for the scenes and how they played out – a blueprint. The main thing was that we strove to make Harvey and Lola as natural as possible on screen both as individuals and in terms of their relationship. I think working in this way, being flexible and having freedom, helped us achieve that. 

The film is almost real time, set over a two-day period. This point of focus allows the viewer a window into the lives of the two characters, enabling us to build an intimate connection with them, the setting and their story. Was this symbolic for you?

Symbolic in that I knew that their re-connection had to be fleeting. It’s a film that hopefully completely sucks us into their very intimate and delicate relationship (counterpointed by the huge landscape of the Cornish coast that surrounds them) for the brief period in which they share it. It is, as you say, a little window into a much larger story. Also, city life tends to have it’s own bearing on how long we can leave it for – a couple of days is often all we can manage annoyingly!

Have you been inspired by other films or directors that present a similar 'beauty in the mundane', shall we say? 

The beauty of cinema it that it has the ability to do such an inexhaustible amount of different things and certainly the challenge here was to focus on that ‘everyday’ element to life. Being honest to the two character’s and their plight was the main thing, which in this context meant distilling their relationship – finding truth and beauty in their interaction on a very simple, natural level. I really admire filmmakers that are brave enough to strip it all back in this sort of way. The film definitely concerns itself with the unsaid so perhaps Joanna Hogg would be a modern example of that kind of focus. I’m constantly inspired by so many film-makers though.

I have to ask, Hinterland is a very natural account of a relationship, did you take any of the dialogue from your own encounters? Are you playing yourself as the lead..?

Ha! No. I’ve never been in that kind of unrecognised relationship but I wanted to explore the period of ennui and lost love that we often experience in our 20’s before that got too far away from me, as I headed towards 30. In terms of love and friendship I hope it resonates with many of us in one way or another. I think most people have been in the situation that Harvey and Lola find themselves in at some stage, to some degree. When people are special to us it’s sometimes difficult to vocalise that for fear of the change it may bring. But Harvey is definitely not like me no, and that’s probably a good thing on lots of levels!

And Lori Campbell who plays Lola, how did you decide she was right for her part?

One of my early worries about making the film was finding someone to play Lola. The specificities of the part are very precise and, although of course Lola completely existed as a person in my mind, I was aware that I had never met her in reality. She’s not based on anyone I know. Lori was suggested to me by a mutual friend and when I met her I knew immediately that she had to do it. It was a pretty crazy experience for both of us but the film couldn’t have been made without her. She brings so much to it.

Let's talk a little about the production of the film. A £10,000 budget is an impressive feat! How did you manage costs? Where were you able to cut back?

Well firstly it was very important to me that everyone got paid and that everyone had a good time. No one got rich out of it that’s for sure but we definitely did have a giggle. Secondly, we knew that the success of the film would lie solely on the two performances so that kind of took the pressure off in terms of what we used to shoot and document that. We spent money on the things we felt were most important – rehearsal time, location scouting, preparing how we were to go about shooting it – that kind of thing. Far less money was put aside for kit and lights and all the gear that comes with that. 

I bet it was bitter on the coast that weekend!

I don’t think any of us have ever been as cold before or since!

I have images of you huddle around in tents, eating pot noodles in the cold but maybe my imagination has got the better of me..?

The six of us who made the film definitely did quite a lot of huddling but no tents nor Pot Noodles happily. We all love cooking so we made sure every night we sat down and made some good food. That side of things was pretty civilised!  

What kind of equipment did you have to facilitate you?

Hardly any. One of the things we are most proud of is how beautiful the film is visually and that falls squarely at the feet of the brilliant DP Ben Hecking. We wanted to give the film a slightly timeless quality so chose to shoot on an old HDV camera and not something more modern (but potentially much easier to use) - the film isn’t even fully HD. I think from memory we had about three Red Head lights, some poly and that’s about it but it certainly doesn’t look like a film that was made under those conditions.

Did you stumble into any problems whilst filming, I presume you weren't familiar with this camera to begin with? With a cast and crew of just six I imagine you all had to be there to aid each other where possible!

Yes, hourly! That’s just the name of the game though. On one morning we broke the only key to the car, had a power cut in the house we were filming/staying in and spent five hours being sick on a fishing boat. We were all very close as a group though and the entire process was a massive collaboration on every level. It had to be and it was a really beautiful thing.  

Tell us about what it means to be a 'carbon neutral' film?

It means a huge amount. If you are making something, whatever it is, you have to be aware of the impact it has on the things around you. Though the very nature of this film meant that offsetting the carbon (which in this instance was done retrospectively) wasn’t a budget-breaking thing to do, films in general tend to be huge machines involving lots of people, travel and equipment. That all takes its toll. I’m very proud we’ve managed to make Hinterland a carbon neutral project and I’m told it’s a first for a British feature. 

Do you think that sticking to the charms of a low budget film is something that you will continue, even if more money and resources were to become available? 

The single most important thing for me when working on a film (be it acting or directing) is that the characters feel real and the story is engaging. You simply don’t need a massive budget for that. There was a kind of freedom in not having any money but I also know how limiting it can be at times. If the opportunity arose I would love to make another film with a budget larger then the one we had for Hinterland but the philosophy we made it with will definitely stay the same.

And finally, please do tell us when and where we can watch Hinterland for ourselves and if there is any way we can support the film and keep up to date with the future endeavours of Harry Macqueen?

The film will be released at Curzon Soho from Friday 27th February and on Curzon Home Cinema on the same day. The brilliant Soda Pictures are distributing the film and I’m touring it around the UK form the beginning of March so you can follow all that on Twitter (@HinterlandFilm), Facebook /hinterlandthefilm or at www.hinterlandthefilm.com. Lots of exciting things coming up so stay tuned!

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