Brian Harley is an award filmmaker and founder of short night films, a Coventry based film making company. He has directed such films as A Dream I Had’ (2013) and ‘Eventide’ (2012), which have even been broadcast on British television.
I came across Brian while researching local directors that I could perhaps shadow and learn from. I emailed him and he got back to me within a few days and was more than happy to help with my research about how to become a director. I felt that having someone who has made it into the industry and lives in the local area, would be an excellent contact to have.
unfortunately with his busy schedule he was unable to actually have a meeting with me, however he did respond to some questions that I sent to him.
Q1. What is your name, and profession?
Brian Harley, filmmaker
Q2. How long have you been making films for?
Over ten years.
Q3. What would you say was the hardest part of your job?
Working without a budget is hard but quite liberating. It forces you to be more resourceful, develop and maintain relationships and and work more imaginatively.
Q4. What would you say to any aspiring young filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves?
Accept that everything you do will always be a compromised vision in some form or another but this is a good thing. Never get complacent and never give up. Also, don’t be a c*nt.
Q5. What first inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I’ve always been interested in film but my dad had a significant influence. He was an amateur filmmaker himself. Watching movies with him inspired me to want to tell stories in some format. Initially, I had my sights set on being a comic strip artist, and this is where I formed some of the skills that I later transferred into my filmmkaing (such as script writing and composition). The filmmaking really came into focus though when I discovered Kevin Smith. He may not be the best director but I credit his independent spirit as the force that made me realise that I could also just take the initiative. Up to that point, I thought the only way into the film industry was to write and sell a script. A few years later, I was invited to be an extra in one of Kevin Smith’s movies. I got to observe the cast and crew working at the highest level. That was a sort of catalyst for me. Later, I discovered the likes of John Cassavetes, another director whose cinéma vérité style of work, and manner of working, I relate to very much.
Q6. If you wasn’t a Director, what profession do you think you would have?
A writer perhaps. An illustrator. A comic strip artist.
Q7. What would you say was the proudest moment of your career?
Many moments. Winning the best short drama award at the Isle of Wight Film Festival was a proud moment. Being an extra in a Kevin Smith film. I got to sit next to Ben Affleck once on a film set. Nira Park agreeing to be my mentor, praise from ‘Sideways’ author Rex Pickett (Sideways was adapted into one of my favourite films), having a film shown on the television. But nothing quite beats the exhilaration of knowing that your own work has connected with people. Getting postive feedback from utter strangers who have seen your work is very humbling and encouraging.
Q8. If you were to compare yourself to another director, who would it be?
I try to make films about the complexities of the human condition, well observed, intimate, amusing, dramatic depictions of people. I’m very fond of Alexander Payne, Michael Winterbottom, Roger Michell, John Cassavettes and Andrea Arnold but I’m influenced by a whole range of other directors too, from Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg.
Q9. I see you’ve made a lot of short films, would you ever make the transition to feature?
Yes, I very much plan to shoot my first feature within the next two years. I want to tell longer stories with more density. Shorts are great though. They enable you to demonstrate your prowess and establish your style and tone. If you’re the reflective type, you’ll also begin to notice the poetics of your work; the subconscious sensibilities and choices you make.
Q10. What was you favourite project to work on?
All of the films I have worked on have unique meaning and memories attached to them.
My latest short A Dream I Had is a particular highlight because it was one of the first occasions when I felt complete trust in the people around me and that was quite enjoyable and invigorating.
Q11. Have you ever created a character you didn’t like?
Not really, no. I have written some antagonists, who might arguably make for unlikeable people in real life, but I enjoy them as film characters. Nowadays, I just try to write authentic, enduring characters, to create motivations for their ‘unlikeable’ behaviour, to essentially reflect real life. If when writing, I suspect I have idealised a character, I will introduce some ambivalence – to mix the feelings a little, to complicate the taste if you like. I’d much rather the audience formed judgements and opinions about authentic characters than just passively watching them. David O. Russell recently said something along the lines of a character’s flaws being the windows to their beauty and I agree wholeheartedly with that.
Q12. Of all the different roles you have played in the film making process, which one is your favourite and why?
My favourite role is directing, as this is where I feel most intuitive and sensory.