Featured Filmmaker: Will Hooper

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This time our featured filmmaker is a very intriguing young man called Will Hooper. We became aware of Will through the Hankins brothers in Bristol who describe him as having a ‘good brain’. His graduation film Grounded was screened at our inaugural film festival at Band Films Studios earlier this year. We’ve become big fans of his ‘brain’ and wanted to creep inside it a little:

I’ve watched a few of your films and they all have no dialogue. How many no dialogue films have you made?

Well, I’ve made 5 films thus far and 0 films with dialogue… And strangely enough the fact that there hasn’t been dialogue in any of my films wasn’t an intentional stylistic choice I made when I decided to make films. And this is the case with each project individually: usually I write a script, with dialogue in it. And that dialogue usually finds itself as far away from the outcome as possible. But that’s definitely not a conscious decision of mine at the start of each project, for there to be no dialogue I mean. I value dialogue very highly and I am very mindful of how dialogue can be used very purposefully and poignantly. But, as much as I recognise this, I also think dialogue can be used in a very negligible manner, and it almost becomes damaging.

If a message or intention can be rendered in wordless moving images, that to me is more impressive and interesting. You don’t HAVE to secure understanding with dialogue. It’s like there is this strange assumption that the audience are in someway thick and need to provide context and that they need complete understanding ALL THE TIME – that you have to give them absolutely everything. But I’m more interested in when that understanding slips or falters slightly, when you’re greeted with something that you hadn’t expected or with something that you don’t out-rightly understand.

Tell us about Grounded, what’s it about, where did it come from?

My childhood best friend and I, Jack Snelling, have been making things together for years and years and we talked about, and finally decided on, working together on a bigger project for our respective degree’s final pieces. He studied at Westminster and I studied at Kingston. I had initially written a treatment and the start of a script for something, which was very much a conventional narrative piece about a man who struggles to love and begins to despise/fear his newly born son, caring for, as you would a child, the allotment he kept: a sort of misplaced paternity. And this was a sort of catalyst I suppose for what subsequently became the film Grounded. Jack and I have always had an inclination towards a DIY / lofi attitude with the work we make together, and that is definitely the case with Grounded. Not necessarily by paying attention to that fact, but more like a redirection of our attention towards the story and how we wanted to present it. We almost adopted the idea that limitation was a form of aesthetic in itself, embracing and displaying the film’s artifice, which takes cues from the reflexive theatre of Brecht and sticks it in the pressure cooker setting of Beckett. The story is an unnerving tale of misplaced paternity.

Grounded Group Stills

Why do you make short films?

I think short films can be an interesting platform for artists and filmmakers to experiment with ideas and tones, much more so than a commitment to a feature film.

Do you think short film is relevant to audiences? If so how and do you see any problems?

It’s an interesting question, which until now I’ve never really given a thought. I mean I’ve thought about audience’s relationship to my work before, as it’s something I’m very interested in experimenting with, but never short film as an entity that is consumed by many.

I think ultimately yes short film can be relevant to audiences, but perhaps not in the same multi-faceted way that features are. And that’s possibly to do with short films being less attributed to entertainment and more derivative of showcasing talent perhaps? For most people, from my understanding of it, conventionally make short films as a stepping-stone to progress onto a feature film, much like a new band will record an EP or demo before they do a record. You could almost assume it as a practice, or perhaps it can go on to act as a guarantor for potential funding for a feature.

I’m speaking of short film in a conventional sense here. Obviously with experimental film and films of an underground characteristic, it differs slightly and becomes more about the work being a singular, self-encompassing piece, or series of pieces.

How do you like to work?

There is a double-barrelled answer here for what I think is a double-barrelled question. There is “How do I like to work?” and “How do I actually work?” as they are very, very different.

I’d like to work in an open space, like a barn or a warehouse, with a desk and a set, where I can write whilst simultaneously be building sets and experimenting physically with the space. I could build something and shoot it, strike it, build something else, shoot some more and repeat this process with ease. That is the dream.

However, my work process at the moment is very much, sat at my desk, in my bedroom, which is conveniently plopped directly beneath the District Line in Putney, with a pen and paper, and struggling to articulate and fully actualise ideas. I find the writing process painfully argues at times, and there is a lot of waiting around for the right moment and then when you’re onto something, suddenly everything floods in at once. It’s like 85% scrolling through Facebook, refreshing emails, watching films, reading books, 10% writing things down whilst simultaneously being very conscious of the fact that it’s probably rubbish and you’ll rewrite in an hour and 5% of that will do.

Tell us about your C4 funded short

Channel 4 are re-launching Random Acts this year with a programme called Stop Play Record. Which is a scheme that funds a handful of new filmmakers and artists each year to make a short film respectively. I was included in the programme this year and was given some money to make a film called The Roof Over Their Heads, which is an experimental narrative about a family and the relationships within the family. It will be airing on the Random Acts website later this year and I’ve recently received some mega news that the film is to be broadcast on Channel 4. As some of the films made as part of Stop Play Record get put forward for a new programme that Channel 4 will be launching at some point (sorry for the lack of details), which will be dedicated to experimental and underground film. I think it’ll be a return or something similar to those amazing Midnight Underground programmes channel 4 used to do.

What are your influences?

Heck. So, I’m influenced by a lot of different people and work that go onto influence a lot of different things that I do.

I’ll give you a list of artists, filmmakers, authors, poets, playwrights who’s work I admire and have definitely had an affect on the work I make:

Harold Pinter, Jan Svankmajer, David Lynch, B.S Johnson, Yorgos Lanthimos, Flann O’Brien, Luis Bunuel, Derek Jarman, Franz Kafka, David Cronenberg, Samuel Beckett, Haruki Murakami, Ivor Cutler, Andre Breton, Ann Quin, Paul McCarthy.

This isn’t necessarily an influence as such, but a lot of the ideas for my films are formed from pictures. I collect a lot of images, and have folders and folders on my Desktop that are full with images, links, screenshots, which I guess are like little nuggets of ideas that I can access later on. Sometimes I’ll save an image and not understand why I feel connected to it immediately, but I find that subconsciously I’ll appropriate at a later time.

I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami’s work can you tell me more about how it appeals to you?

I should in fact add that I love the translation of Murakami’s work, and I stress that as I’m quite convinced that a lot of the work is built and also lost during the translation. But having said that, what I do like is the protagonists in his stories; troubled internally, usually subjugated by another (be it a person/people or a situation) and I like the existential sensibilities of those character’s internal dialogues. I also like the sense of stillness that materialises when I’m reading his work. There is a meditative quality to the way he writes about things like solitude and anguish, and the only way I can explain the sensation it evokes in me is stillness.

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Tell us about the 31 things project you did in January

The January thing was my stab at a New Years Resolution, as I’ve never really done one. So I thought I’d set myself the goal of making a single thing (which could be anything) every day for the month of January. I found the project quite therapeutic – making work that was very non-committal and not having to worry about the repercussions or reception, as it was just a personal project, which initially I had no intention to share. I found the first week quite difficult, creating something from nothing for sake of creating something was an unusual process for me, but I found that as the days started to stack up and the cogs were oiled, there was a much easier relationship between myself and that process. You can see what I got up to here (http://31-things.tumblr.com/), the works vary from prose, music, even a soap dish.

Where next?

For a while now, I’ve wanted to make a cluster of short films that are part of a larger piece; not necessarily connected by anything tangible like characters or situation, but perhaps linked by themes or tone, so hopefully I can get started with that soon! I don’t think I’ll tackle a feature film just yet… not until I can grow some facial hair at least.Self 2