‘Patience’ dir. Rob Hackett

Envy and kindness through the eyes of two old women.

Writer-Director: Rob Hackett
Producers: Jane Saunders and Rob Hackett
DOP: Vladimir Trivic
Key Cast: Elizabeth Ross, Ida Goldapple

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Patience’ come from? What inspired it?

RH: I’ve always liked those films that go against convention and cast older actors as central characters – films like David Lynch’s ‘The Straight Story’ where the main character’s face says so much without even speaking. My wife had this idea of an imaginary window on the world, I took this as a starting point and worked a story around it.

C8: Can you describe your writing process?

RH: It varies from project to project but it certainly gets quicker the more experienced I get. Short film scripts require a compact idea, whereas features are a different beast altogether. During the writing process for both formats, especially with a feature, I like to get feedback from a script consultant, as when you’re consumed by the world of the script it’s very hard to know if you’re capturing what’s in your head.

C8: The film was shot on 16mm. did you have any prior experience shooting with film?

RH: No I hadn’t. In fact I’d only directed one short before which was shot on digital, so it was quite a jump in shooting formats. At the time I thought filmmaking was going all out digital – a debate that is still very current – and I wouldn’t get the opportunity to work with film, so for me I wanted that experience. Finding a good cinematographer with 16mm experience made a big difference both to the film and my confidence on the shoot.

C8: What did 16mm offer you that digital formats did not?

RH: 16mm film has a nostalgic feel to it and this felt appropriate for certain themes in ‘Patience’. Digital can often reveal too much so this format felt right for this idea of memory and an imagined world.

C8: Were there any special considerations you had to make when shooting on 16mm?

RH: With film everyone is mindful of the shooting constraints, so there’s a healthy tension to get things right quicker. I make sure I spend a good amount of time with the actors but don’t over rehearse to ensure the right element of spontaneity in the performances. Overall, irrespective of format, I always do a lot of storyboarding and prepping both digital and film deserve equal amounts of consideration.

C8: What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers looking to shoot using film reel? 

RH: Make sure you have a good 1st AD. Whilst you’d want that on any shoot of course, an experienced 1st who can make life easier for the camera department is essential, especially as film cameras take much longer to re-set than on a digital shoot. Also, make sure you have the whole process planned out or at least make some good post-production contacts as the back-end can be the financial killer when it comes to shooting on film.

C8: What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot and why?

RH: Finding two good actresses of the correct age was a big challenge, most are retired or so famous. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench etc - that they would be out of my range. Also, the hospital location proved difficult on a small budget, as although I’d secured a hospital months before, two weeks prior to shooting the locations company got a better offer from a feature. After a lot of ringing around I found another hospital prepared to let us use a physiotherapy room then our brilliant production designer had his work cut out.

C8: ‘Patience’ had a great run on the festival circuit. What do you think has attributed to its success? 

RH: It took a little time for ‘Patience’ to break into the festival circuit, so I think perseverance helped. After it screened at a few key festivals the acceptances to other festivals came through quicker and more frequently.

From the comments I got, I think the appeal was having two central characters of an age not common in short films and a touching story that can be universally understood. Audiences seemed to relate to the traits of the old ladies and their two different outlooks on life. We were fortunate to find two fantastic actors, both 80 at the time, whose natural performances brought the story to life.

C8: Are film festivals still the best place for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work?

RH: I think it depends both on the type of film and the filmmakers goals. For me with ‘Patience’, I was keen to see an audience connect with it as intended, on a cinema screen. You learn a lot about filmmaking from watching an audiences response to your work. Plus festivals are great places to meet like-minded people and gain industry recognition. I was lucky enough to be flown to a few festivals in Europe. European festivals seem to have more funding to bring over the filmmakers and the various award wins for ‘Patience’ were motivating.

It has to be said that some filmmakers get more exposure online with their short films than with festivals. It’s worth noting that Festivals are changing their attitudes and many will now accept films that are already available online. I think the smart thing to do is make both work for you, work out a strategy, who your audience is and if it’s online, where online? If you’re going for festivals, you need to research the festivals relevant to your film.
C8: What had you done in your film career up until this point and what have you done since? 

RH: I’d directed one short film before this but ‘Patience’ really confirmed I wanted to go further with filmmaking. I did more training – screenwriting, working with actors plus a directing course at the NFTS – and looked for opportunities to hone my craft. More shorts, music videos, a corporate and more recently a fashion promo which screened in this year’s London Short Film Festival. My most recent project is 35mm short film called ‘Boris In The Forest’. I’ve also been developing two feature scripts which I hope to direct.

C8: You’ve also dabbled in music promos. Is your directorial process different when you direct a music video as opposed to a narrative short? 

RH: The focus is different to directing a narrative short, with the soundtrack already taken care of, the priority is the visual experience. This means during the shoot I’ll normally spend more time with the Director of photography than on a short film, where I’ll need time with the actors. One of the reasons I enjoy directing promos is the opportunity to broaden my experience with film techniques. Plus the whole process is quicker – from pitching the creative to completion.

C8: What, in your opinion, makes for a good collaboration?

RH: Firstly, I think the director needs to create an environment where people feel it is a collaborative process and their ideas will be heard. Then once actors, crew, editor, composer etc understand what the director is trying to achieve, they can then bring that to life.

I’ve just had a productive collaboration with a writer and a producer on this recent short film. The film is unusual and we needed clarity about the type of film we were making and our expectations. Our partnership worked well as we discussed all of this this from the outset.

C8: What’s next for you? Any exciting projects lined up?

RH: Right now we’re putting the finishing touches to the 35mm short film I mentioned www.borisintheforest.com and we’ll be starting its festival campaign soon. Hopefully my next directing project will be one of the feature scripts I’ve written.

You can find out more about Rob Hackett and his work here.