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Andrew Haigh

“I wanted a gentle realism, verging on documentary. I also wanted to create a sense of intimacy with the audience and the characters on screen, as if we had been invited in by them, to watch them, to experience the weekend as they do. My influences are pretty varied from filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt, Ramin Bahrani and Joe Swanberg to the the photography of the artists Quinnford and Scout.”

IONCINEMA.com’s “IONCINEPHILE of the Month” puts the spotlight on an emerging filmmaker from the world of cinema. This month we feature Andrew Haigh and his highly praised Weekend — a SXSW winner that after a solid opening weekend in New York continues to expand into theaters via the IFC’s Sundance Selects label and is available via On Demand. Don’t forget to check out Haigh’s Top Ten Film of All Time list.

Eric Lavallee: During your childhood…what films were important to you?
Andrew Haigh: I would love to say that when I was a child it was Bergman or Welles or some master of cinema, but of course I was a child and those films would have bored me to death. I used to watch “Some Like Hot” and “9 to 5” constantly when I was a kid. I’m not sure what that says about me apart from that I was a pretty gay kid very early on.

Lavallee: During your formative years what films and filmmakers inspired you?
Haigh: Once I started really getting into film, I became obsessed with Nic Roeg. “Don’t Look Now,” “Walkabout,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth” – they were all incredible films to me when I was a teenager, filled with a passion for cinema and a verve that you don’t see nowadays. I think he is Britain’s greatest filmmaker. When I was about 18, I worked in a cinema in London, then called the NFT and they would show brilliant retrospectives from Howard Hawks to Cassavetes. It was a real education. I think perhaps my most profound experience was watching Antonioni’s “L’Avventura.” It was showing with an earphone commentary instead of subtitles, only I wasn’t allowed to use the earphones because I was an usher, but the film blew me away. The images were simply incredible and for while I became convinced that I needed to make films like him. I soon realized I couldn’t, so I gave up that fantasy.

Lavallee: Could you outline at what point you knew you wanted to be a filmmaker and how that panned into working as an editor on major studio films?
Haigh: I think I wanted to make films from about 10 years old. I used to sit alone in my bedroom and draw film posters. I would spend hours coming up with the stories, always giving myself a huge credit as the director. Actually, to start with, I also cast myself, so I must have had a massive ego as a child. As I went to school and University, I ended up not studying film. I think I figured filmmaking was such an unlikely dream that I should try and study something more practical so I could get a job. I studied history, but then after I left college, I started hunting for jobs in the film industry. This led me to to editing, which is a great place to learn the mechanics of storytelling. I should say of course that when I worked on all of those big studio films, it was only ever as an assistant editor and not the main editor. Pietro Scalia, I am not.

Andrew Haigh Weekend

Lavallee: What was the genesis of the project?
Haigh: I wanted to make a character drama hidden within the structure of a romance. I wanted to tell a story about two guys falling for each other and do so honestly and authentically. I never wanted to tone down the gay aspects of the film in order to make it more palatable, but neither did I want it to be simply a gay film. I always thought that the best way to say something universal is actually to be very specific, and that is what I tried to do.

Lavallee: What kind of characteristics/features were you looking for your main characters during the casting process and how Tom Cullen and Chris New were selected for the parts.
Haigh: The key to me was always to cast two people who had chemistry, and that is what I looked for in the casting process. This film would only have been successful if we believe that these people could fall for each other. I also wanted two guys that looked pretty normal. Two guys that you could imagine being friends with. The first time I put Tom and Chris in a room together I knew they would both be amazing. I remember the feeling of excitement, and to be honest, relief watching them work together.

Andrew Haigh Weekend

Lavallee: What ideas did you have for the style of the film? What inspirations (other films, location, paintings etc…) did you draw upon for the look/style, aesthetics of the film?
Haigh: I wanted an authentic visual style for this film. I wanted a gentle realism, verging on documentary. I also wanted to create a sense of intimacy with the audience and the characters on screen, as if we had been invited in by them, to watch them, to experience the weekend as they do. My influences are pretty varied from filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt, Ramin Bahrani and Joe Swanberg to the the photography of the artists Quinnford and Scout.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with Cinematographer, Ula Pontikos
Haigh: This of course was a vital relationship. I loved what I had seen of her work. She shoots everything with a tenderness and her operating is incredible. When we started to work together, we got a little heated in our first meetings. I was perhaps a bit too controlling and she has strong opinions but we soon came up with what we wanted for the film and it became a great partnership. We worked like a foursome, me and Ula and the two actors and it was a perfect for recreating the intimacy on screen we needed. She is also incredibly sensitive to what is happening on screen, knowing when to look at what and why. She just knows when the camera needs to pan to which character, and when you are shooting long takes with no coverage, this is essential.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with producer Tristan Goligher
Haigh: Tristan is an incredible producer and he managed to put this film together in some amazingly creative ways. He is also a very creative producer, helping on the script, giving ideas and thoughts. He also cares a great deal about creating a certain type of atmosphere, hiring the right crew for the film, respecting them completely. I cannot stress how important that is for a film. I always feel sorry for him though, because no one ever mentions a producer in a review, but what they do directly effects what we see on screen. For example, my film would not have been the same if we had not found the right apartment for the main character and Tristan made that happen.

Lavallee: Can you discuss the collaborative process you had with Sound Recordist/Designer Tim Barker
Haigh: He is incredibly dedicated to getting what you need, and always comes up with creative ways to do it. We shot in real locations with real background noise which would have driven most sound recordists crazy, but not Tim. He also did the sound design for us and he did a great job. He knows that being subtle is what is important. There is one scene – on the bed, when the two characters are talking towards the end of the film, and Tim had hidden some special, very sensitive microphone under the the pillow, as well as using the boom. In post, we then slowly took away the sound from the boom leaving nothing but the pillow mic. He managed to give that scene an incredible sense of growing intimacy which is exactly what was needed.

Weekend opened in theatres via Sundance Selects on September 23rd. 

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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