Thursday, December 23, 2010

Filmmakers In Focus - Jason Mehlhorn

Following on from Part 1 of the interview with Irish director, Jason Mehlhorn, it's... Part Two...

It's obvious from your Workbook and by the films you view that your passion lies in European Cinema. Who, if anyone, influences your work?
Well, my top three favourite directors would probably be Tarkovsky, Bresson and Kieslowski but there’s none of their style in my work I don’t think. On the other hand, I am very influenced by Jacques Tati, but he probably wouldn’t even be in my top fifteen favourite directors. But I think I am influenced by the way he utilises the composition of his shots, very simple editing, much visual storytelling, slow pacing and his use of sound in films. Although having said that my first short film which was made before I ever heard of Tati has some of these traits too, so I’m not sure.

Here's a question I want to have a little fun with over the series, so please forgive me. As i sit here I imagine many a chin being stroked, which kind of amuses me given the scale of the question being asked. Describe yourself in one word?

Backfire - [laugh] Talk to us about Directing? What, in your opinion, does that particular role involve and when do you suggest is a good time to take the plunge? If there is such a time.
I think a good time to take the plunge is when you feel it’s the right time, although sometimes ignorance is bliss too. If I knew how difficult I’d find Ulterior I’m not sure I would’ve embarked when I did. But having done it I’ve learnt so much that now a second feature doesn’t scare me. Regarding the role - I see a director as a creative coordinator trying to get many different areas of filmmaking to gel.

You collaborated with Starofash/Heidi Solberg Tveitan, a Norweigan singer/musician on the music for Ulterior. It's a fantastic score which I found perfectly matched Ulterior? How did that come about?

Thanks. I was listening to an album she wrote for and I had just bought and when a certain song came on, the feel and mood was what the film needed so I emailed her record company. She was the first person onboard as I wasn’t looking for anybody at that point; I was still writing the script actually. Heidi is very versatile but still has a lot of authorship or style and this was important to me. I wanted music with a bit of character. I really didn’t want a very conventional thriller score that you’d find in most very low budget films, you know that horrible cheap sounding stuff with violin sections - just really generic and tacky sounding. Neither did I want source music I think it’s called, you know CD or library music crowbarred into scenes. I was actually planning to go with no music in the film if I hadn’t picked up that album.

So, here's another chance for us to pick your mind.
Jason Mehlhorn on Music ( We appreciate a controversial approach, so don't feel you should hold back)

I’m not a musician and it was my first time working with a composer, so I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer such a question in some philosophical way. I would recommend having the emotional level of any music along the same levels as the emotions of the scenes, it sounds obvious but I see it quite rarely in low budget films. I think it happens because filmmakers think their characters are more likable than an audience finds them.

You're sitting at home with your first feature in the hard drive. Did you launch into post-production immediately, or do filmmakers tend to take breaks between the three principal areas of production?
Yes, I’d imagine they would take breaks but I didn’t, maybe a day off or something. There were breaks away from the film both planned and forced along the way. It was a two year process so doing that full time would have caused madness.

Take us through your post-production process? How do you approach it? Is there a standard path to follow or are all filmmakers different in how they approach this area?
I personally hate post-production so don’t eagerly or willingly talk to other filmmakers about what they do. However, I’d imagine the process would be fairly similar. Edit a visual rough cut, get it locked [i.e. into a state were it stops changing], work on all the sound and do colour grading. In theory it’s quite simple. For me the locked visual cut came last, and I done most sound and some colour grading as I went along. Sometimes these things informed the edits see.

Jason Mehlhorn on Editing.
I think if a director is also editing it’s a good idea to get feedback as you proceed. The last thing a director can do is look at their own film with any kind of objectivity.

Ok, let's get off films for a moment and refer back to an earlier remark about your interest in Philosophy. If you had to condense down your philosophy on life into 3 sentences based on where your current believes are, what would you write? It's ok if the last sentence has the words 'shoot Noel' in it.
My only philosophy on life is not to have a philosophy on life. Yes, another cop-out answer I’m afraid - I really don’t like talking about myself!

To wrap up Part II Jason, what has been the most difficult area thus far for you in film production? You've taken something from an idea to a physical state of being, if there was one thing you'd like to avoid next time around, what would it be?
I would like to avoid funding the next film myself! But that mightn’t be possible. More seriously, I guess needing to produce the film, as I said earlier it takes a toll on the creative side of things. I will look into trying to find someone though. Regarding the most difficult, I’d probably still say post-production.


The final part will be along in a few days.

Sophie's Theme from Ulterior.

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