Friday 28 September 2012

Interview with Patricia Hetherington

Patricia Hetherington is a New Zealand producer who has been involved in filmmaking since 2005.  
    She moved to London earlier this year, where she now works as an Assistant Registrar at Hult International Business School. In her spare time she likes to tango, attend filmmaking seminars, or work on films. In the short time she has been in London, she has worked on four U.K. films, in roles ranging from production runner to camera operator to director of photography. Oh, and, for exercise, she does bellydancing.
    It's not every day you have a bellydancer drop by your blog and say nice things about it, so when that happened, I took the opportunity to ask her some questions.

*  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I'm from Wellington, New Zealand, born and raised. My mother was English; my father, Kiwi. Both were storytellers. My sister and I grew up hearing about my mother's life travelling the world (her family lived in Kenya for a few years). My Dad could hold court with his tales.

* Can you tell me about your film studies?  Did you go to Film School?

Alex Funke
I'm passionate about film, so my plan was always to go to university and study it. My undergraduate degrees were in Film Theory and Music Composition at Victoria University of Wellington. I was drawn back to study after working, completing an Honours degree in Film part-time. One of my courses was Film Production with Alex Funke. It was competitive to get in. I didn't think I had the necessary experience. Working on my portfolio for the application, I realised that the little film projects I had been doing here and there over the previous 5 years was actually good experience.
Going to Film School has some benefits, as does getting on as many sets as you can. or just making your own films. I think Film School can be more beneficial if you have theory behind you, and have already worked on building up your networks. So I haven’t ruled it out for Masters study. But at the moment I’m making films... which is the best education there is.

*  When did you first take an interest in storytelling?

I grew up with storytelling. But when I was about 15, I realised that I had stories I wanted to tell, and that I wanted to be a filmmaker. Well, a director. A screenwriter. That evolved into being a filmmaker.  

*  Who was the teacher who has had the biggest influence on you?

I’m going to rock the boat over here, and pick three! (Rebel!)
  • Alex Funke, for all of his filmmaking knowledge and enthusiasm. You ask him a question, and he replies with, "Let's try it."
  • Harriet Margolis, for her support, and for introducing me to Feminism in Film. 
  • John Psathas. His passion for music and wealth of knowledge just come across in his composition lectures. May we all have the same passion.

*  You’ve been involved, in various capacities, in the making of about two dozen films. Which is your favourite and why?

I'd say Harmless, because it was the first film that I wrote, directed, produced, edited, and finished. I learnt so much in making that film. I loved it when I'd finished it. Looking at it in retrospect, there are things I would change. But the experience of making your first film is unparalleled. 

*  How has Peter Jackson and The Lord Of The Rings influenced the lives of low-level filmmakers in New Zealand?

The good thing about having such a large production is that it employs and trains up a large number of filmmakers. It’s an investment into the local industry. Those filmmakers can take their experience and make work on smaller projects in the lull between films. A lot of filmmakers were trying to get work on The Hobbit.
    There is a boom and bust effect though. Internationally, large studios make films where the workforce is inexperienced (but enthusiastic) and cheap. The workforce gets trained, charges more, then costs increase. The studios move production to the next country that has an inexperienced workforce and is cheap, where the first country has a large unemployed film industry. There was a huge backlash against Actors Equity when people thought their negotiations were driving the Hollywood studio to move The Hobbit to another country. The government stepped in, overturned a court ruling and offered the studio tremendous tax breaks to keep production here.
    I’m not sure when the bust will happen, but I think the fact that Peter Jackson is still making large movies and has made moves to help and protect the Kiwi Film Industry is a good sign. And we’re doing well as long as we keep making Kiwi films on our own terms.

*  You moved to London at the start of 2012. What led to that decision?

A few factors. There was a boy... 

Mainly I’m here for career development. There are a great many opportunities here. Almost too many! I've only been here four months, and I've already been to a Producing Masterclass, Q+As at the London Film School, the Rushes New Filmmakers Market at BAFTA... I swear there is a film festival every other weekend. There's so much to do!

*  What was the first major difference you noticed about the UK?

People are allegedly not as friendly. If you're on the tube, you avoid eye contact. None of this striking-up-a-conversation nonsense. It's that stiff upper lip. I say allegedly

*  I took a quick look at the map of your London location. Does it feel a bit like living on a UK Monopoly board?

I will always look at certain streets and think of them as a colour. The Strand is red. Leicester Square is yellow. Bond Street is green. I'm doing an art project where I'm recording the ambient sound of a location, and linking it to photos. That way people can experience a location. A friend and I are extending the soundscape project to every street from the Monopoly board. We did Leicester Square last weekend. I'm uploading them to Vimeo, so keep an eye on

*  Tell us a bit about the neighbourhood where you live in London. 

I'm in a place called Seven Sisters, which is in South Tottenham in North London. It (apparently) doesn't have the best reputation, but it suits me. There are large communities of Jamaicans, Ugandans, and other Africans. It's easy to get to most places on the tube or to East London on the bus.

*  How do you fill in your average day in London

I work in the city. My lunchtimes are spent editing, reading scripts, or—heaven forbid—relaxing; I try to listen to film or music podcasts (I recommend John August, Q+As with Jeff Goldsmith, Filmspotting, and The Empire Podcast) whilst on the tube or at work; and then my evenings keep getting packed: dance classes, film screenings, Q+As, catching up with friends. I'm working on finishing some editing projects, and entered a script competition recently. 

*  Did you enjoy the Olympic Games? Or did they increase the hassle in getting about London?

Actually, the Olympics made getting around London (at least where I'm going) easier! It was brilliant. They did such a good job scaring people off the tube and away from the city/working from home/biking to work, that the tube is much less crowded and there are fewer delays. Also where I work is quiet, as it's the media hub. 

The Tube: so quiet, the Prime Minister uses it...
*  What’s happening with your short film The Lake?

It's been a long journey. At the same time as producing The Lake, I've managed to finish my film studies and produce four other short films. Currently we’re waiting on the final cut from the director. The composer is working on the music, I'm working on the sound design (in my spare time), and the director has been working on the colour grading. I managed to arrange a consultant colour grader to help him. We're working on getting it finished within the next two months.

*  You describe yourself as a “Filmmaker, Bellydancer, Composer, Administrator.” What led to the bellydancing?

Patricia shows how...
My aunt teaches. She was one of the first people to bring belly dance to New Zealand, having learnt it in Australia. I started having classes with her in 1999. I loved it, and kept doing it. I was teaching Beginners Classes in Wellington for a couple of years before I left. My career development here is also for my dancing; I've joined some classes here, and am getting involved with the scene. 

*  You’ve been involved in filmmaking in various capacities since 2005. Do you have a grand plan, or are you simply following opportunities as they arise?

There's an element of getting on as many film sets as I can, so I can network and meet people here. I haven't got the networks here that I had in Wellington, so it'll take me a little while to get back into producing. I love producing, because you have to know everything about filmmaking. I'm focussing on three areas: Production, Camera, and Sound. And I'm still doing small projects of my own.

What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe filmmaker in Adelaide
The role of the producer is shrouded in mystery for many filmmakers. Turman's book helped me realise that I am a producer.
    I'm currently reading 'Story' by Robert McKee. 
    I'm also trying to read 100 produced scripts: this was a recommendation at the Producers Masterclass. Read 100 produced scripts so you can recognise great writing, then read 100 unproduced scripts so you can recognise not-so-good writing (or not yet recognised great writing). The aim is to get to the point where you're bored reading scripts, so good writing pops out at you.

*  Name ten of your all-time favourite movies.


The following video was put together by Patricia at Leicester Square, London, in July 2012. It consists of a series of photos mixed with a recording of the ambient sound there. The aim is to transport the viewer where they can see the image and hear the soundscape. (It reminds me a little bit of the Francis Ford Coppola film, The Conversation.)
    Facebook    IMDb    Vimio    Website

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I am fascinated with the advice to read 100 good scripts, so you can recognise great writing, then read 100 poor scripts, so good writing pops out at you. I think this is good advice because whenever I have judged a contest, I always return to my work-in-progress and recognise weaknesses immediately.