TMS: What inspires you as a filmmaker and how did you get into film?
SH: I was first inspired to want to make film as a young boy, about 7 years old. That’s when my parents bought me my first piece of kit - a standard 8mm, second hand camera. It was clockwork, so you had wind it up and it would shoot for a few minutes.
I was captured by the whole experience of cinema - going to a theatre and sitting with a crowd of people, the anticipation, the curtain drawing back, and then being drawn into a new world. I wanted to be part of that.
The film making was put to one side when I become a music composer, writing music for film and TV and adverts. But we fell on hard times and so it was getting a job in a cinema which really put me back on the film making track.
One day, everyone at work got a mysterious email asking us if we wanted to get involved in a project called Film In The Make. Nobody knew who it was from. It was quite mysterious. But I ended up with a crew of 15 fellow cinema workers, making a short film, without funding.
From there I got the confidence to go ahead and make a feature the same way.
TMS: Third Contact is a blend of drama and sci fi that pushes the theories of physics. What made you decide to make a film this thoughtful and ambitious? And on that note, what films inspired Third Contact.
SH: The things that inspire my work now are various. I don’t really do genre films. Or at least I don’t approach writing a screenplay that way. I don’t sit down and say to myself, “I’m going to write a great crime thriller”. When you write that way you have a certain set of ingredients which need to be contained in story. There’s a recipe.
In fact, when I cook I don’t like to use a recipe, I just get various ingredients and use my instinct. This is pretty much how I write screenplays.
For Third Contact I was influenced by many things. There was the ‘quantum suicide’ idea and how that affected our ideas of mortality and reality.
That was going through my mind while I was also reflecting on love and how when you have lost someone, it’s the good memories, the happy times, which can really drive you mad. Madness and obsession, and depression. As a sufferer myself, depression quite often leads to obsession, as you need something to block out the pain.
I was very attracted to the film La Jetée, by the recently departed Chris Marker. It has a haunting quality. The science fiction element mixes with a love story and a sense of mystery. There’s a filmic poetry to it too. The way the story runs in an impossible circle, too, it’s like an Escher drawing. I think if anything were to drive you mad, it would be living in an Escher drawing.
But maybe reality is like an Escher drawing, and that’s why some of us struggle with it.
TMS: While watching your film last year, I was reminded of movies like Primer and Aronofsky's Pi. Were either of these films a point of reference when making Third Contact, or am I absolutely off my rocker? Either way, fans of those films would enjoy Third Contact and its pacing.
SH: I know those films and like them very much. They weren’t a huge influence on what I was doing artistically, but perhaps more in a practical sense. They were both made for almost no money at all, so I did read about how they managed to do it and tried to follow in their zero-budget filmmaker footsteps.
Another film whose production I looked at closely was Christopher Nolan’s Following. He made the film for nothing by shooting at weekends over a year, so I took that idea and followed a similar production method.
I hope that people who like those films would also like Third Contact. But I think because the film doesn’t fit into any particular genre, some people are finding they like the film when they were not expecting to like it at all. One reviewer was given the assignment of my film but was dreading it, because he normally only likes action films. But he surprised himself (and me) and really got into it. I mean, he didn’t just like it, he loved it. Perhaps, partly, because it was such a surprise.
So I would say anyone can like this film. Because it doesn’t fit into a specific genre, it doesn’t leave anyone out. That’s not to say everyone will like it, it’s just it’s very difficult to know who will like it.
You might say, “Well, I don’t like scifi.” But this isn’t really scifi, so actually you might like it. All I would say is, if you’ve watched the trailer and read a bit about the film, and you find yourself intrigued, then give it a try.
TMS: Considering we've been a spoiler free review site for two years running, what can you tell us about the story of Third Contact without ruining anything for potential viewers?
SH: I can tell you that its about a psychotherapist who becomes drawn into an obsessive investigation regarding the mysterious death of a patient. The film is quite a puzzle, it’s a love story and a psychological thriller, with the use of some ideas from quantum physics.
TMS: So, you've got a Kickstarter campaign running for Third Contact. What exactly are you trying to raise funds for? I think our readers would be interested in finding out and may be willing to support the cause.
SH: We are trying to raise £15000 to get the film a limited cinema release in London. As we are self-distributing the film, we need money to pay for PR so we can let enough people know about the film to make it worthwhile for cinemas to screen it.
Although we plan a limited release at first, the resulting exposure will give us a chance to screen the film elsewhere, if the reaction is as good as we are expecting. We hope to screen the film in other parts of the UK as well as other countries, such as the US.
All the people who worked so hard on this film had day jobs. While I was working in a cinema, others were working in office jobs, or as a cleaner, or serving in a bar to pay the rent.
I do believe this film deserves to be shown in cinemas. And that’s why I am now asking people to support us in our effort to achieve this, the most important part of any filmmaking journey – to show a film to an audience in a theatre.
Nothing would fill me with greater pride than to ask the people who made this film happen to step forward and take a bow at the front of a packed cinema. For what they have achieved, for following me on my crazy adventure, for creating something unique in cinema, they deserve that, they really do.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign for THIRD CONTACT here.