38-year-old Andrew Haigh began his film career as an assistant editor, working on an array of films from Hollywood hit Gladiator to Mister Lonely by indie master Harmony Korine. Four years ago, however, he stepped out of the cutting room to try his hand at writing and directing; skills at which he has proven himself particularly adept. Weekend, his second feature film, premiered at SXSW festival this time last year and was met with instant and widespread critical acclaim, thereafter picking up a variety of awards and taking box offices by (well-deserved but unpredicted) storm. Cited by Bruce Weber as one of his favourite films, and today released on DVD, it tells the story of two men whose one-night-stand unfolds into an intimate and surprising love affair, set within the confines of a single weekend.
Now working on two keenly-awaited projects, the details of which he is eager to keep under wraps (except to say that one is set in America, the other in the UK; one written by him, the other adapted from a novel), Haigh is refreshingly candid about his directing experience so far: "Some people are in their element when they’re directing: they love it. I find it quite stressful; I’m not running on set filled with joy. There are so many things going on in your head and sometimes you think, 'Why am I doing this? This is not good for my heart!' But you just know you want to do it." Here, we talk to him about what makes for a good film and how a Dolly Parton movie proved an unlikely influence upon him...
What makes a good film?
It has to be about something. Whatever it is – if it’s a comedy, if it’s a Star Wars, if it’s an arthouse drama – it has to have a distinct theme. The audience doesn’t have to know what that is but the filmmaker has to know and feel what that theme is or it’s not going to be any good.
What inspires you?
It’s such a hard thing to pinpoint because basically every single thing that’s happened to me in my life, from the day I was born, has created whatever is in my head and makes me want to make certain films. I think it’s everything: books, films, characters…there’s such a wealth of inspiration.
"A good film has to be about something. Whatever it is – if it’s a comedy, if it’s a Star Wars, if it’s an arthouse drama – it has to have a distinct theme..."
Was there any one film you watched when you were younger that made you want to make films?
No, I wish there was. Honestly, a film I watched lots when I was younger is 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton (laughs). I don’t want to make films like that but I loved it as a kid – a little gay kid watching 9 to 5! I’ve often thought what it is about that film that I liked and actually, even though it’s a city farce, underneath it’s about women being marginalised in the work place – people not getting the most from their lives and not fitting in. And I was that kind of kid: one who didn’t fit in.
Do you have any mentors for your filmmaking career?
No guiding hands so to speak but there are some filmmakers who influenced me when I was working as an assistant editor. I worked on a Harmony Korine film and that was really fascinating – just seeing him work and seeing the choices he made in the editing room was really inspiring.
What’s your favourite film at the moment?
I watched The Last Picture Show by Peter Bogdanovich again about a week ago and it’s just brilliant. It’s Jeff Bridges in one of his first roles and is definitely one of the best films of the 70s.
Do you have a motto for life?
Try to not be miserable and to not to be too harsh on yourself. We all have an ideal of who we want to be and it’s tough to get there, so it’s important not to worry if you don’t get there and to realise that sometimes it’s all right just to do fuck all and to take the pressure off yourself.
Weekend is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures and is available on DVD from today.
Text by Daisy Woodward