After travelling the world and producing several critically acclaimed films, BAFTA award-winning filmmaker Hattie Dalton has made Byron Bay her home.
In 2014 BBFF launches ‘Spotlight on Byron’ to celebrate the work of the exceptional filmmakers living right here in the region. This year this retrospective highlights the work of Hattie Dalton including One of Those Days, The Banker and her first feature film Third Star, starring Benedict Cumberbatch who currently also stars in the Oscar-winning Best Film, 12 Years A Slave.
BBFF had the chance to speak with Hattie this week and get to know a bit more about her travels and her trip home.
Not only will the audience at Byron get to see one of your films, they will get to experience a showcase of your talent through 3 films, how does it feel to get the opportunity to be recognised as a world class filmmaker? Does it feel real?
I feel very honoured to have my films showcased at the BBFF. The calibre of some of the films I’ve seen at this film festival are world-class so I’m keeping good company!
Your films possess a loving comedy that instantly hits home and touches the heart, as I think each viewer is able to relate himself or herself to the film in some way or form. You mention that when you first saw the script for Third Star it immediately resonated with you, what was it that stood out to and connected you with this film?
I’m always interested to help tell stories about the truth of being human. With everything that comes with it. And I think humans have an impressive capacity of dealing with difficult situations, often through humour. The script was ambitious, irreverent and touching which definitely aligned with my storytelling sensibility. I think big, important stories can be told without having the audience leave the experience feeling depressed. I think through honesty and a lightness of touch the audience can be entertained, even laugh, so they have the capacity and space to contend with the discomfort that comes with life’s difficulties and dramas.
Were there moments during production of Third Star where you could really see the film coming to life? If so can you tell us a bit about those key moments?
Without giving the story away – we had to shoot a chunk of the final parts of the film early in the shooting schedule. Even while I was directing it I could sense that it was incredibly powerful stuff I was witnessing. In a way I knew we were half way there because clearly the four characters were believably connected and it just meant that we all, cast and crew, had that moment to strive towards. If we could be true to that power I described then the rest would fall into place.
You’ve worked with some highly regarded actors like Benedict Cumberbatch in Third Star, who featured in the Oscar-winning Best Film 12 Years A Slave, and Michael Sheen who featured in The Banker. As a filmmaker, what’s it like to work with actors of this calibre?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with extremely talented actors in all my films. They are attracted to the material and the production itself, which is lucky because they weren’t getting massive financial reward! A film set can be a highly stressful place, especially with the time constraints dictated by low budgets, but if the actors are as professional and prepared as the actors I’ve worked with then it’s made a lot easier. To give direction to actors of that calibre and then witness how they take it on in such subtle, yet profound ways, is really a privilege and a joy and gives me such great choices in the edit!
Did you find yourself learning more about yourself personally and gaining any wise life lessons whilst writing or directing any of your films?
I’ve learnt that you can’t make anything without believing in your talent as a storyteller and that you have to be like a dog at a bone determined to get the film realised. I also [now] know, more than ever, that there has to be space within [for me] to be able to access the most important and useful part of myself – my intuition. I know there is no room for my own ego or to allow others’ egos affect what needs to be done to get the film made and made well. And finally, that in the scheme of things…. it’s only a film. It’s important, but we’re not saving lives so don’t damage your health or personal relationships over it.
“There has to be space within for me to be able to access the most important and useful part of myself – my intuition.”
Can you tell us a bit about the feeling you get when you can sit back and relax and let an audience enjoy your films?
It blows me away to see how my films affect an audience. I may be broke but I’m making films that have some substance and I believe in them so it makes [me] know that the struggle to get them made is totally worth it. I don’t make them for myself – I make them for an audience!
You have travelled the world and achieved international success and recognition in more than 50 film festivals worldwide. What is it like to come back home to Byron knowing how much you have achieved?
It’s definitely a validation to have my films selected in film festivals all over the world but there is nothing quite as rewarding (and terrifying) as showing it to a home audience.
You have been spotted a lot around Byron Bay Film Festival, has there been any stand out sessions that have amazed you thus far?
I absolutely loved the Matthew Salton’s “Dwarves Kingdom” and of course the incredible “When my Sorrow Died: The Legend of Armen Ra and the Theremin”. Both were such touching, truthful, big-hearted films and a credit to the filmmakers’ integrity. I was on a panel last Sunday and missed “Two Brother’s Walking”. Storytelling is the only way that the beautiful traditions of the ancestors of Australia can be embraced and preserved. Whether through ceremony, song or art I’m know how powerful a medium film is to help preserve this ancient culture. I will have to track down the director David Salomon to see if I get a copy to watch!