Not many filmmakers head to the Cannes Short Film Corner with a film at 16 years old, but Hampshire-based director James Hastings of Hastings Infinity Films is one of them. He talks to us about his latest short Beyond The Cosmos and his experiences so far as a young, up and coming filmmaker.
Now 18, You started your own production company, Hastings Infinity Films, when you were just 13 years old – how did that all come about?
I first got into filmmaking when I was sat in an R.E class at school one day and we were watching Schindler's List. My teacher asked the class if anyone had heard of 'Steven Spielberg' and nobody had. I went home and immediately searched who he was and spent the rest of the week watching all of his films. I completely fell in love with his own personal story and the stories he put on screen. I then thought I could have a go at what he does. So I borrowed my sister's DSLR camera and at the time I was really into card magic, so I started filming my tricks. I experimented with different angles and then progressed into coming up with my own stories and for the next two years I made hundreds of small movies by myself perfecting different techniques. I then started to think of bigger and better ideas using my family and friends as cast and crew. And that's when I then put my company name behind every project. The name 'Hastings Infinity Films' comes from the first deck of cards I used to film with, it was called the 'Infinity' deck and I knew from that point I would be wanting to make films forever.
Your new film Beyond the Cosmos is a heart-warming Christmas tale you've just released online, how did that production come together?
I first had the idea of doing a Spielberg-esque Christmas sci-fi back in summer. Since finishing production on my first feature Raymond's 5, I thought I'd quite like to work on a short film over Christmas. As Spielberg has been a huge source of inspiration for me since I began this filmmaking journey, I wanted to make something that was inspired by his work and with the 80's being a very popular setting for films and TV at the moment - especially with the success of Stranger Things - I really wanted to try mix sci-fi 80's with Christmas, because why not?!
There’s some impressive use of MoVi footage in the film, what was it like having that kind of kit to hand?
The MoVi was such a great piece of kit to work with, especially when you've got a great operator behind it. Jan Solberg was fantastic at following my direction and the kit offers me the opportunity to really explore a whole new capability for camera movement that hasn't been possible in my previous films.
What were the biggest challenges/rewards making the film?
If I'm completely honest my latest short offered way more positives and rewards, than challenges. My biggest reward for most of my films is being able to work with so many passionate, fascinating and kind people who all share a drive to make the project the best it can be. Being able to see an idea blossom into real life is extraordinary, so being able to share this with others is just magical! However, If I do have to mention challenges I guess I'd have to say like on most projects I feel like I don't give myself enough time to shoot. This gives us a reason to strive forward and push through to complete deadlines.
Having made films from such a young age, what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I'd say the biggest lesson I have learnt so far is that filmmaking is a huge learning process, taking a lot of time and effort, however as long as you stick to what you believe in and aim to make something that you feel truly passionate about, then this can be very rewarding.
What’s is like being a young filmmaker in Hampshire? What kind of support network/resources do you have available with your projects
Being a young filmmaker in Hampshire can be quite challenging as I lived in Berkshire for most my life, which is where I really built up my connections. After moving to Hampshire, it became more of a struggle to work with the same team, so I've been trying to branch out and connect to people more local to myself, for example, the DOP for my latest short film, Amber Tunstall, who is based in Winchester.
What’s your experience of the film festival circuit been like so far?
At the age of 16 I hit the ground running as one of my first experiences of the film festival circuit was when one of my films was accepted into the Short film Corner at Cannes 2016. Myself and my main lead flew out and were thrust into the madness that is Cannes. It was an overwhelming, exciting experience that I will never forget!
What advice would you give to other young filmmakers just starting out?
I know a lot of people give similar advice to this, but I'm only saying it because it's true, My advice to any young filmmaker starting out would be just to shoot anything, with whatever gear you have, even if it's just your phone. Go and make a film, and keep doing it, the more you do it then better you'll get at it.
What’s the next project for you?
My next project is actually a short musical, with an underlying theme of how cultures can collide. This film is a challenge and deals with stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. It's story follows an unlikely bond between a young white British boy and a middle-aged Muslim man as their friendship blossoms and they teach each other life's lessons. This will begin production in April Next year. So that will be FUN!
You can follow Hastings Infinity Films on Twitter: @InfinityFilms99
For more information about James' projects visit his website.