VIFF 2018 Interview: DAWN director Jörn Threlfall

“The high desert of New Mexico, 1945. On the surface, a day like any other. But this one heralds the dawn of a new beginning. Nothing will be the same ever again.” Director Jörn Threlfall on DAWN which screens at the 2018 edition of VIFF.

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to VIFF! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

First time but sadly not attending. My Vancouver based cinematographer is attending.

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I started in TV promos in London. Channel 4, Discovery. I moved into TV commercials. I have always made films and installations and experimental audio-visual art pieces. A few years ago, I shot an installation in Sigmund Freud’s study in London. My last short Over was nominated for a BAFTA and European Film Award.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Before I left, I wanted to make something that reflected my time there, the exquisite landscapes and light that defines that area. But an aesthetic, landscape film was not enough. Trump had just been elected, and I felt a duty to make something more political. I remembered an incident that had occurred in New Mexico in 1945, which seemed to have a striking relevance to the surrealness of the present situation. The film became a warning symbol of that, and a reminder of the dangers of pride and stupidity and tyranny. We prepped and shot in Santa Fe over 5 days, and I edited and completed the film in London, UK where I live.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea (or insert poison here)?

Finding new ways to perceive the mundane world around me is a driving force. Enabling new pathways, portals into realms we might only ever see, not actually look at and engage with. And coffee and mescal.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Shooting in a new land, with a new crew. The most rewarding aspect was  realising the love that everyone incrementally invested into this very personal, but universally relevant story.

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.

We shot on Alexa Mini. Todd Duym, the cinematographer, will be at the festival and will impart more. Todd and I are friends and have shot many commercials together. We tried to let the land breathe, allowed the landscape, and the characters who inhabited it, guide us. The land is spiritual, its history ancient and intricate. It’s a land that doesn’t belong to the people who have claimed it as their own. This knowledge motivated our relationship with the material. This meant quiet and calm. Long takes, static moments, a deep respect for what we were looking at and listening to.

After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

Cork in Ireland, Encounters in Bristol and Reggio in Italy.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?

You know, I don’t think i’d waste my time or breath on that person.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Be true to what you believe is your vision. Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you. Unless they’re offering you a million dollars.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?


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