VIFF 2019 Interview – O HOLY GHOST director Mark Bradshaw

“I left the church over 15 years ago but I continue to look back. O HOLY GHOST is a fable both side-splitting and soul-shaking; a tale that playfully and perceptively explores concepts of belief and transformation.” Director Mark Bradshaw on O HOLY GHOST which screens at the 2019 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival. 

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

I wish I could attend the world premiere of O HOLY GHOST at VIFF; sadly work commitments will keep me in London over the festival dates.

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’m usually a film and TV composer scoring for Jane Campion on productions such as BRIGHT STAR and TOP OF THE LAKE. I often dreamed of making my own films and between scoring jobs worked on script ideas. After a few failed landings came O HOLY GHOST. It felt original and idiosyncratic enough to actually make. It’s my first film as a writer and director.

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

The crew was predominantly assembled from friends and friends of friends. Many had little to no filmmaking experience but all were passionate about making this short. The main cast I stole from a play I composed the music for so they had already worked together and had built a rapport. Preparation involved raising funds via crowdfunding, budgeting and cutting deals, rehearsing with actors, visiting the location and working out shots and logistics. The shoot presented a few challenges – days were short, the water tower location poky, and we had scenes where animals do things like poop and eat each other. It was often chaotic. Our way through it was to embrace uncertainty, look for opportunities and problem solve. Finally confronted with the material in post-production I was forced to put my emotions aside and put the puzzle together. The music really helped me into the tone and gave me something to hold onto while I was thinking ‘what the hell is this thing?!’ You never know if a festival will pick up your short film so I’m very grateful to VIFF for giving O Holy Ghost a life. The Spirit lives on!

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

The desire to explore and share ideas keeps me going. Also the collaboration, making O Holy Ghost was a fun way to play with friends.

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

The biggest challenge was finding a water tower. Half of the film is set inside and on top of a water tower where a group of congregants hold a religious meeting. We contacted every water company in the UK but all of the water towers were either in use or radioactive. After months of searching I stumbled across drone footage on YouTube of a disused water tower in the midlands that looked perfect. We contacted the folk looking after it and discovered they were independent film enthusiasts. They were very accommodating and let us use the location free of charge. The shoot was hard work but it’s such a great feeling when a team of passionate people lean into a project. We were staying in budget accommodation near the water tower and by the end of the 4-day shoot they felt like family.

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about 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. 

Matthew our DOP and I had a few meetings to discuss the look of the film. We visited the location and took photographs and these became our storyboards. We made a few rules for ourselves like keep the camera still, just a few slow tracking shots, and then broke them all during the shoot, either because it felt right or simply because we had no choice. We shot on an ARRI Alexa Mini.

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

O HOLY GHOST will go on to screen at a few festivals in the UK.

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

If I was feeling really heated I might tell them the effect they were having on my own film watching experience.

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 bold and make work as unique as you are.

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

52 TUESDAYS by Sophie Hyde at Mardi Gras in Sydney.

For this and more movies playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, point your browser to www.viff.org

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