London Screenwriters' Festival

London Screenwriters’ Festival Beyond the Bio: Charles Harris

Posted on: July 30th, 2010 by Lucy V Hay No Comments

Charles HarrisCharles Harris first worked in film as a projectionist and has worked his way to the top as a writer/director through a circuitous route taking in everything from editing to photography to writing short stories.

You can read more about Charles on his London Screenwriters’ Festival bio page.  Here’s what he told us when he sat down for his Q&A:

Q: What was your favourite film as a kid?

A: Jimmy Edwards, St Trinians, Carry On movies. Fun, rubbish B-Features.

Q: Who inspired you when you were starting out?

A: My father sticking a 16mm camera in my face when I was only 2 days old; from then on my fate was sealed.

When I dropped out of uni, Mike Leigh gave me some of the best advice: keep doing something creative, because sometimes the people sweeping the studios become a studio boss, which is fine, if that’s what you want.

Q: What was your big break?

A: The film school went bust. At that time you had to be in the film union to get anywhere and I was enormously lucky landing a job as an assistant film editor,  working my way through the cutting rooms, which was very educational.

Q: What was the best day in your career?

A: Every day that I still have a career! I still can’t believe that they let me get away with doing this day after day – daydreaming, making up stories, playing make-believe. When I started I was advised to have something to “fall back on” when I don’t succeed, but I haven’t used it yet…

Q: What has been your most important lesson?

A: I was starting a shoot and I was being told one thing by everyone around me, and my gut instinct told me something else, and I told myself they must know something I didn’t – and they didn’t. After a very difficult few days, I went with my gut instinct and changed everything around, and found out I’d been right all along. It’s important to listen, and it’s also important to trust that inner voice too. But that comes with experience.

Q: If a niece or nephew wanted to be in the business, what would you advise them?

A: Don’t. It’s a tough business and if you need someone to motivate you, you aren’t going to make it. If you are capable of being dissuaded from being in the film industry you shouldn’t be in the film industry.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome it?

A: The hardest part is maintaining quality. There in is an enormous amount of pressure to compromise and it’s not necessarily in everyone’s interest so they won’t thank you for it. You have to sometimes fight your corner through crying, stamping your feet, and sometimes even listening.

Q: What do you feel is a writer’s or filmmaker’s key responsibility?”

A: To tell the story. It is only too easy to forget that – to have that the most beautiful shot, the most elegant dialogue but it’s all really there for the story. So many scripts get tied up with the nuts and bolts and the craft of it and they forget what it’s really all about.

Q: What mistakes do you see emerging writers or filmmakers making over and over?

A: Not getting the script right; it’s, “the script, the script, the script,” as Hitchcock said. And getting the best possible people to help sort the script problems out now.

Q: What advice would you offer an emerging writer or filmmaker?

A: Keep learning all your life – become an expert. Then learn some more.

NEXT TIME ON ‘BEYOND THE BIO’: Former Gurinda Chada mentee and founder of the ICA Lab, Deva.

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