This is day three of a three-day Q&A series on the Eugene International Film Festival. Each interview will feature insight from a different perspective on the process of filmmaking. Today’s perspective is directing.
Chance are you’ve seen movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Pretty Woman and Catch Me If You Can. What do these three films have in common besides the fact that they were all huge successes? They all featured actor Alex Hyde-White.
A working actor for more than 30 years in television and film, Hyde-White decided after all that experience to try his hand at directing. His debut film, Three Days (Of Hamlet), can be seen at the Eugene International Film Festival this year.
Three Days (Of Hamlet) focuses on a group of actors coming together for a stage-reading of a famous Shakespearean play. A ‘cliff notes’ examination of one of the best plays ever written by the best cast they could find, including three famous sons of three very famous actors; reality documentary weaves with neo-classic drama to create an original take on a most primal story, all taking place over… three days.
I recently had a chance to speak with Hyde-White about his directorial debut and in the process, learned that he seems pretty comfortable behind the camera.
EDN: You’ve been acting for more than 30 years and yet this is your directorial debut. What made you decide to direct?
Hyde-White: This was the right time and is the story I could tell for the budget, and it sprung from my theatrical instincts so made the directing film aspect of it make sense, as I had directed in theatre prior.
EDN: Having worked in movies directed by Garry Marshall and Steven Spielberg, what did you learn from those experiences that helped you in directing?
Hyde-White: To expect everyone else to be great! And not to dominate the set, out of ego or a sense of control. To empower and influence, not control.
EDN: Based on the synopsis of your film, it seems like a bit of an absurdist take on Shakespeare and the deeper meanings of his plays. Is that a fair assessment?
Hyde-White: Great find, yes, certainly absurdist. It has many of the beats and rhythms expected in a Shakespeare play: deeply rich plot and dialogue, intrigue, comic relief and, in particular to Hamlet, the feeling that the main character might actually be nuts.
EDN: Was it your love of Shakespeare that made you decide to direct a film about one of his plays?
Hyde-White: Specifically my interest in this play, this wonderful addition to Western Literature. And the character, arguably the first modern thinker to directly speak to his audience.
EDN: What do you want people to take away from your film?
Hyde-White: A feeling of love, honor and perhaps duty between father’s and sons regardless of their “importance”, “fame” or status. That and perhaps a desire to allow Shakespeare to be read and seen without the supposed distance it sometimes brings.
EDN: Has this entire process encouraged or discouraged you from directing again?
Hyde-White: I love being on the set like this. It’s like coaching a team. Such satisfaction from cast and crew achieving the joy of doing. And, if it works creatively, well…there’s very few things quite like it. Such joy!
EDN: You’re the actor, writer and director in this film. Is it hard juggling all of these aspects? How do you direct yourself?
Hyde-White: Try not to act, just experience whatever is happening and let “it” lead “you”. Sometimes it’s called “letting the part play you.”
EDN: In your experience, which is harder, making the actual film or selling it to distributors and producers?
Hyde-White: If it’s a spec film, then it’s really dependent on the market place. That can be brutal. Much harder. You have no influence on it, is the fear. Having a good history in Hollywood helps to expose the film to the “industry” but it’s not “who you know” that matters when you make an indie film. It’s “who wants to know you.”
EDN: How did you learn about the Eugene International Film Festival? What made it a good venue for your film?
Hyde-White: The literary agent Ken Sherman is a friend-in-common and it was his involvement that made me want to learn more. I had been aware of the festival and of the creative support of the area in general.
EDN: What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s festival? Seeing the reaction your film receives? Seeing other people’s work?
Hyde-White: Both. The smaller, well run, festivals offer the most satisfying connecting moments. You meet people who are actually making films, working. The bigger fests attract many who are not, and it’s easy to get lost in the nothingness of that. One has to be specific about what to look for in this business, otherwise the sheer celebrity-aspect, charisma, of it can bedevil. Like Hamlet’s ghost, if it’s real it is far more important.
EDN: What’s it like to sit with an audience and see their reaction to your film?
Hyde-White: If they are laughing, it’s great. To have that in a tragedy, even better.
Three Days (Of Hamlet) can be seen Saturday, Oct. 20 at 5 pm at the Regal Theater at Valley River Center. For more information about the EIFF, visit the festival website.