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Phil Hawkins is the two-time winner of Best Feature Director at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival. His feature, The Butterfly Tattoo (based on a novel by Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass), was released theatrically in the USA in April 2009. It has recently added significant weight to the illegal download debate after being downloaded illegally so many times that the subsequent publicity caused it to get to number 75 in the IMDB’s list of most highly searched titles. On the back of this success, the film was screened at select Showcase cinemas across the UK. Hawkins’ current feature is the hit indie comedy Being Sold, available on itunes for rental and purchase.
What training have you received?
Making films has been my training. I’ve not attended a film school or studied filmmaking in the traditional sense. I made my first short film when I was 13 and was hooked! Being a perfectionist, each short I made would have its own set of problems, which I strived to correct on the next one. With this approach, each film I created made me a better filmmaker, and that process continues to this day.
What kind of projects attract you?
Ones with great characters. I read a lot of scripts that have a nice idea or storyline, but the characters don’t interest me. I love working with actors and performers to bring words and emotions to the screen. I think where a lot of new filmmakers fail is that they’re obsessed with making it look good and ignore what’s important: the performances and the story.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a director?
Be cool under pressure. If all hell is breaking loose on set and the director doesn’t seem to be stressed, then people don’t panic. As well as being responsible for the final product, the director is also key in creating the working environment on set. A happy and relaxed set paves the way for a great film! Oh, that and Garry Marshall telling me: “You live and die by your day players.” Keep an eye on those performances!
Most significant moment in your career so far?
Sitting amongst a packed public audience for the world première of The Butterfly Tattoo thinking, ‘This is the moment of truth when I discover whether I’m a television director or a movie director.’ I’m a movie director!
You’ll die happy when…?
I can be remembered through my films (and can be buried with a BAFTA and Oscar!)
Taken from movieScope magazine, Issue 14 (October/November 2009)
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