Filmmaker Series: Dave Hastings
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Hello, I’m Dave and I’m a filmmaker in the West Midlands. I’ve spent the last two decades now on film sets in all kinds of form and roles, gradually building up a C.V. of my own work as well as working with a fantastic team of fellow filmmakers (and also close friends).
My main areas within film production are scriptwriting, producing and directing on both short and feature films.
What initially got you into filmmaking?
That would be my parents. They encouraged me to watch as many films as I could as a young kid, so my Dad especially was pushing me towards the Godzilla films, while Mum would be pushing me into Hammer Horror film territory, as she’d grown up on them too. But it wasn’t just them, it was horror films across the board, so I watched Halloween when I was 6 and it left a lasting impression on me. However, I was watching films from all genre; drama, science fiction, thrillers, comedies, romance, you name it. Yet what was becoming more and more intriguing about them, was how were they being made.
I started reading books on filmmaking in the libraries, looking at all the behind the scenes pictures of special fx, and my love of filmmaking (as well as continually watching them), came from all these avenues really. And has never really left me since. And I’m grateful for that, because I wouldn’t have changed my childhood for the world.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
My parents and my grandparents are the most. First and foremost. Like I say, I wouldn’t even be interested in films today if not for them all. Filmmaker wise, my two favourite directors are very different to one another in style, narrative, tone and approach. I love Michael Mann (Heat is one of my all time favourite films), and how he creates beautiful compositions within his films, which are integral to revealing the different universe and characters he employs.
Visually, I’d like to think I’m very close to him in that regard, and you can see little Easter eggs throughout Sustain and in the upcoming You Are My Sunshine which demonstrate that.
Yet on the other side of the spectrum, I equally love David Lynch, and how mysterious he is with his way of filmmaking. A completely different visual palette and style to Mann in every respect, but which I’m just as fascinated by. I love mystery and intrigue and playing around with audience expectations and Lynch is arguably the master of that in cinema.
So yeah, very big influences from two radically opposing approaches. I also love Spielberg too (I mean JAWS! C’mon! Another one of my favourite films ever).
How important is film as a medium and art form in the world, today?
I think film has always been important as a medium and art form. It just adapts, moulds and continually screens back a sometimes harsh reflection of the world around us. Of course, it can be kind, and nurturing too, but with any story comes conflict. In most cases, film has helped lead the way in changing perceptions we once had as a society and helps to transform those of negative connotations into more positive and enduring ones.
You see that in War films (the devastating effects of bloody conflicts and the redundancy of them are littered throughout the best of that genre). You see the medium championing in favour of various civil rights such as through LGBTQI+ cinema (a genre close to my own heart), and you cannot tell me they have not helped changed people’s attitudes towards sexuality throughout generations within the past couple of decades (even simple gestures and acts such as a mother going with her gay son to watch Brokeback Mountain – my goodness how amazing is that!?).
Even further back in history we have filmmakers using their movies as a metaphor for the damaged world, such as the German Expressionist era, wherein the twisted, and distorted sets of Dr Caligari as well as the themes of famine and infection in the barren world of Nosferatu were easily a not-so-subtle reflection of a devastated Germany post WWI as well as a reflection of its population’s mentality. One of the beautiful things about film (as well as all art), is its ability to be bold and project onto us the things we sometimes wish we could shy away from. Long may it continue!
Do you have a set process when making film?
As much as I love horror, and people know me a lot from that genre, as a writer and director, I’m always looking into other realms. I want to try as many different stories as I can really. So, Sustain is a crime thriller, You Are My Sunshine is an Gay love story, and Advent is based around themes of Christmas.
All very different, but all allow me in one way or another to explore different characters, different conflicts, different landscapes to draw and tell stories within. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m already working on future projects that will bring me back into the horror genre (just can’t let them movie villains go!), but I enjoy the freshness and opportunities it brings me when I go into uncharted waters so to speak. It allows me to continually work harder at directing, writing and producing, and that’s the fun of filmmaking to me. It’s always different and enlightens the soul!
What has been your favourite film to work on and why?
I think they’re all so different, that each one is special for its own reasons. I mean we have people playing each other up on all the sets, and you develop so many friendships on all of them. Again, going back to narrative, that also helps brings certain special elements in, so an example of when we were working on Sunshine, we were shooting in the Manor Arms around the Park Lime Pits, and the locals popping in were all watching, but equally all texting their friends that we were there.
So, when we got to about 6pm that evening and we were starting to shoot the external scenes, the cast and crew had an audience, because more and more locals had come down to watch us. It was like performing a Shakespeare play outside!
So that was very beautiful and encouraging to us all. In fact, we made sure then to get all the locals in a picture with the cast when we’d wrapped. I still have the picture and I know the pub themselves have one on their community wall indoors, so that was amazing.
But all the films have a special place in my heart, because I got to work with all these wonderful and talented folks, both in front of and behind the camera, and we keep doing more and more. And with each project, comes more and more giggles behind the scenes.
Which genre do you enjoy working in?
Horror is always going to be my guilty pleasure really, and the one people know me more from in my sphere. But truth be told, like I mentioned before, I love working within most of them. They bring challenges to me, the cast and crew, and we all build upon our skills there & then.
I think if I had to pick a genre I couldn’t do; it would have to be musicals. That would be tough indeed. And I don’t think I’d be able to do it justice if I did ever get asked to do one.
Is filmmaking your primary source of income?
I’m a film lecturer at a nearby college, so that is my primary income, and which helps us make the films we do really (along with crowdfunding avenues).
Being a film lecturer is great because it’s all about passing the baton to the up and coming generations who are equally just as passionate about films and filmmaking as yourself. Giving them so much support, guidance and being able to teach film as well as seeing them make their own movies is an honour I’m forever grateful for.
What is your definition of success?
Getting to the finish line. Being without budgets or studios, making films is tough too. I can’t sugar-coat that really. It requires a lot of sacrifice, road trips, meetings, high and lows. So, getting to the point where you can sign off a project, that’s the successful part. Because despite having everything such as the kitchen sink thrown at you (feels like it some days), you still come out of it with something you can be proud of.
That despite the very limited resources, you, and everyone on the film, both in front of and behind the camera can say we’ve all collectively done it.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue filmmaking?
Pick up a camera/phone camera, shoot whatever you can. Download free video editing apps for either. Be creative. Explore! Make monsters masks with whatever safe materials you can. Or even use cardboard boxes for your Godzilla figures to trash/destroy imaginary cities with, all while pointing a camera at it.
Watch your favourite films and mimic the shots they do, learn from them. Just do everything you can. Because that is the beauty of film, it’s always spontaneous and always different, but above all, ALWAYS FUN!
Do you ever suffer from creative burnout? How do you combat it?
I have yeah. And I’m not going to lie about it and say I haven’t. Especially when I work in education as a lecturer too. It’s like having two full time jobs, you finish lecturing and come home to another round of hours sorting out schedules, writing up scripts, shot lists, arranging meetings, talking to actors, auditioning, watching rough cuts of scenes and sending notes back to editing teams and everything else that comes with it, all of which can carry over into the weekends too. Sometimes at 2am in the morning! So, I’ve definitely burned out a few times!
And you have to be careful with it! I’m only now just learning how to start taking care of myself and listening more to my own body’s warning signs when it’s struggling. So, filmmaking, yes, it is my life, and always will be, but now that means, that sometimes I need to take just a little time out to watch them, rather than be continually making them.
What projects are you currently working on?
We’ve recently just got the very first cut of You Are My Sunshine snipped together which is very exciting. Lots of work to still do of course, but I’m so excited by it! And there are some absolutely, heart-wrenching performances in it from every member of the cast who gave it their everything for which I am deeply indebted. As well as to the amazing crew who helped make the story come to life. I can’t wait to show it off when completed. But the trailer will be out later this year, so you’ll be able to get your first look at it then.
Additionally, we’re still working on Advent (which you know of because you’re in it and awesome as always in front of the camera!). And we’ve been editing what we have shot already during lockdown, before going back and finishing the rest of the film when it is safe to do so, and only then. Cannot wait for people to see that too!
Future wise, lots on the filmmaking front, with both Borderland, The Hampton Uplands as well as Spineless keeping me and others busy well into 2023!
What are your hopes for the future?
At the moment, with the state of the world, I hope it becomes safer again for everyone first and foremost. We’ve lost so many people, it’s been terrible and heart-breaking.
From a filmmaking perspective, there are going to be big challenges to come for sure, especially for independent film, but everyone I know, as well as filmmakers I engage with across the world are so very passionate, and are eager to get going again once it’s safe. And with Hollywood pretty much writing this year off for their big films, I think people will look to the indie film circuit and see that, even though we don’t have the muscle of those big studios and resources, we still have the same enthusiasm and ambition as they do (despite their immensely bigger budgets!).
Lastly where can people find you?
You can find me on www.LightbeamProductions.co.uk which has my blog on too (which I really need to update, there’s another job for this week! Ha Ha), while you can find me on Twitter @the_doctor1310 or Instagram @prot1066
Thank you so much for asking and wanting me to waffle along for your blog. I still remember the day we dragged you through mud at midnight making our Friday the 13th movie! Brilliant memories!
But always good to connect with as many others in the creative community and beyond! Stay safe folks please too! And keep watching the films!
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