Interview with Director Robert Hackett, Public Service Broadcasting: Night Mail

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival is just around the corner, with early doors screenings taking place on Thursday 6 November offering a preview into the dynamic programme for 2014. Across the four day event, over 300 films from around the world will be screened in unique venues spanning York’s historic and contemporary spaces. We speak to director of music video Night Mail for Public Service Broadcasting about his filmmaking practice and what his aspirations are.

ASFF: How did you go about making your short for the track Night Mail?
RH: From the start – writing the treatment, thinking through innovative ways to incorporate the historical footage and how the finished piece would look – I knew the most ambitious part of my pitch was finding the location, so sourcing this was my first task. Talking with the band was an important part of the process, understanding what they wanted and how they wanted to be seen. I had suggested a night shoot and we had one night to shoot everything, so prep and visiting the location on numerous occasions (with our cinematographer Andrew Rodger) was pivotal to the final film.

ASFF: Public Service Broadcasting: Night Mail features what appears to be a disused train station. Did you come across any difficulties in accessing the site for filming?
RH: It was difficult finding a location within budget. After a lot of inquiries I had to extend the search outside London (where the band and I are based) and eventually found a museum that had recreated an old station. As you can imagine, it had a lot of advantages over a disused train station – like an onsite power supply we could hook into and original station lights that helped create the film noir look I wanted.

ASFF: What inspired you to make short films for music?
RH: Film and music are two of my passions – working with the two mediums in this way is a unique creative opportunity. Short films are great for narrative storytelling, but I wanted the freedom to broaden my experience of visual techniques – music promos are perfect for this – and as a result it has given me more confidence in directing short films.

I am hoping to direct a feature in the near future – and as someone who appreciates the work of people like Michel Gondry, Jonathan Glazer and Spike Jonze I was inspired by their music promo work and their move into features.

ASFF: Your film is screened in the Music Video section. In your opinion, how important is this genre in film festivals today?
RH: As a filmmaker I want my work to be seen – and for the work to be recognised by Aesthetica Short Film Festival means it will be seen by an audience of peers and film goers. I think it is a credit to those festivals who realise music promos are relevant visual explorations in filmmaking.

ASFF: Are there any other musicians you hope to work with in the future?
RH: Yes, I’m open to all styles of music – both new and established musicians. But the best musicians to work with are those open to conceptual promos rather than a straight forward performance piece.

To see more of Robert Hackett’s work visit and follow @roberthackett1.

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1. Robert Hackett, Public Service Broadcasting: Night Mail. Music Video Finalist at ASFF 2014.