Hong Khaou

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Lilting, the meditation on loss and moving on that’s been getting great reviews (including one from us) since its release a few weeks ago, is the first feature length outing from Hong Khaou. The budding director was kind enough to talk to us about his experiences making the film, his plans for the future, and more.

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This is your first feature film; how did you find the transition from making shorts to creating a full 90 minute film?

There was more of everything. More stress, more execs, more notes, more crew, more pain…. less sleep though.

Ben Whishaw is well on his way to becoming a household name with roles in films like Skyfall and Cloud Atlas. What was it like working with him on Lilting?

He was very generous and normal. He was constantly seeking a truth to his character, it was a joy to work with him.

Being born in Cambodia but based in the UK, how did your personal experiences affect the characters and story of Lilting?

A lot of my sensibility is in there. It’s not biographical, but there were certainly personal experiences in there regarding grief, language and communication.

Lilting was made on a small budget but doesn’t look cheap. What advice would you give to other independent filmmakers operating on a limited budget?

Have a script that is achievable within the budget size and then still be ambitious inside of that. I think maybe it’s to concentrate on a solid script, be brave and trust that the drama will engage you… I’m not sure I’m in a position to give advice.

A lot of your work has focused on LGBT themes. What would you like audiences to take away from your films about these issues?

I’m not sure to be honest. Up to now my work has had an LGBT theme, maybe it’s to see that there are really no distinctions.

You’ve been making films for nearly a decade now and technology has come on a long way even in that time with the development of things like video-on-demand. How has this affected your work as a director?

I don’t think technology has affected the way I approach my writing. The most evident thing is the camera technology, you can have smaller cameras with exceptional picture quality. The VoD side of things, this has allowed small films like Lilting to be on multiple viewing platforms, and reach a larger audience. In the UK we still don’t have a culture of seeing film on VoD. This will change more and more hopefully.

Can you tell us about your experiences in getting funding for Lilting? What are your thoughts on crowd-funding?

Lilting was under the Microwave scheme run by Film London. They give you 50% of the budget and we raised the other 50%. Dominic Buchanan the producer found the remainder of the budget. It was actually a lot harder than we thought it would be. I thought having the backing from Film London would make it easier. The word micro-budget scares a lot of investors off. I don’t have experience on crowd-funding, I’ve seen a few friends raising their budget this way. It’s so amazing to see how liberating this has been for filmmakers.  I also do think there will come a time where this model can’t continue in its current form.

In Lilting grief is very much the focus. In your short film Spring, you touched on the rarely explored theme of sado-masochism. Are there any other delicate subjects you would like to delve into?

I don’t know really. I like stories that talk about the human condition, what we do when we’re placed under pressure and the ways in which we try to survive, and the ripple effects that has on those around us.

FilmDoo is currently running a series celebrating the work of female directors on our blog. What change would you like to see the film industry make to better represent women behind the camera?

The record is pretty appalling isn’t it? The mentality needs to change, films with female characters or in the leads are commercial, and there is an audience for it.

Can you tell us about what you’re going to be working on once the dust has settled on the release of Lilting?

I’m off to Vietnam to research and write Monsoon. It’s about the repercussions of the Vietnam War on three adults, products of a hopeless war, who have never experienced it directly, as they were born after it had ended.

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