Although a glance at the box-office might have you believe cinema is only for flashy superhero distractions, people such as Portuguese filmmaker Laura Carreira still recognise the pensive importance of bringing harsh realities to the screen.
Close-up Culture are proud to welcome Laura onto the site to talk about her outlook on filmmaking and her recent short film, Red Hill.
Q: Can you begin by telling us about your background? How did you end up making films in Edinburgh?
A: I studied Audiovisual Communication at the António Arroio Art School in Lisbon, which is where I was really introduced to the world of cinema. It was a very important time for me and looking back I can now see how much it shaped the way I see cinema and how I discovered my own interests.
After this, I came to Edinburgh to continue to study film. At the Edinburgh College of Art I studied Film in the context of an art school and that felt like the right environment for me. It was a very practical degree and so it really allowed me to test different ideas. I mainly made documentary films during my course and I think this has influenced my practice ever since.
After that, somehow, I just ended up staying in Edinburgh.
Q: ‘Red Hill’ is a powerful story about an ex-miner searching for meaning in his later life. Why did you want to tell this story?
A: The story was partly inspired by meeting someone. Myself and Ramón Durman, the co-writer of the project, were visiting the location of the spoil-tip when a security guard approached us as we didn’t have permission to be there.
We then started a conversation with him and he told us his life story. His name was Jimmy, he’d been a miner since he was young and now was working as a security guard to reach retirement. He also showed us a piece of coal he carried in his pocket to remind him of the old times. Somehow his story seemed to reveal something quite painful about the way we are so intrinsically defined by our jobs and how much of our identity depends on them.
So a couple of years later we decided to write Red Hill with Jimmy in mind. We also ended up using the same location as by the time we started shooting the film Jimmy had already retired and his cabin was left empty.
Q: Billy Mack does a terrific job in the lead role. What was he like to work with? How did he connect with this character?
A: I loved working with Billy.
Before shooting, we didn’t really do any rehearsals but we did talk a lot about the themes of the film and I could straight away see that he understood the project. Most importantly, I think he connected with the character in a very personal way and that allowed him to really carry the meaning of the film through his performance.
Q: I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone, but the film’s final scene is incredibly powerful. What was it like to shoot it?
A: I think everyone involved knew the significance of that scene and it was as if the atmosphere really changed in the room once we started the preparations to film it. It was the last scene we would shoot, so at the same time it represented the end of a journey for us all.
It was quite tense to see the scene unfold and to witness Billy’s performance but, in a way, I think that was a good sign and that tension is seen on-screen too.
Q: In your previous work, you have looked at the impact of labour on the individual (‘Monday’) and the impact of gambling (‘Our Luck’). Why do you feel your are drawn stories about marginalised characters in society?
A: I’ve always been drawn to stories that reveal how much we all are, as individuals, constrained by the collective and how little freedom we seem to have.
The majority of mainstream cinema also seems to really avoid telling stories about ordinary people. It doesn’t seem to think they are entertaining enough so instead it allows audiences to escape their world, to live a more exciting life for an hour or so.
I don’t want to do that. I want audiences to see some part of their lives reflected on the screen. I don’t want them to escape it; I want them to face it.
Q: Are there any political or social issues of the moment that you are eager to address on film?
A: I still feel like I’ve barely started to tackle the theme of work and it’s relationship to cinema so I definitely want to continue to develop that, hopefully in a longer format so I can explore the theme in a more nuanced and layered way.
Q: You’ve worked with number of well-respected filmmakers. Can you tell us what you learned from working with them?
A: I think what most impressed me when working with different filmmakers is that there isn’t one way of making films. At the end of the day there’s many different ways and I felt that really encouraged me to try to identify my own filmmaking process.
But saying this, there’s definitely one thing they all had in common. It was their dedication to cinema and how determined they were in continuing to make films despite how difficult it is. I was very inspired by their persistence and courage.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Right now I’m trying to do my first feature project and see if I can gather some support to develop it and move into production. However, because I have the suspicion it’s going to take a while to get the feature off the ground, I also want to try and shoot another short-film for which I’m looking for funding just now.
The feature project will be a fiction that follows the life of a Portuguese migrant working in the UK and it will be an exploration of her world as an economic migrant. The short will examine the immediate consequences faced by an agency worker who sees her work-shift cancelled last minute.