Holly Shorts had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A this week with Writer/Direct John Harden. Harden's short film La Vie d'un Chien is being showcased at the Los Angeles Film Festival. If you haven't hand the chance to see the short, it will be shown one last time on Sunday, June 26 at the DGA Theatre (1:30 p.m.). La Vie d'un Chien is a 14 minute short in French with English Subtitles and is an account of a scientist who devises a way to turn into a dog. It was our privelage to interview such an esteemed filmmaker. Enjoy.
HS: How long have you been writing and directing? When did you get your start?
JH: I grew up (and still live in) in northern California. I made my first film when I was in the 7th grade. It was an extra credit project for my Spanish class. When they saw it, my teacher and classmates totally freaked out. In a good way, that is. I got an A, and was delighted to discover that making a movie was a way to get people's attention and simultaneously hide in the back of the room where no-one would look at me. Perfect. After that initial success, I never really stopped making films. I went on to study film history and production at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, and screenwriting at The College of Marin.
HS: Where did you get the inspiration for La Vie d'un Chien? How did the idea come about?
JH: Two inspirations combined to get me started making this film: In my days at SRJC, I must have seen Chris Marker's 1962 short, "La Jetee" a half-dozen times. My film instructor loved it and showed it ever semester. Then one night late in 2003, I had a dream that people were congregating in an alley late at night, and taking a drug that turned them into dogs. I started thinking about the possibilities of writing a script around that, and for some reason I thought of "La Jetee." Now, if you're not familiar with that film, it's a 30-minute montage of black-and-white still photos, with a French narrator telling the story in voice over and (in the version I saw) English subtitles. It's an interesting way to tell a story, and it occurred to me that it was a perfect way to tell my story. It gave me a voice. Once I had the voice, writing the script went very quickly. Then I storyboarded my script, shot thousands of stills (digital and 35mm black-and-white) and assembled my story in Final Cut Pro. Then I posted a notice to craigslist.com, and found Julien Fadda Ð he's a transplanted Corsican living in San Rafael, a film student at College of Marin. He translated my English script into French and did the voice-over.
Writer/Director John Harden
HS: What was the biggest challenge you encountered making this short?
JH: Eyestrain. Carpal tunnel. There was a lot of Photoshop compositing and retouching to the images, I'd say 75% of my time spent on this film was time spent in image manipulation. I faked most of my street scenes, using Santa Rosa or Petaluma CA to stand in for Paris. But I needed the real thing for some establishing shots. I didn't have a budget to go to France, so again I went to the internet. I recruited filmmakers and photographers who lived in Paris via a posting at mandy.com. I emailed them storyboards of what I needed, and they went out at night and found the locations, photographed them, and emailed the pictures back to me!
HS: Where do you see yourself five years from now in the industry?
JH: Hopefully working! People are really responding to this short, and I'm making a lot of good contacts. I've got some new feature-length scripts in the works. We'll see what happens.
La Vie d'Un Chien
HS: Any other notable short films on your resume people can check out?
JH: If they go to John Films.com, they can watch my sort film "Crutemobile,' and read a script for an as-yet-unproduced short film. You can even buy a copy of "La Vie" there...
HS: Anything else you'd like to plug feel free.
JH: I'm always interested in talking to any agents, managers, or producers out there.