Jacob Harris is a talented filmmaker based in Melbourne. His film, Three Poems, won the inaugural Audience Choice award at the 2013 ReelGood Film Festival. His latest film, The Spirit, will be playing at MonsterFest this year. We got the chance to talk to Jacob about his experiences in independent filmmaking.
What first got you interested in filmmaking?
I’m a very sentimental person – filmmaking is a good medium to encapsulate thoughts and feelings of a particular time and place. Throughout my childhood in Tasmania I always felt this strange longing to be part of the rest of the world. I always wanted to document it, but didn’t have the means to do so.
Tom Tykwer’s ‘Lola rennt’ (‘Run Lola Run’) was the film that made me want to make films, though I haven’t revisited it for many years. Recently I’ve been inspired by Krzysztof Kieślowski’s work. I love the intimacy between Kieślowski’s characters – ‘Podwójne życie Weroniki’ (‘The Double Life of Véronique’) is a remarkable film.
Inspiration for ‘The Spirit’ initially stemmed from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amélie’ and Mamoru Oshii’s anime ‘Kōkaku Kidōtai’ (‘Ghost in the Shell’). During post-production I saw the Wim Wenders’ film ‘Wings of Desire’ which further inspired the film’s tone.I enjoyed exploring themes of self forgiveness, existentialism and death throughout the writing process. Although I wrote the character, ultimately it was the lead actor, Laura Scheirich who made the softly-spoken Spirit her own. Rehearsals with veteran actor Bruce Hughes of ‘Ocean Girl’ fame was also very rewarding.
Many late night conversations with my fiancée Agatha Partyka saw the script breathe and develop on its own long after the original screenplay was penned.
We filmed a bulk of ‘The Spirit’ during the worst weekend of Melbournian weather I’d ever experienced, in July 2016. My childhood in Tasmania couldn’t prepare me for the relentless rain during the night shoot on Morell Bridge and gale-force winds we endured at Barkley Gardens. Cinematographer David McKinnar, production designer Catrin Ann Harris and makeup artist Melissa Kerlin all did a fantastic job in keeping focus during the production. This film wouldn’t be made without their continued persistence, endurance and support.
Our editor left the project shortly before we began shooting, so when we wrapped I just started cutting the project myself. It would take another two years before the film was completed. Laura lent a song from her band Lizard Queen to the film, as did the group East Brunswick All Girls Choir, whose chief songwriter Marcus Hobbs also scored and sound designed the film.
From a production standpoint, this was the hardest film I’ve ever made – but it’s hardly surprising. It contains a continuously translucent woman, the city of Melbourne in a state of disarray and many other masterful visual effects by Steven Bunyan. It is very exciting to finally see it all together.
We are starting filming for ‘Cinema Spaces’ in November. ‘The Spirit’ is having its premiere this Saturday as part of Monster Fest 2019 at Cinema Nova, which is pretty exciting.