Article on indieWire (online)

November 2008

Duane Hopkins' "Better Things" is having its U.S. Premiere in AFI's Narrative Competition. His first feature, "Things" details the aftermath of a young junkie's death in rural England, An intervention on addiction and isolation, the film features a mostly unprofessional cast.

"I wanted to make a more challenging and honest interpretation of rural England," Hopkins said. "To create images that reminded me of the atmosphere of growing up in such an isolated and indifferent place. I also wanted to make a love story that showed love to be an emotion capable of personal cruelty and violence as well as beauty and compassion... I was interested in investigating narrative. I wanted to make a film that concentrated on theme rather than linear plot or even story. A powerful narrative that is constructed from a gradual build up of scenes and sequences that relate to and compliment one another to create an overall impression of an area and its inhabitants.

"Hopkins was introduced to filmmaking "by accident." "I was studying fine art, mainly through painting & photography and I came across an old film camera," he said. "I used that to make a short film and fell in love with the whole process. I found that artistically my ideas could find a better realization through the moving image. It spoke to me instantly and felt natural."

This realization was challenging when Hopkins took on "Better Things." Hopkins considers the script's structure as "no plot, just theme" featuring "no conventional film characters." "They are all people who normally constitute the periphery in films, but here I put them center stage," he said. "It is rural and yet contains urban themes such as drug use. I also make no moral judgments, my characters mourn a dead heroin addict with the same intensity as in other films would be reserved for 'good, moral' characters.

"Hopkins' challenges went beyond this as well. "Physically and practically there was other things, such as my choice to shoot on 35mm Anamorphic," he said. "A beautiful but very awkward and large format to shoot on, especially in winter and in cramped real locations. The final thing is probably the length of time the process takes. To remain creatively rigorous at every stage of the process and make sure your critical responses remain clear in the face of budget and time constraints. To stay focused on your original vision and aesthetic goal with the film while also remaining open to new possibilities."

AFI will witness Hopkins' vision when the film premieres at the Arclight on Thursday, November 6.

Source | indieWire