Matt Harris uses comedy as a device to lead into darker places. His comedic doc Saint Austell is fun, engaging and ultimately thought-provoking. He told us how he got over his fear of caring to make the film
What’s your creative background and what inspired you to turn to film to tell the story of Saint Austell?
I’ve always loved writing stories and acting things out. I used to spend hours running around the house with the family camcorder terrorising my parents and sister. As I got older, filmmaking seemed like the best way for me to be able to get ideas from my head or on a page into reality.
I’d wanted to make a film about Saint Austell for quite a long time, but could never seem to write what I really wanted to say. After seeing how things have changed over recent years I sort of thought it’s now or never, then it suddenly became a lot easier to write and plan out.
You’ve got comedic elements and a serious message. How important was the wit to share the wisdom?
Very important! It’s always tricky trying to find the right balance between being funny and serious when tackling issues that have a big impact on people’s lives. I didn’t want to sugarcoat things, but if you’re too bleak about it all, you can risk alienating some of the audience.
When writing the story, I often found it useful to sort of Trojan Horse some of the darker parts into the script using jokes. Hopefully, by doing that the film is more engaging and enjoyable without losing any of the core messages.
How does Saint Austell fit with your other filmmaking, and do you plan to do any more?
I think that the film represents a bit of a shift compared to my other short films, as it’s the first time I’ve tried to deal more directly with real life issues that affect a lot of people. I also hope that it reflects a more polished and evolved version of some of the common themes that tend to run through my other films.
I’d love to make more films in general, it would be nice to do a follow up to Saint Austell to see how things have changed in a couple of years. In the meantime it might be fun to do something a bit less physically taxing, there were a lot of days spent with my girlfriend and me walking through fields for miles on end dragging all the equipment with us, which I’m not too keen to repeat anytime soon!
Film can be a powerful tool to share a message. You say it’s scary to care – did you feel better or worse after making the film?
I hope it’s not a cop out to say a bit of both? It felt very cathartic to put all my thoughts out there and hopefully try to get people to understand a little more about some of the problems we face in my hometown. But it also made me a bit more acutely aware of how far we have to go before things get better for a lot of people. There’s always hope though, that’s the important bit!
Were all those cuddly toys yours?
They are! Mostly anyway, a few were liberated from charity shops and have since been re-donated to live out their lives anew. They were all excellent to work with.
Thank you Matt!
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