John Hardwick on directing Svengali

John Hardwick is one busy man. When he's not directing the likes of Paddy Considine in an Arctic Monkey's music video, shooting ads for brands such as Umbro, or making short films, you're likely to find him in a darkened room calling the shots on a theatre production.

His latest project is Svengali (a Roots Films production), his second foray into directing a feature film, and features an impressive cast including Vicky McClure (This is England), Martin Freeman, and performances from comedic talent such as Matt Berry and Katy Brand.

The feel good comedy centres on music fan Dixie (Jonny Owen - who also wrote the film), whose dream of discovering a band comes true after discovering The Premature Congratulations, and is thrown into the deep end of music management.

Escaping the edit of his forthcoming documentary Follow the Money (working title), which follows the journey of a ten dollar bill in America, John gives us an insight into what it was like working on the comedy and tells us his plans for the future…



What were some of the challenges making the film?

It was made on a low budget and shot quickly - about five weeks, which is ambitious for a film of this length. It was difficult practically because there were over 40 speaking parts and a lot of unit moves due to locations in London, Wales and Scotland.

I came on board the project quite late, and had about two weeks pre-production - about the same time you would for an advert or pop video. That was a challenge, so I had to be as spontaneous as possible.

Svengali has an impressive cast. How was it working with such established talent?

The better the cast, the less you have to fiddle with acting. I've worked with some actors and non-actors where you have to drag a performance from them. But on this film, it was a case of small adjustments.

The more experienced (and better) the actor is, the more you can talk about the scene with them a bit. With a younger actor, you might have to explain in great detail about what you're trying to do.

This was your second feature film. Did you learn anything from making it?

You learn how to prioritise and manage things a lot better, especially when you have such a small amount of time to achieve so much. You have to cut to the chase a lot quicker otherwise you won't get the job done.

You have directed theatre. How does that differ from directing films?

It takes around four to five weeks to rehearse a play before it opens, where you're talking about acting with the cast all the time - with film, it's like: ' here are the pages, this is what you're doing, is this the costume? Ok you look great, let's go and do a quick rehearsal.' With film, it's mainly about changing the blocking with good members of the cast.

You have directed commercials, short film, music videos, theatre and now feature films. Which is the hardest to direct?

They all present different challenges. Plays can be tough; it can be a grind going through all the rehearsals. Svengali was difficult because it was low budget and stressful at times. It takes a long time to make a film - about a year - and you have to keep your energy levels up, but on this film, it was mostly a fun experience.

Svengali start