November 2010
[ ] White Other
Written and Directed by Dan Hartley

Class of Harry Potter – Video Playback Operator Dan Hartley on directing Tom Felton & Imelda Staunton in his latest short film White Other:

In September 2000, when I drove through the security gates at Leavesden studios to take up my role as a runner on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I didn’t have the slightest inkling that it would be another ten years before I drove out of those gates for the final time. In the meantime, Harry Potter has become both a cinematic as well as a literary phenomenon. With two films still awaiting release, it has already become the most successful film franchise of all time – outselling Star Wars and James Bond to name but two. Its cast are all millionaires, and to the credit of the Harry Potter producers, they have grown up in sync with the films, maintaining a degree of continuity unlikely ever to be matched.
Along the way thousands of film technicians have worked on the films, some in the franchise’s entirety like myself. During the duration I have personally progressed from runner to Video Playback Operator and have since spent many years refining my skills, or to put it more accurately – learning how to do my job. Whilst the bulk of my work is as the title suggests, a matter of playing back recorded material, it can be intense and challenging. For instance, many of the complex action sequences were edited by me on set before being sent to the cutting room, thus giving me ‘first cut’ on some of the famous set pieces such as the Knight Bus chase and various Quidditch tournaments. In addition, the job can involve a certain amount of excitement, from chugging along the Hogwarts Express in the highlands to riding in stunt vehicles, flying in helicopters of being sped around the Thames on an inflatable dinghy.

However, my goal has always been to transition into directing and although I’ve worked with many great directors who have taken the Harry Potter helm, there’s no substitute for being the one in charge and no job better in my eyes, than that of the director. When I began crafting the idea that would become the script for White Other I knew immediately that I wanted to source my cast from Harry Potter. More specifically, I wanted Tom Felton, who I felt had immense potential to translate his natural chemistry and instinct into that of a character actor. Of course, another element to this was rapport – Tom always seemed to go that little bit further in relating to the crew and breaking down the barriers between the talent and the technicians. For his outlook and his attitude I respected him, and that openness and accessibility is what I think will make him stand out among his contemporaries.
In retrospect I’m rather surprised at how easy the casting process went. After Tom had agreed to do the film, I set out to convince Imelda Staunton to become involved. This was in some ways both incredibly easy and very difficult: difficult because I’m approaching a BAFTA winning actress to give up her time to work on a short film from an unknown director who has suddenly blundered into her presence clasping a script of similarly unknown providence! Easy, on the other hand, because she read the script, professed to enjoy it and very kindly gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

The filming itself, as is so often the case, was a very small part of a long process. For White Other it was two days in Ealing Hospital, after which the crew disappeared into their cars, the cast were whisked away to much higher profile (and paying) jobs, and I was left with the footage and the decisions. Which brings me to now: November 2010. The film has been edited, graded, sound-mixed and scored. Soon it will be released with the hope that it resonates with an audience. For me, it’s driven by the same desire that took me through Leavesden studio gates ten years ago but with the hope that maybe next time I’m back in Leavesden I’ll be in a different chair.