Interview with David Gilbank, Director of Award-Winning Short Film Polterheist


Fresh off of his film’s double-award winning night at What’s Hot London?’s  Hot Shorts Film Festival London 2016, David Gilbank the writer/director of supernatural crime caper Polterheist is now focusing on turning the multi-award winning short into a feature film. What’s Hot London?’s Eddie Saint-Jean interviews him about the film’s success and these plans for the future.

Remind us how many awards you won at the recent Hot Shorts Film Festival 2016 and in what categories?

I’m very proud to say that we scored two wins plus a Special Mention. Our Lead actress Kathryn Hanke won Best Actress and the film got a Best Screenplay gong. Kathryn also got a Special Mention for which I’m extremely proud. She is such a talent and hard worker, she deserves her success. The screenplay award was special because my writing partner Paul Renhard and I worked for a long time to get it in good shape. The actors also contributed to it in a big way.

So how many awards on the film circuit is that in total and which of these stand out as memorable?

Since we released the film in March 2016 it’s won 12 awards. The Hot Shorts awards mean a great deal because of the quality of the judges and the competition. Earlier this year Kathryn won the Discover Film London award for Best Actor which was great because one of the other films had John Hurt in it. Polterheist also won the Drunken Film Festival in Bradford for Best short and that was special because the film was shot there and because of this had the ‘northern grimness’ that I was looking for. It’s won awards in the US, Europe, South America and South Africa. They’re all special because I have such a fragile ego and it needs propping up with approval from others…haha. That’s only partially true. The awards are part of our cunning plan to make a feature version of Polterheist.

Lead actress Kathryn Hanke is a true talent. She won a Best Actress award at the Hot Shorts Film Festival and received a Special Mention from the judges. How did you discover such a talent?

A couple of years ago we were asked at the last minute to do a corporate video for a client. We needed an actress urgently but our usual suppliers were all busy. Then a friend recommended Kathryn who showed up on time with little notice, said her lines perfectly but was obviously talented. At that time we were writing a horror feature screenplay set in the US and we asked her to help with the delivery. She was great and helped a great deal. She introduced us to Jamie. She’s a professional and a great friend.

What’s the history behind the short film? What inspired you to embark on the project in the first place?

We wrote the original screenplay about 4 years ago but realised that we couldn’t pull it off because we didn’t have the actors to do it. But when we met Kathryn and Jamie on another project we realised that we now had the talent… these guys could do Polterheist! I’ve always loved British gangster films, particularly Get Carter. I love the way it captured that realistic gritty northern criminal sub-culture. I wanted to combine that feel with some daylight horror, getting away from stylised Hollywood horror.

What was your directing and writing experience before Polterheist?

I’ve directed several short films, some good some not, but I love it. I’m co-owner of a media company, Tadah Media, that makes corporate videos and TV commercials so I direct for a living. I’m very commercial and want to make films that people want to see. I’m also a copywriter by trade and have literally written thousands of commercials that are geared towards getting a response, so I suppose that’s played a big part in my development, ie moving the story on. I’ve won quite a few awards for screenwriting (uncommisioned) but while winning  these awards were good for the fragile ego it also made me realise that writing a great screenplay doesn’t mean it’ll get filmed. It made me realise I would have to film stuff myself. Unfortunately, writing great screenplays are like crossing your numbers off on a lottery ticket. The odds of winning are stacked against you.

Polterheist seems longer and has more production elements than your average short film. Was it expensive to put all that together?

All in all we spent about 1500 quid on getting Polterheist together. We assembled a great cast. Once we added the superb Sid Akbar Ali to the cast, we workshopped the script for a couple of days, getting the characters whittled down to some fine detail. This added some brilliant touches to the script. We kept it under 20 minutes which is a decent length and I think the film is very engaging and keeps the viewer engrossed.

What are your future plans for Polterheist?

We’ve written a full-length feature version which we are currently trying to turn into a film. We’re raising funds via indiegogo and private investors. I’m inviting anyone reading this interview to invest in a great film. We have a great distribution deal in place and we want to make money for our investors. Talk to me. We’ve got the same cast and some new memorable characters to join the team. I’m very excited about the screenplay. It’s a great yarn.

What are your personal plans as regards a career as a writer/director?

First things first, I want to direct the feature version of Polterheist. I want it to be commercially and critically successful and continue on to make more films that offer great entertainment and value for money. We have a fabulous screenplay about Heavy Metal in Middlesborough in the 1980s that we want to film and a Bollywood love story about cricket all set to go.

What advice would you give any emerging film-maker?

Get a camera and film stuff!

Finally what is the most inspiring film, in a creative aspect or otherwise, you’ve ever seen?

In terms of films that have inspired me: Apocalypse Now, Mad Max2 and The Big Lebowski. These have great scripts that subscribe to the adage ‘show and don’t tell’.

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About the author /

Eddie Saint-Jean is a London writer and editor whose editorials cover arts, culture, entertainment, food/drink, local history and heritage.

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