After almost 15 years working almost exclusively on short films, Tinge Krishnan has sent the London Film Festival into a lather with her feature film Junkhearts, a beautifully told drama starring Eddie Marsan as a drug addicted ex-soldier living in east London. She talks about what she’s learned from her eventful career…
How have you developed as a filmmaker since making your first short in 1997?
I think I’m more relaxed in the role now. I don’t try and do it all on my own. The less you know, the more you feel you should know everything, but the more time I’ve spent on set, the more I’ve realised that it’s purely a collaborative art.
The joy of it is having everyone do their thing to the best of their ability and trusting the input that everyone has, and knowing it’s OK to say, “Actually, I don’t know. What do you think?”
How long did it take you to learn those lessons?
It was incremental. I did a project in Asia of 10 three-minute episodes called Dimensions and I learned, by being pushed to my breaking point, that you are your crew, your actors and your producers.
You need to have an open relationship with these people. Being in the film business is a bit like a building a family. You do it over years and years, and you find people that know you and aren’t massively irritated by you, and you work together – like a relationship.
You trained as a doctor. How did that experience inform your attitude as a filmmaker?
Working as a doctor you connect with people immediately on a very intimate level, and that’s a really authentic connection. I’ve always wanted to bring that level of intimacy and authenticity into my storytelling.
The way you work with people as a doctor, you develop a bedside manner that is a real thing – not a pretend thing. Good doctors have a genuine respect, and as a director I think you also need to treat people with that same respect.
How did you emerge as a filmmaker, considering that training?
When I was working in A&E I was seeing a lot of people die around me, and that focused my mind. I had an image of what people would say about me when I’m a little old lady, and I decided I had to do what I was really passionate about and what I felt I could be good at, because I believe it‘s possible to shift paradigms and societies by telling the right stories.
You spent 10 years making short films before your first feature. Would you recommend that path to a young filmmaker?
No, I really wouldn’t recommend it. That’s just the way my life panned out. I had kids in that time, and I spent some time volunteering after the [2004 south-east Asian] tsunami and I lost traction with funding during that time. At the same time I think it’s worked well for me. When I made (2001 BAFTA winning short) Shadowscan, it was very easy for me to get meetings and get funding, but it became much more difficult over time and that was good on reflection, because it made me more humble and made me focus much more on the craft.
What’s your advice to young filmmakers?
It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how many punches you can take.
Junkhearts screened at the BFI London Film Festival, and will be released in cinemas nationwide on 4 November. See the trailer here.
Image Tinge Krishnan on the set of Junkhearts...