Interview: Wilson Lau
Our Culture Editor get’s chatting to film maker and UCL graduate Wilson Lau about movie making, Indiana Jones and changing the ending of Back to the Future
Wilson Lau is a recent UCL graduate and former member of the UCLU Film Society. After gaining recognition for his film making talent in his homeland, Hong Kong, he decided to continue his work over here in the UK. One degree, many films and a production company later, I found myself sitting opposite him in the Refectory.
First of all Wilson, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Well, I come from Hong Kong and basically I went to a technical school and did some engineering courses and then I came here to UCL to continue my studies. While I was at the school I won a few prizes so I thought I might have a bit of talent, but I stopped making films until I got here.
What made you start up again?
I started at the Film Society and I found that there were a lot of opportunities. It definitely helped me to hone my skills. My science background helped me with all of the technical aspects but the society gave me a platform.
So when did you actually realise that you had a genuine interest in film making?
I think the turning point was the second year of my course because I started a crew called the Dimensions Crew. I was obsessed with going to the studio…about five days a week (laughs). We made about three short films in that year. My academic side was my downside that year…
What’s your earliest film memory, what’s the earliest film that you can remember watching that really had an impact on you?
Ah that’s an interesting story…the Back to the Future films. I was quite into science and obsessed with the films, but I didn’t like the third part because I didn’t like how the film ended. I’d sit there shouting at the TV and my mum would tell me off. She told me that if I wasn’t happy about it then I should make my own films.
So it’s all down to your mum!
Also when you were younger you worked on a project with Coca Cola, which sounds amazing. What did that involve?
At the time I was submitting my work to the Hong Kong Centre, to a competition called IVA. It’s the 18th year they’ve been doing it now. I took part in the 9th and 10th years. I won the gold prize in the second year and they called me up to say they wanted me to work on a project with Coca Cola. A publicity project, making short films to bring something positive to Hong Kong students, telling them they have options for their futures.
Let’s talk a bit about your influences and your style.
I would say that at this point in time I quite like to borrow ideas from other stories and reboot the idea. I’m trying to take a theme or an aspect of the original work and adapt it into something new. I quite like Steven Spielberg’s method because he has a really interesting way of telling a story…it’s not just about the story itself, it’s about how he tells it, what decisions he makes.
What’s your favourite Spielberg film?
That would be Indiana Jones.
Really? All three or can you pick one?
I always think the first one is the best.
The first ones are always the best, although I have a bit of a soft spot for the third one, The Last Crusade…
I think the first and third ones are really good. The second isn’t so much…
Okay so now we’ve established our mutual love for Spielberg, let’s talk about Dimensions Crew. Your first film was London Light. I’m quite interested in knowing the inspiration for the film. Did moving to London have an inspirational effect?
I’m sorry, I’m going to have to break your imagination a little bit (laughs). It was a new camera that I was using, so it was a camera test project really. I wanted to do some lighting tests and capture some beautiful light and movement in and around UCL in the film. Outside the Print Room Café, outside the Garage Theatre with the orange lights which I think are quite sexy, and the blue lights under the bridge.
I watched the clips of two of your most recent films, Charlotte Holmes and Act I. What struck me was that they both seem to be under the umbrella of the theme of crime. Does that particularly interest you?
It does…it does. I tried ghost and romantic and Gothic stories but they didn’t really work. It’s much easier to interest people, in my opinion, if you have crime involved. I’m a horrible person…I have a terrible criminal mind. (Laughs).
For the people who haven’t seen the films, what are they about?
Charlotte Holmes is a about the relationship between a girl and an old man. Charlotte thinks she’s related to Sherlock Holmes, but she comes to realise that he’s only a fictional character by learning from George, this detective and she helps him to overcome depression.
Where can people go to watch it?
We’re waiting until Act I is being screened as well (16th March, The Screen Network, £6). Then we’ll put them online or on iTunes. Act I is being screened in March.
Do you have any future projects coming up?
We finished a film called Followed this month, literally a few days ago. It’s black and white, three by four and quite old-fashioned in style.
Quick questions now. Favourite film?
BACK TO THE FUTURE, but not number three!
Tough one…I like Robert Downey Jr.
Anne Hathaway. I didn’t know she could do action and then I saw her play Cat Woman. She was incredible.