Exclusive: Interview with Film Director Harry Holland

CelebMix chats with the brilliant 18-year-old about upcoming film projects and more.

If there’s one thing that Harry Holland loves to do, it’s directing a film.

The English 18-year-old had a fairly normal childhood living in southwest London. He went to school, had two loving parents, and played football in the yard with his three brothers, just like any other kid with siblings would. However, Harry would begin thinking about his chosen career path perhaps a bit earlier than many of his peers. With his father Dominic Holland being a professional comedian and author, his mother Nikki being a photographer, and his older brother Tom (think Spider-Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland –– and yes, that’s him!) being a dancer and actor-in-training, Harry would develop his interests in the entertainment industry early on.

Filmmaking quickly became Harry’s greatest fascination, and as he grew into adolescence, he began directing his own short films for audiences to enjoy on YouTube. Scriptwriting and directing could certainly be tedious work, but there was an impactful story to be shared through each project. The passion and enthusiasm Harry has for creating stories through film can make it hard to believe that he is still an amateur in the industry.

Recently, CelebMix had the opportunity to speak to Harry on the phone about his upcoming film projects, the reasons behind his love of directing, his aspirations for the future, and more!

Harry Holland on the set of “Roses for Lily”. / Photo credit: Nikki Holland

CM: Hi Harry, thanks for speaking with us! We’re happy to have you on CelebMix.

H: Awesome, thank you so much for having me.

CM: Firstly, let’s describe your background. How did you first gain interest in the film industry? And when did you realize that you really wanted to direct?

H: I think when I was about 12, Tom was doing The Impossible and my family and I flew out to Thailand for six months to go live there with Tom, (and) just growing up on a film set for six months, I kind of fell in love with it, without knowing really. Then it wasn’t until I was deciding what I wanted to do for college that I kind of thought you know what, filmmaking is something I really love. I started making short films after school and things. I pursued it further at college, and now here I am today trying to make films and trying to get them out there. So I guess overall it was living in Thailand while they made The Impossible, and meeting people in the industry, and just seeing how much of a collaborative process it is, which is something that I love.

CM: Yeah! Because I know your family has a lot of the entertainment business background. You all act, and you grew up going to an acting school?

H: Well, we went to a dance class. Paddy wasn’t born at this point yet –– my youngest brother –– but Tom and Sam and I went to a dance class. I don’t know why I went because I cannot dance to save my life. [laughs] But Sam and Tom both can quite well, and it was from the dance class that Tom got spotted to go and do Billy Elliot. I did a bit of acting when I was much younger, I acted in a film called Diana but since that kind of experience of acting I’ve realized that I wanted to be behind the camera. Because I feel more comfortable when I can creatively come up with how I want to tell a story, and I think that’s the beautiful thing about filmmaking is you can give three different people the same script and the same story, but you’re going to get three completely different films, because people tell stories in different ways. I’m at the moment still trying to find kind of what my style is. But I think that just comes with trying and trying and a lot of practice, so that’s my goal at the minute.

CM: So let’s talk a little bit about your upcoming film Roses for Lily. I know that you’ve gone out to film it for a couple of days. Could you tell us a bit on what the film is about? Or is it too early? Or…?

H: No, I can tell you! So, it’s been in the works for around six months. I wrote it with a very good friend of mine Patrick Pendergast who is my producer. Pretty much all of my work is a collaborative process with him. We actually wrote the script around my twin Sam, ‘cause Sam has been saying that he wanted to go into acting, so I thought, why don’t we write a script and a story that we’d make with Sam in it? So we came up with the story. It’s really is a kind of coming-of-age love story about this couple that go on a date — their first date — and through this first date we tell the story of their whole life together but in a kind of ambiguous way that’s a bit strange. It’s one of those films that’s quite difficult to explain without watching it or reading the script. A lot of people read the script and they come back to me and say, “Oh, I cried”, ‘cause it is actually a sad story. [humorously] Everyone who’s seen some of the stills online, have this assumption that the film is happy and sweet. I feel like I should put out a disclaimer saying it’s a sad film before people watch it.

CM: That makes us even more eager for Roses for Lily!

H: Yeah, yeah! We shot for three days up in Leicester, and my grandparents were all involved, and it was a very big thing for me because my granddad is one of the proudest people you’ll ever meet. He’s always wanted to get involved. So I said to him, “Granddad, I want to do a film near your house, and I want to have a load of the actors stay at your house.” And he said, “You can, as long as you let me be the best boy on your film.” And for anyone who doesn’t know what the “best boy” is, the best boy is the assistant to the gaffer, who is the person who deals with all the camera equipment. I said, “Absolutely,” so I went out, I bought him a best boy shirt, and all the family were involved, Tom was there helping out –– you know it was a very collaborative process, but I loved every minute of it.

CM: That sounds amazing! Now let’s talk a bit about your family also being in the films. Your younger brother Paddy, he’s in The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill. And as you said, it’s a fun process. Is it fun to boss them around while out filming, or is it a serious “This is my work, I’ve got to focus!” thing?

H: Yeah, sometimes it is difficult, and I came across it on both Roses for Lily and The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill. I love working with my brothers, but at the beginning of shooting, you kind of have to establish that this is a working relationship and we’re working together to make something great. Paddy is brilliant and when we did The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill, that was his first time acting in front of a camera. He’s just a very, very –– and I’m not saying this ‘cause he’s my little brother –– but he’s a very, very intelligent young actor. Myself and the acting coach Ben Perkins, who’s a good friend of mine, we were very impressed with him. Same we were with Sam. Working with family is great to a degree, but I think you definitely need to establish that when you get to work, you’re working, and when you finish, you’re family, you know? Otherwise, that’s when things can get a bit messy, but every time I’ve worked with my family it’s been brilliant, and yeah, I’ve loved it, I’ve absolutely loved it.

CM: It’s so great to hear that about your family! Let’s talk a little more about The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill. What can you tell us about that film, in contrast to Roses for Lily?

H: The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill is not something I’d written. A very good friend of mine Mikki Pallas, who I met on The Impossible, wrote it with her friend who is a very talented writer called Kelly Ngai. It’s a brilliant story and I was so excited when Mikki and Kelly asked me to be a part of the project. The story in summary is about two children who reluctantly go to spend time with their reclusive grandfather. They find themselves going on this epic quest to solve the mysterious disappearance of their grandmother which happened many decades ago. Through searching for clues they discover that magic is in fact real, and also discover secrets from their grandfather’s past as a magician.

CM: Oh, so it’s definitely a big contrast from Roses for Lily!

H: Yeah, a big contrast.

CM: Is this one maybe more uplifting?

H: I mean, Roses for Lily is very uplifting. When I say it’s sad….

CM: ….like, the “good” sad?

H: Yeah, there’s sad moments. But towards the end of the film, you realize that although this is a sad story, it’s actually quite positive. I can’t really say much more than that without giving away what happens. But The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill is one of those things that when you read it, you kind of think, “How did they come up with that?” It’s such an incredible story, and that’s why I want it so badly to be made into a TV show because it is a story that people would love. It’s got a very kind of Harry Potter vibe to it. And I think there’s a massive craze in Hollywood now for stories that follow children. You know, you’ve got Stranger Things and It coming out, and I think there’s such a market for something like this now, and it would be something that is so loved, that I just cannot see it not become a TV show, you know? It’s got twists and turns. I’m just a starting piece in making the trailer and helping promote it. I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t get picked up and made into a TV show because it is such a brilliant story.

CM: That’s good for viewers, with such an interesting sort of film.

H: Yeah. It’s not something that’s been made yet. That’s the process we’re in at the moment, we’re just trying to get funding for it. But I’m sure in the near future we will see a proper TV show come out of it, which will be great!

CM: That is great! And so how do you go from these ideas to having a finished film? You know, since as a director you have many roles in the filmmaking. Could you maybe take us a little through that?

H: I think for me I probably have about 20 ideas of films I’ve written, a lot (of them written) with Patrick Pendergast. But at the end of the day what it comes down to is when I sit down and we decide what film we want to make, we decide upon perhaps something that’s not my favorite idea, but the thing I think we can do best. A big problem as someone who’s been to a film school is that over-ambition is good, but if you’re trying to make something that you can’t possibly make, I think that’s where people trip up. So we decided to make this film Roses for Lily because it’s quite a simple idea and we thought we could execute it well. I do like writing my own stories and telling them myself so the process for me is normally kind of (like), I’ll write the scripts with Patrick, and then I’ll figure out the rest of the components. Before I do the shot list or anything like that, I like to think, “How am I going to tell this story through the camera?” Because that’s what it is, you know? You write the story onto paper first, and then you’ve got to put it on the screen.

CM: What kind of impact do you hope the projects will make on viewers when they watch Roses for Lily and The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill? Would it be through the cinematography, or something else?

H: Well, my strength is not in cinematography, so I hope people appreciate the direction. And then at the same time obviously (I hope they appreciate) the cinematography, because they kind of do go hand-in-hand. With The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill, obviously the goal is to get it out there, get people excited for it, and use that to help get funding. I’m in the process of editing Roses For Lily now, and I’m very happy with what we’ve got. I’m going to sit back and, once I’ve finished it, I’m going to evaluate it, because the goal for that since the beginning was to go to film festivals with it. And if you want to go to film festivals, most of them you can’t release (your film) online, so it’ll be online one day but I want to first see whether I can do something with it in terms of taking it to film festivals and trying to get recognition for it. That’s a piece of filmmaking very driven by the acting and dialogue, and that’s something I want people to appreciate, because the writing in that was very tricky to get across because it’s very ambiguous and confusing when you watch it for the first time. [humorously] It’s difficult to explain, and I’m not very good at explaining it. When you watch it, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. But that’s something that took me a very long time to write with my friend because just of how complex the dialogue was. I’m very excited for it, and I’m excited for people to see it and give feedback.

CM: We’re all excited, too! As a director, do you ever feel a certain pressure to create more or different content? Or do you just go with the flow?

H: I think of course you’ve got to be different to be noticed. I’m at a point where if I write a story, if I think it’s worth telling and I think people are going to enjoy it, then it’s something that I’m going to go and make. But yeah, I think you have to try and be different. If you make something that’s been done before, then you’re not going to take it as far, and it’s very difficult to think of things that haven’t been done before. But you’ve got to try your best! I’ve taken inspiration from lots of different filmmakers and films –– a big one was Up, which sounds crazy. But the best way to compare Roses for Lily to anything is the opening scene from Up, that I think is beautiful and is an excellent piece of filmmaking. It’s kind of a more stylized version of that. So of course, you’ve got to take inspiration, but at the same time making yourself as different as you possibly can be.

CM: You know, I just remember being a younger kid, watching Up and crying within the first ten minutes, so. [laughs] That’s really quite exciting for Roses for Lily.

H: I think it’s with short films as well, because I think Roses for Lily will probably end up being ten minutes. I am always impressed when films are able to make someone cry. The first one I ever cried at was The Impossible –– and that’s not me being biased, it’s actually just me crying –– and I think it’s because you become so emotionally involved with a character that that’s what pushes you off the edge. I think it’s more challenging with a short film because you have less time to make people care for your characters. So even if this film –– even if I put it out there and it’s not as good as I want it to be –– if someone watches it and is genuinely emotionally touched, and they say, “Wow, that really made me emotional,” then it would’ve been worth making. Because that’s my goal as a filmmaker, you know, to take people on an emotional journey. I’ve shown only one person in the world –– apart from, obviously, the person I’m editing it with –– a one minute clip of a scene that is fairly emotional, and they started crying. So I’m hoping that when it’s all put together it will be the emotional piece I want it to be.

….if someone watches (Roses for Lily) and is genuinely emotionally touched…then it would’ve been worth making.

CM: [humorously] People will tweet you, “I’m crying!”

H: [laughs] Not in a bad way, though!

CM: No, no! It’s the best way. Now, you’ve partially answered this earlier on how you’re planning to take Roses for Lily to film festivals first. But the big question is, approximately when can we hope to see the film, or trailers even? Because you recently released The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill trailer (and it’s incredible!).

H: (For) Roses for Lily, people don’t realize that post-production is as important as the shooting of it obviously, so I need to get the music done…. I’m quite the perfectionist. There’s been so many times where I’ve edited for five hours, and I’ll watch it back. And if I don’t like it, I’m one of those people that will delete everything and start again, which is obviously not the best thing. I’m hoping Roses for Lily will be done in three months. Hoping. And I’m hoping people can see it –– but we’ll have to see.

(Left to right) Patrick Pendergast, Harry Holland, and Ben Perkins on the set of “Roses for Lily”. / Photo credit: Nikki Holland

CM: What other great things can we expect from you in the future? Any future projects you could tell us about now, or are you just taking things slow?

H: Well, I actually –– this sounds pretty random! I was in a pub the other day talking to a friend of mine who’s in the industry, and he said a quote to me that I’ve been thinking about ever since. He said, “As a film director, you have the ability to tell people stories, so tell people stories that you want to tell. With messages that mean something to you.” I think the next film I do is something that’s going to be very personal to my life, and a message I really want to get across. I actually made a documentary that’s supposed to come out soon called Angst about anxiety, which was something quite personal to my life. We’ll have to see when that one comes out, but yeah. At the moment, I’ve just finished school and I’m not planning to go to college, so I’m just going to see where life takes me and try to make as many films as I can. It’s one of those things where there’s no set route in becoming a film director, you kind of just take your opportunities as they come, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now. We’ll take every stepping stone as it comes, and the next one being releasing The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill and seeing what people think about it.

CM: How important is it getting that feedback from your audience? Is it a learning experience?

H: Yeah, yeah, yeah –– I can already tell you from editing Roses for Lily things I did wrong, and things that I’m going to do differently next time. Feedback for me is only helpful if people are honest, which is why when I get feedback from my family it’s always the best feedback for me, because we’re a very tight-knit family that are very honest with each other. So I can show my family something, and they can turn around and go, “That is absolutely rubbish.” And I would go, “Okay, why is it rubbish,” and they would explain to me why, and I’ll change it. I think that’s the best feedback because if someone is saying to you, “Oh, that was brilliant,” and it’s not? That’s not helping you in any way. I’ve been lucky in my life to get feedback from some film directors in the industry that are giving me honest advice, and I’ve taken that and I still go by that, especially feedback that kind of applies to directing in general. I remember talking to director Ron Howard on the set of In the Heart in the Sea, and I said to him, “This looks so crazy, how do you manage all of this?” because they had this massive rig. And he says, “Just focus what you’re getting in your shot, and let people around you do the rest.” That’s something I’ve tried to apply to my filmmaking over the last couple of years. But obviously, I’ve never directed anything on the same scale, so. [laughs] I don’t have to worry about that much.

CM: But one day!

H: One day! Hopefully one day. A big dream of mine is that one day, I want to direct a film with all my brothers. I want to direct a film about four brothers, but just with only three brothers in it. [a bit amusingly] And then I’ll just be the director. I might make a cameo as the fourth brother. Because we have them all acting now, I think that might be something that happens in the future, but we’ll have to see.

CM: Harry, I think that’s all the questions we have right now. Thanks so much for chatting with us at CelebMix!

Don’t be fooled by his young age: Harry Holland has a fiery zeal for filmmaking that will cease to be put out. He’s constantly learning to improve his craft. Through his film projects, he will continue to share stories that you won’t find elsewhere. A big thank you again to Harry for taking the time to talk with CelebMix! We can’t wait for all of your future endeavors –– we’ll be cheering for you along the way!

You can check out the teaser trailer to The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill below!

Watch Harry’s past short films on YouTube by clicking here. For the latest updates about Harry’s films, travels, or daily life, you can follow his Instagram (@harryholland64) and Twitter (@HarryHolland99).

For more information about The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill, visit www.facebook.com/HoarderHill and follow @mysterioushouseonhoarderhill on Instagram.

To learn about and support The Brothers Trust, the Holland brothers’ multi-cause charity, please visit http://www.thebrotherstrust.org/.

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How thrilled are you for The Mysterious House on Hoarder Hill and  Roses for Lily? Tweet us your thoughts to @CelebMix, and share this post with a friend!

Written by Celine Low

Based in Houston, TX. Passionate about music, film, photography, & journalism.

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