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Interview with DepicT! filmmaker Neil Hepburn

Still from Experiments in Parahypnosis

Can you briefly explain what your film is about?
Experiments in Parahypnosis is about experiments conducted on patients with sleep disorders at the Schlaf Institute in East Berlin, c. 1973. As the result of a tragic fire, Dr Wolfgang Schlaf stumbled upon a theory about his participants’ ability to foresee the future in their dreams.

What made you choose this particular theme?
I don’t believe in psychic abilities but I am attracted to the idea of synchronicity in the world and hypnosis in films. I recently read that recorded premonitions of disasters and terrible events outnumber predictions of happy events. I find this interesting because you could suggest that either precognitive abilities are at play or the subconscious is just a cesspit of anxiety and strange feelings, and either idea is fascinating. When dreams intersect with our waking life (like a coincidental encounter after a dream) it seems deeply meaningful and the boundaries between our waking and sleeping life are blurred. It’s an obvious thing to say, but I think cinema is the best medium for exploring these ideas.

How do you hope your film will resonate with your audience?
I want the film to reel the audience in then hypnotise them. On the one hand, it’s a fairly straightforward narrative about an event that took place. But I also wanted to make it convincing, by conveying a subliminal sense of danger – as if just watching the video could be harmful in some way. Although I don’t personally feel like I completely achieved this effect, I hope it retains a strange and unsettling quality.

Can you give us some information about your background – what made you choose to get into film?
I studied Religion at university, which I don’t regret but I always wanted to get back to creative writing. I loved cinema but had no idea how to get into the film industry. I’ve always written stories in one form or another so I decided to try and figure out how to write screenplays, which led to a period studying screenwriting. I’ve since been selected for a number of development initiatives and worked on independent short films.  Which are these and where were they + what did you get out of them?

Are there any cinematic works that have inspired you or influenced you in some way?
With this film I suppose I drew on a fascination with fictional organisations within films and TV. I like it when companies loom large on stories as murky, powerful and malevolent forces, like the Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner or CIVIC-TV in Videodrome. As a child, I was intrigued by the Acme Corporation in Looney Tunes, which is kind of freaky because, in that world, it’s where you have to get everything. Like only being able to shop at Tesco and all their products explode in unexpected ways at inopportune moments, which is more or less the world we’re living in.

What have you been up to since filming?
Writing scripts. I’m working on a feature-screenplay called Bitter Memoirs and trying to find some funding support for a short film I’ve written called Exiles. I haven’t given up my day job yet, so I’m still shovelling popcorn in an old Edinburgh cinema and watching lots of movies.

Posted on 21 Oct 2011 at 9:06 am.

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