"We really only completed the film a couple of days before we found out we were closing Edinburgh," "Third Star" director Hattie Dalton told indieWIRE days before her film debuted at the Scottish film festival. "So we literally had just finished the mix and everything, and I was in this stage of still slightly reeling. I wasn't sure if the film quite worked or not. I mean, it's a natural role of the director to look at all the problems so you can solve them. So I was still in that state, really, and once we found out, I thought 'well, it must work.'"
Edinburgh audiences seemed to agree on Sunday night when "Star" helped end the 64th edition of the film festival. It also marked Dalton's feature film debut after winning a BAFTA for her 2004 short film "The Banker." "Star" (written by Vaughan Sivell - also making his feature debut) follows the dark comic themes of "Banker" and Dalton's other shorts, depicting a road trip between four young friends - one of whom has just been diagnosed with cancer.
"It was ambitious to do a film like this as a first film because it is a difficult subject matter," Dalton said. "My short films are quite black comedies. I always think that if you can entertain people along the way then the poignancy or the weight of the story can kind of be a drip feeder afterward and the resonance stays. I mean that's my opinion... But that's the sort of films that I like, and that's the sort of films that my short films are. 'Third Star' is definitely along those lines...To have a guy in it whose dying of cancer sounds like not the most commercial film. But the fact that it's a comedy...I mean, it's always a fine line to walk between serving the truth of the weight of something like that, and to also give relief to be able to laugh along the way. I know - through my friendships and my family and my upbringing- that you deal with the hardest things using humor. If you don't laugh..."
Dalton - a native of Australia - got her start in broadcast journalism, which eventually led to a decade of work editing featuring films.
"It was during that time that secretly began to want to get into directing," she said. "And I'd make these no-budget short films with friends. But it's actually been a very nurturing environment in the British film industry. There were some people I worked with - particularly editors and directors - who encouraged me with my short films. And then a couple of the more 'grown up' short films were recognized, and it sort of set me off to thinking that maybe I could make a career out of this. So this being the first feature is a big deal."
As for "Third Star"'s life beyond Edinburgh, Dalton is hopeful.
"It's not the easiest of films," Dalton said. "And it's the type of film that will really need word of mouth. We feel like it works well enough that once people see it, they'll tell people to go. But on paper, it might not seem very commercially viable. But that's what you need these festivals for. So that people who are willing to tell stories about the bigger things in life get to actually represented."