At 4pm on Tuesday, filmmaker David Yates addressed a packed room in the GMB having been awarded the Medal of Honourary Patronage by The Phil. Yates is best known for directing the final four instalments in the infamous Harry Potter film series, as well as the highly anticipated ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, due for release later this year. Yates has won multiple awards including BAFTAS and Emmy’s for his work ‘The Way We Live Now’(2001) and ‘Sex Traffic’ (2004). His most recent film to hit Irish cinema screens was ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (2016) in July.
Discussing his career, Yates reflected on the importance of being an earlier riser: “My advice for those who want to become a director [is that] if you don’t like early mornings, don’t do it!” He then went on to talk about the technological side of his career, divulging that when he originally set out to become a director he placed much of his focus on the technology that had been developed in assuming that this was the key to creating a successful film.
As his career progressed, however, Yates learned that the most important part of film-making is in fact the expression of human life, and the telling of a story that people can connect to.“The power of storytelling and communication is there in the reaction of the viewer and that is the power of cinema, to create a common and shared human expression.” As a shy child, using film as a form of communication came naturally to Yates and he revealed to the crowd that this was the best way for him to express himself.
Going on to talk about Harry Potter and the upcoming instalment of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (2016) Yates admitted that he was hesitant at first about returning once more to work on a Harry Potter project having already spent six years on the last franchise. Once he read the script, on the other hand, he felt compelled to come back. “It is a whole new set of characters and a new place, 1920s New York, but it has the same values and morals of the Harry Potter books which makes it something new and yet familiar.” Yates expressed both relief and excitement over the films due to the fact they were not based on books this time around.
“There are no books which is great because that means there are no expectations.” When asked about whether there was ever a certain scene that stood out to him as exceptional in the Harry Potter series, Yates spoke of Tom Felton’s performance of Draco Malfoy and how he handled the storyline in the sixth instalment, saying it was particularly memorable in that he felt Felton pushed himself in ways he had not done before.
Regarding his own path to success, Yates remembered back to his beginning in the industry and how his first film, ‘When I Was a Girl’ (1988), felt like the make or break of his career at the time. Contrarily, he shared that through the years he has learned that careers rarely progress in a straight line. “Whatever route you’re on, however successful you are, there will always be obstacles there in your way, but they are there to help you build strength.” Yates went on to reveal that he had his own disappointments but by learning from them and keeping his faith, he has proceeded to grow as a director.
Sharing his excitement for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, which is released in Irish cinemas on November 18, Yates spoke highly of Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell, praising them as wonderful, creative and generous actors. Having worked with Colin Farrell to name but one of the acclaimed Irish actors he has teamed up with in the past, Yates mentioned how amazed he is by the talented people that Ireland continues to produce, lending his encouragement with the words: “I don’t know what training you guys have here but keep it up!”