Andrew Haigh


Andrew Haigh, Weekend, 2011, still from a color film in 35mm, 96 minutes. Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New.)

Andrew Haigh is a filmmaker and writer based in Norwich, England. His second feature film, Weekend, tells the story of two men, Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), who share a chance romantic weekend and are forced to confront their own beliefs about themselves. Weekend screens Friday, September 23–Thursday, September 29 at the IFC Center in New York.

I ASPIRE TO honest, authentic, and simple films about characters. Not to mention British kitchen sink dramas from the 1950s like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with Albert Finney. I wrote extensive backstories for the characters in this film, which I discussed with the actors. I remember writing a lot about Glen and what he would have been like in school, the kind of friends he would have had, and his family. Russel’s background, on the other hand, was quite a contrast because he is a foster child. I remember working out all the foster families that he would have stayed with, how they dealt with him and those kinds of things.

We shot the film completely in story order. Every night, the two actors and I would get together, and we’d just go through the next day and work out what was needed, especially in relation to what we’d shot the day before. Confining the time span to just two days is a very good way to get to the heart of two characters.

Andrew Haigh, Weekend (2011) (Trailer)

Your search for identity is really your search to be authentic as a person. So the characters are constantly trying to find a reconciliation of their public and private worlds. You can be open and be yourself at home, but how do you express that? Glen does it very loudly, whereas Russel just finds it hard to be the person he is in private, in public. It’s like both of them are trying to work out how they can be authentic to themselves and how they can create their public identity, whatever that is. Russel knows who he is, he’s not ashamed of being gay, but I think that for a lot of people there’s a weight that you carry around with you of historical prejudice and even historical hatred. Russel just carries that weight on his shoulders and he finds it very hard to get rid of that. Whereas Glen ignores it to some extent or uses it almost to be the type of person he is; he thrives on it. He is not just some two-dimensional angry queer; it’s more about his struggle for authenticity.

It’s hard to come out and think, “This is it now, I’m going to be around these people who understand me and like me.” Maybe you go to clubs and you wonder what you’ve bought in to. Maybe you see the ads in gay magazines and you think, “This is not who I am,” but somehow suddenly you become identified with it and it’s quite hard if you’re gay and you don’t want to be seen as that either. People like to put you in a box quickly.

Some people have been upset by my depiction of these two doing drugs over their weekend together. I understand why the gay community, especially the older community, is protective of their representation. But I am not making a film about every gay person; I am just making a film about two people.

— As told to John Arthur Peetz