Wednesday, November 10, 2010

David Yates – Movies Spotlight – November 2010

David Yates is best known as the director of some of the best films in the Harry Potter series. But before he took over the Potter films, he had a very successful career directing hit series and films for British television. This month Yates has the first part of the final Potter film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which Yates claims will blow everyone away (and if the trailer is any indication, he is right).

Early Career:

Born in St Helens, England, Yates got his start in film as a teenager, fascinated with the film Jaws. He saw it over 35 times, studying the precise mechanics of its production. He took what he learned from his analysis of Jaws and began making short films with family and friends. After attending the University of Essex, he got his first job as a freelancer for Cre8 Studios. Using their facilities, Yates made his first short film When I Was a Girl, which was quite well received leading to him being accepted into the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. There, he studied in the directing program. The short also garnered him a job at the BBC directing the shorts Oranges and Lemons, The Weaver’s Wife and Good Looks. He then went to ITV to work on the police series The Bill. Yates then decided to move into feature films in 1998, directing the independent film The Tichborne Claimant. The film was met with mediocre reviews.

British TV Series:

In 2000, Yates returned to British television directing three episodes of the very well received series The Sins. Next, he directed the miniseries The Way We Live Now, which was also met with rave reviews, winning Yates a BAFTA Award for Best Drama Serial with writer Andrew Davies and producer Nigel Stafford-Clark. He then took a quick break from TV to make the short Rank. He received a BAFTA nomination for Best Short Film. On a role, Yates directed the Paul Abbott scripted series State of Play. The series is on of the best of the last decade and was nominated for seven BAFTA awards, winning three. It served as a turning point in Yates’s career, rewarding him with higher profile projects. He also worked with Bill Nighy (check out my Underrated Actors piece on him) and Kelly Macdonald for the first time on the series; their talent in a future project would help Yates elevate his career to the greatest heights.

British TV Movies:

In 2003, Yates made his feature first film for British television, The Young Visiters, starring Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie and Lyndsey Marshal (Bill Nighy also has a role in the film). The film was generally regarded positively upon its release, but not nearly held in the high esteem of his next two films: Sex Traffic, the two part film, won eight (of nine nominations) BAFTA awards in 2005, while The Girl in the Café, starring Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald, won three Emmys and was nominated for two Golden Globes. The film also gave Yates his first exposure in America. The success of these films directly led to Yates being approached by Warner Bros.

Harry Potter and the Epic Franchise Films:

With the success of The Girl in the Café in America along with his string of hit on British television, Warner Bros. selected Yates to direct the fifth Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – in 2005. To prepare for the film, he visited the set of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, observing director Mike Newell. He also had conversations with Alfonso Cuaron and J.K. Rowling. To make the film his, and to Warner Bros. credit for letting him do this, he brought in his good friends and crew from his days in TV: composer Nicholas Hooper and editor Mark Day. The film was a huge critical and commercial success. Many fans and critics appreciating Yates bring the film into a more adult and dark place, but still including comedy and wonder. Warner Bros. was pleased with Yates’s work and his vision for the remaining films and announced that he would be directing both the next two books (six and seven). For Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he brought former collaborator Jim Broadbent into the cast while hiring amazing cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel to shoot the film, a decision that ended up awarding the film with a best cinematography Oscar nod. The film was received with even more critical acclaim and commercial success than his first Potter film (as it the second most successful Potter film at the Box Office, as well as my favorite film from 2009).

Future Projects:

Along with this month’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Yates also has part two coming out next July and both feature frequent collaborator Bill Nighy in the cast. Scheduled for a 2012 release, he is attached to direct St. Nazaire, a war film about the British raid on Saint Nazaire in 1942. The project is set up at Warner Bros. through their deal with Heyday Films (the production company behind the Harry Potter films). Yates is also tentatively attached to the film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

David Yates Selected Career Highlights:

1.)    The Way We Live Now (2001) – director – available on DVD
2.)    State of Play (2004)* – director – available on DVD
3.)    The Young Visiters (2003) – director – available on DVD
4.)    Sex Traffic (2004) – director – available on DVD
5.)    The Girl in the Café (2005) – director – available on DVD
6.)    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)* – director – available on Blu-ray/DVD
7.)    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)* – director – available on Blu-ray/DVD
8.)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)* – director – available on Blu-ray/DVD
9.)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)* – director
*editor’s picks
David Yates’s filmography is also available on to rent and stream

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