VIFF 2016 Interview: YARN director Heather Millard

By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/06/16 03:13:54

(The following is an abridged version of an interview I did with Heather at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival.)

"There is a hot new wave in modern art and it's knitted together with YARN! The traditional crafts of crochet and knitting have become one of the hottest movements in modern art. We follow a few International artists and knitters as they bring yarn to the streets and into our lives in new ways. Starting in Iceland, the film takes us on a colourful and global journey as we discover how yarn connects us all." Co-Director and Producer Heather Millard on YARN which screens at the 2016 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!

After leaving University I started working with an independent documentary production company in Brighton, UK. From there I left for an arthouse sales job and a few years later found a documentary subject about Iceland that I couldn't resist. In 2009, I relocated to Iceland and continued to independently produce documentary films and features from my new found home in Iceland. My previous films include documentaries FUTURE OF HOPE, which screened at IDFA 2010), ASH which was at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in 2013, I WANT TO BE WEIRD which showed at Nordisk Panorama 2015, WE ARE STILL HERE from 2015, and INNSAEI: THE SEA WITHIN from 2016. Feature films include 2013's OF GOOD REPORT and hybrid film THE WALL in post-production now.

Very prolific! So how did YARN come together from your perspective?

This movie came together as a conversation between myself and our executive producer & writer Krishan Arora. We were at another film festival talking about how the Great British Bake Off has been a phenomenal hit in the UK, bringing back more traditional home activities into the mainstream and then we started to think about knitting. We crafted together a team of creatives from Iceland, Denmark, UK, Sweden/Poland and began the adventure together.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

I can't get going without a few cups of tea in the morning! Beyond the caffeine in the tea, I love to be surrounded by other enthusiastic and optimistic colleagues that want to make the best films that we can together in a collaborative way.

What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?

YARN is a little special since it truly was a collaborative effort. This was a fantastic process but at the same time proved challenging when it came down to the final stretches. At rough-cut stage was particularly tough, with quite a few passionate and creative voices coming together, not everyone always agrees and it's the tricky part of knowing what to cut, what to keep and what to add; it is always a challenge killing your darlings and being cruel to be kind within such a close knit team.

I must get technical as I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie and how it was shot.

The film was largely shot on the Canon C300 and the RED Dragon Epic; Canon C100 and 5D MIII were also used. We had a wonderful cinematographer from Poland/Sweden, Iga Mikler, for a large proportion of the filming, but we also used on location cinematographers who filmed on the RED and also Canon C100 in both Canada and Cuba in particular. Director and animator Una Lorenzen had a very specific visual style for all of the animation and she also co-designed the films' poster; once you have seen the film you will become very familiar with her visual design. Una has created beautiful animations and even crafted yarn titles for our contributors in the film.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

Wow, tough question! Being from the UK I personally love the Electric Cinema as it's a very special cinema in London; beautiful and classic, and I would love to screen any film there. However, for YARN I would love to screen it for our fab contributors at any theatre in Halifax for Toshiko and Charles, in New York City for Olek, in Bio Paradis, Reykjavik for Tinna, in Kentucky for Barbara Kingsolver and in Stockholm for Cirkus Cirkor. We are now gearing up to release the film in a number of cinemas in Sweden and are planning a release in Iceland in the Autumn and our North American distributors BOND/360 will be releasing YARN theatrically in the US later this year too.

What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?

If it was in a screening of YARN, if I saw them texting or talking I would love to be on standby with some wool and needles or a hook to pass them instead. Bring your needles and your hooks, you're welcome to knit/crochet through the film!

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

Don't give up! Persistence and determination and if you can get some work experience along the way that will certainly help in the competitive film industry. What I found to be useful was to not only gain experience in production but also in sales and distribution; to know your audience/market can really help when producing a film. Where do you want your film to end up and who are you making it for?

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

Being a producer that attends quite a few film festivals every year I rarely get to see a film, as my time is tied up in meetings rather than in the cinemas! I am always envious of those that get to see countless films at festivals. However, I think to date I don't have a favourite documentary that I have watched at a festival but I could certainly name a few; I loved SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, MAN ON WIRE, HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD and THE IMPOSTER. I always like a feel good or optimistic documentary and I don't feel that documentaries always need to be based on heavy subjects, although rightfully important those docs are too of course.

Be sure to follow the progress of YARN at!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 29th to October 14th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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