Becky Wilson chats to Welsh filmmaker Marc Price on his upcoming project Magpie, making films for a living, and being publically complimented by Martin Scorsese.
Your debut film Colin wowed audiences across the world, especially in Asia; did you ever believe that it would create such a big impact?
No, not at all. It was a fantastic reception. I was really surprised, especially when I was invited to Japan. It was so fantastic, there was one point on our flight when we were flying over Siberia, and I said to Alastair [Kirton, Colin in Colin] “Dude, that’s fucking Siberia! We are flying over Siberia because we made a movie on a camcorder, outside our flat.” It was ridiculous that that is what it came to, but we just had the best time out there.
Martin Scorsese said it “had an energy that took the zombie idea to another level”; what was it like for such an influential director to say that about your film?
Oh, I didn’t care about that [laughs]. No, it was amazing. There are certain film-makers that influence you throughout your life, like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino; you know their influence is hard to avoid, he’s one of the guys responsible for reinventing the language of cinema in the way that we understand it, and somehow he was watching one of my movies, and he liked it. In the interview, he was asked if he preferred vampires or zombies, and of course he said vampires, because there is nothing new with zombies, but then said, except for ‘this film Colin’. I was like ‘Holy fucking shit, Martin Scorsese likes my film!’ Reading that is one of my most vivid memories, and by far the best thing to come from Colin.
And for you is it most definitely zombies?[Laughs] Well yeah, but actually a friend of mine [Joe Morgan] is in The Vampire Diaries, so I feel like I shouldn’t be biased. I am glad that zombie films don’t come with the legion of followers that vampire-related stuff does. I tweeted him once about seeing his advert on TV, and obviously he tweeted back, but from that I had so many goddamn Vampire Diaries fans tweeting me and following me, and all I wanted to say was “I’m the zombie guy!”
Oh dear! Because you had all this positive feedback, has it made you more relaxed about making another feature?
Umm, I’m kind of driven by my insecurities, and I think one of those is thinking that my films aren’t good enough. I’m really happy with my work and proud of the films that I have made, but with Colin I didn’t expect anyone other than my friends to see it. So in terms of taste, I made something that I was very comfortable with. Now I look at Magpie and I am much happier with the film that I have made; that is, of course, until I have to show it to an audience. [laughs] In fact, I was in a very odd scenario recently when I was asked by the BFI to compere a Q&A with some Mexican film-makers, whose films I had seen and loved, and they wanted to show clips from my showreel. So I put in this amazing position where I was in this cinema in the BFI and I got to see clips of Colin play first, and the Magpie. It put me into a panic because I couldn’t leave, which is my normal habit, so I had to sit there, facing an audience of a few hundred people and it was terrifying because, for me, Colin looked terrible, but then they played clips from Magpie and it was the first time, and it was really amazing because it looked so much better, in my eyes. So yeah, I am definitely driven by my insecurities, and I don’t think the praise given by people has helped at all, because the critics who loved Colin could hate Magpie and vice-versa and it would be really, really bad of me to only listen to the good reviews.
Where is it that you get your ideas for your films from?
I think there is a theme that interlinks with all my stories. I mean, Colin is essentially a film about fragmented family relationships and also about death, and that’s the same with Magpie. It wasn’t until I was half-way through filming Magpie that I thought, “Oh shit! I’m just telling the same story but for a different audience.” Also, with Colin, we didn’t really know where he was going until the last 10 minutes of the film. With Magpie, the characters openly say they don’t know where they are going, so they are both journeys, and again, the next idea I want to do has these fragmented families. I like to think that it is not so much death that looms in my films, but more the prep of death. I just think that this plan is the source of great drama.
Is it a conscious decision to continue with the fragmented families theme, or do you just think that it is something that an audience can relate to?
I don’t really know. When I was a kid, I moved from Port Talbot to Swansea, and in Port Talbot all my friends’ parents were together, but in Swansea, all my friends’ parents were divorced. So for the main part of my childhood, I had this looming thought that my parents were going to get divorced, and every time they bickered I would sit and worry, thinking who I would spend Sundays with if they did separate. So I got very stressed as a kid, just thinking there was nothing I could do about it. Of course, they didn’t get divorced, they are still together now, but it didn’t stop me worrying as a kid, so I think that is where I get it from.
That’s really sad. I feel a bit cruel continuing to ask questions after that.[Laughs] No, it’s not a problem. Actually, no one has ever asked me that before, so it’s quite nice to talk about something completely new. It’s funny because I was such a stupid kid, and when you are young you think the world revolves around you, it’s very narcissistic. To be honest, I’m a pretty narcissistic adult, but I just put my problems into films that then people watch.
That is a bonus to your trade. Do you have any tips or advice for students at Cardiff who are looking for a career in the film industry?
Just go for it. If you have a passion and a drive, then why not. I saw a film today actually by a group of students, and it was spectacular – I was actually jealous. It was such a lovely film. So yeah, I think we are in a really good place now, technology-wise, that we can just go out use a camera, use a mobile phone and just film. I mean, you can learn to edit from experts without moving from your laptop. I made my films solely on a laptop, and I learnt a lot about editing from DVD bonus features, so it is completely possible.
Colin provided a sort of template for aspiring film makers. Now people have the confidence to just pick up their camcorders and create their own films.
Yeah, we are at a stage now where technology is so good that if you want to make a film you can buy a stills camera that can produce HD films, similar to Hollywood films and go out and shoot movies. I mean, you can buy a 5D camera for a few hundred pounds, and they are similar cameras to that they use in Hollywood films, so in the terms of technology these bigger cameras are more easily available. But I mean, you don’t need to have an expensive camera to film a movie. You can have any camera and any sort of lens, whether they be expensive or not, and just go out and give it a go.
Marc’s latest film, Magpie, is currently in post-production. Follow him on Twitter: @Marc_V_Price