Interview: Jonathan Wroot
I have recently had the pleasure of working with Mark Duggan, a professional filmmaker, in helping students at the University of Worcester (and myself!) get to grips with some basic filmmaking skills. As he already has an impressive portfolio of work (examples of which can be found here www.markdugganfilms.com) I decided to ask him a few questions about his career so far.
What festivals have you submitted for/been involved in?I've submitted my films to a number of festivals and been selected for a fair few, including the London Short Film Festival. I usually fund my films and pay the festival entry fees too, which can become a very expensive endeavor - you can spend £25, £30, £50 submitting your short to a festival with no guarantee that it will be selected for screening. I guess you have to decide why you're making films and what you want to achieve from making them: I don't judge a films success on how many festivals it's been selected for - I make a film as I want to express a thought or feeling that I have. There's a quote from Francois Truffaut that I love, a prediction for the future of filmmaking: "the film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it, and the number of spectators will be proportional to the number of friends the director has. The film of tomorrow will be an act of love"
Do you see yourself as a filmmaker pursuing mostly festivals and short film production, or do you aim to work in a variety of media (e.g. commercials, music videos, promotional films, etc)?I make short films but I've also made music videos too. When it comes to short films/music videos, I'll throw my own money in to making them as I like to have creative control - I spent £250 just to rent a cavern for the last music video I made. I've done corporate videos too. So I've been involved in various filmmaking projects. Ultimately, I just want to make films that mean something to me, that move me and deal with universal themes. I spent 2012-2013 working as the assistant director on an independent feature film called 'The Raven on the Jetty' (see: onedayfilms.com). That was a great experience! We shot the film with a very small crew and so I was also directly involved in the films cinematography and editing. I made a selection of behind the scenes 'vlogs' about the films production (see: onedayfilms.com/blog), which we hope will be of some use to budding filmmakers or anyone else interested in seeing how a film is made...
What films inspire you in regard to your own work? More specifically, is there one (or more than one) film that has inspired you more than once?Lots of films inspire me. My favourite films are probably The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II. I'm a big fan of those US filmmakers that came up in the 1970s - Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas), Coppola (The Conversation), Spielberg (E.T., Jurassic Park), etc. More recently, I was really inspired by Blue Valentine. I wish I'd made that film! I'm really interested in how the past hangs over the present - our memories, our hopes / dreams, our fears, etc.
Would you say have developed a recognisable style, or set of themes, that appear in your work?I don't know whether I have a recognisable style but I definitely have a set of themes that continually pop up in my work...they, mostly, revolve around 'longing', 'isolation', 'nostalgia' and 'regret'. So cheery stuff really
Do you have a memorable experience that stands out from making any of your films?Every film making experience is memorable...there are a few stories that stick in my mind so it's difficult to pick out just one. Handing an actor a can of rice pudding to use as vomit at 1am was one of those moments when you stand back and think "filmmaking can be pretty weird". Moments like that also remind me how committed you have to be: filmmaking seems like a really fun thing to do, which it undoubtedly is, but it's also a lot of hard work.
How about one that is not so memorable - or one that you would prefer to forget entirely?I worked with a pop act on a music video that was never "officially" released (it's available on my Vimeo page), as there was a dispute with the artists. I don't want to go into too much detail but they just weren't prepared for the level of work involved in making a video and the owner of the record label was a bit of a chancer. It wasn't my type of music so I was ok with walking away from it but I was disappointed for them as the video may have helped them find a larger audience. From my perspective, you learn from every film you make so I don't regret doing it - even though the artists were difficult to work with.
Do you think that current digital technology makes it easy for people to make films - or does it just make it harder for budding professional filmmakers to get noticed?Both. It's great that anyone can now pick up a camera and make a film...the flip side is that the internet is flooded with content. So how do you find an audience as an independent filmmaker, particularly if you're working with very small budgets? I guess, like I said before, you just have to make it for yourself and forget about where the film may take you. Or, if you're seeking fame, start making things that have some sort of built in audience - zombie horror films, hoody-horror films or something that falls into that "brit-grit" genre.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone looking to get started in film production?Just pick up a camera and start telling your own stories...there's another quote that I like - "You can't just believe in movies and make short films that copy other peoples films. What do you have to contribute to the dialogue and conversation? That's always what I look for in a short film" (Steven Spielberg).
Is there any digital technology, or type of camera, that you prefer to work with at the moment?I'm currently shooting on Canon DSLR's. They're discreet, as most people think you're taking photos, and they're light: I don't think I'd go back to using a more "traditional" film camera.
Are you able to tell us anything about what you are working on now, or going to be working on in the future?I've just started shooting a short film about a mother who remembers specific moments of her life before she had children. The film stars a Manchester-based actress called Jolene Rathmill and revolves around the notion of isolation...I'm hoping that it will be the first part of a loose-trilogy that will tackle that particular theme. Beyond that, I have a few other ideas that I'd like to turn into short films but we'll see what happens...
Is there anything you would like to work on in the future - or do you perhaps have a 'dream' project in mind?Long term I'd like to shoot a feature film but at the moment I'm still experimenting with short film - exploring themes and stories that mean something to me.
Thank you again Mark. You can check out one of his short films here -Because from Mark Duggan on Vimeo.