Monday, 16 November 2009

Part II of Interview with George Clarke

This is part II of an interview with George Clarke - director of Battle of the Bone and The Knackery. I caught up with Mr Clarke recently to chat about his independent film production company Yellow Fever and the 2nd Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival - as well as his current project, old school slasher flick Splash Area. If you've just joined us, you can click here to read part one of the interview. If you've already read it, I shall take up no more of your time - read on for part II...

Tell me about your own festival – YFIFF. How did you come up with the idea to host an Independent film festival in NI? How did you go about setting it up?

Going back to the beginning when I started filming BOTB, I had always wanted to help independent film makers from the word 'go'. One way of doing that was to hold a real indie film festival. At that time, I had never heard of any in Belfast, or NI, and wanted to be responsible for creating such an event. So it was always in the back of my mind with some notes on the project scattered over my desk.

After our visit and win at the Freak Show Film Festival in Orlando, I got such a buzz about it all that I wanted to bring that feel to the film fans and makers of NI. I was so excited about it all, I didn't really give myself much time when I announced it. I think it was just over 4 months before the proposed date that we made plans. Submissions came in slowly, but there was enough to turn some down in the final decision. One of the things I found hardest was getting some financial support and backing for the event. Obviously, people are going to be wary of a first time project, but even the film and arts councils refused to help in any way leaving us high and dry.

Regardless, I motored on - while shooting The Knackery at the same time - and put myself out of pocket just to give the people what I promised I would. All in all, the whole event was a pretty positive experience, and it was totally worth it to be able to meet and make a great new friendship with Mike Leeder, our special guest.

What can we expect from the 2nd Annual YFIFF? Have you begun work on it yet?

Work has begun on the second annual YFIFF, with a call for submissions, and a brand new attempt at finding sponsorship. Even our special guest, Mike Leeder, from last year – is working on getting us help all the way in Hong Kong. My plan is to get a couple of big names in this year, but those that work behind the scenes. Its more important to me to bring people in that create the film, rather than the actors who usually get all the credit. We have more time this year to work on it and make things better, so here's hoping that the right numbers make it along and the local media give us a bit of support this time.

In your opinion – what is the strength and depth of independent filmmaking in NI today?

I think that independent film making in NI is still quite minimal at the minute. I'd like to think we have inspired a few more projects since BOTB, but when I think about how many bigger productions, and usually from outside production houses, there is on the go compared to the indie's – I still don't think there is enough people out there supporting the independent scene.

Do you feel there is enough support for independent filmmakers in NI at the moment?

Not really, no. And I'm not even relating to myself... I've met quite a few other local indie film makers that say the same – or should I say, wanna-be's, because they just aren't getting the help they need to continue with their projects. Its pretty crap, but once again, this is something I am trying to offer with Yellow Fever in many ways. Okay, at the minute we can't help funding-wise, but there is options there to get around it and we have proven that already.



You’ve taken part in a few outreach projects such as BBC Blast – why do you think its important - if at all - to involve young people in filmmaking?

Well we aren't going to be around forever... But really, it took me 15 years to get to do what I've always dreamed of. Now, when I know there is a kid interested in getting into film – or in any way, wanting to follow their dream – I'm more than happy to lend a hand.

We live in a digital age where the entertainment industry rules. As the film industry kicks off here, I've noticed that not every school teaches the art of film making and have thought about the future. In ten years time, when the NI film industry is in full swing and this generation want to get involved, there won't be much opportunity for them because they will have minimal education on the subject. By the time they go to university or college to do an extra few years to get a piece of paper that may get them in as a runner, those important jobs will be gone to other people – and possibly those more experienced from abroad.

What kind of feedback do you get from these projects?

We work with another company called Any Bright Idea's which takes us around schools doing the same thing as BBC Blast, only on a smaller scale obviously. I've always worked with kids and am very young at heart, so there's always a laugh and lots of fun going on at each project. By the end of it all, regardless of how the film turned out, everyone leaves with a smile and nothing but great things to say... Its a nice feeling!

Can you tell me about Splash Area, the film you are working on at the moment?

No. Okay then. Splash Area was a film triggered by three little events. I came up with the idea when I was in Universal Studios in Orlando. I was watching one of their live stunt shows, and noticed near the front of the seating area, the seats had written on them 'splash area'. I thought it was a great name for a film, and around the same time, a lot of friends had been telling me about their fear of clowns. So I put both ideas together and came up with possibly the sickest thing I've ever written, so far.

With Splash Area, I wanted to try and get back into the 80's style of slasher flicks. Is it just me, or does almost every horror film that comes out now look the same? I don't believe in polishing up some girl with big boobs just to have her killed off in some erotic sense so that I can attract a bigger teen audience, and I don't think heavy CGI makes for a better scare! I want good old fashioned suspense and scares, with the obvious mad twist from myself.

The film takes place on Halloween night. A few friends have dressed up as horror movie icons to go to a party. On the way, they bump into a gang of clowns – nutters from the local asylum who have escaped and went on a killing spree. After escaping, the friends find the others at the party have been killed by the clowns so set out for revenge. They follow the clowns into the old asylum where things start to get a little out of hand... I'll not give too much away, but one of my guys read the first 30 pages and called me a sick and twisted bastard. A compliment I assure you!

What filmmakers, if any, have inspired you most and why?

My obvious answer there is, and always will be, Jackie Chan. Before his move to good old Hollywood *cough*, Jackie Chan took on as many roles as me in his movies both in front of, and more importantly, behind the camera. He was, and still is, an amazing film maker and an incredible person. The only thing that he does and I don't, is sing the theme song in most of his Hong Kong productions. He has been an inspiration to me for over 25 years, and I will work with the man one day!

Ironically, it is Chan's own hero and inspiration that is my second choice. That man is another genius of the film world, Charlie Chaplin. As with Jackie and myself, Chaplin did everything on his productions – including the singing – and more respect to the man for doing so almost a century ago. We have it so much easier nowadays, and when I watch behind the scenes footage of Charles in action, I am constantly amazed at the man's talent.

I also enjoy Lucio Fulci's films and have kept his style in mind for the right moments... It’s a strange mix, I know.

In terms of aims and objectives, what future projects have you in mind for Yellow Fever?

Since we spent the first 2 years building our CV, our plan for 2010 is to get the DVD label up and running, with our own productions and a range of independent titles from around the world. We aim to have these in every DVD retail shop across the UK and Ireland. Our distribution plan also includes cinema releases of each film.

We also have 4 feature films planned for production over the year if we get the funding through, which will go on to make us one of the leading independent production houses in Northern Ireland when completed. Once done, our aim is to sell the rights to other distribution companies to help fund our next ventures, but keep the rights to the UK and Ireland so we can begin to make Yellow Fever Productions a house hold name. On top of that, we have the second annual Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival coming up in August and hope to bring in some very special guests to help, advise and inspire other local film makers who attend.

With our previous 2 features, we have gained a lot of attention, so with the next lot, we hope to travel to more festivals and film markets around the world for the chance to win awards and sales on the movies. Our most major aim for 2010 is to open the first independent film studio which will be for our own benefit, but also give smaller and less financed companies like ourselves, the chance to shoot in and experience a studio production without having to spend a fortune.



What, for you, have been the highlights in your film career thus far? Is there anything you would do differently?

If I say I would do things differently, that would make me think I've done something wrong. As you know, in the beginning, I didn't know anything about film or how to make one, so BOTB obviously wasn't going to be perfect. Now though, I know what I'm doing, so my plan is to create a new version – a directors cut if you may – of the film, for a new audience.

There has been many highlights in the past two years – too many to recall, but I will say this; I set out to prove that you don't need a degree or any bit of paper to do what you want to in life. All you need is a dream, and some self belief to make it happen, and I'm glad I made that move. Live the dream, spread the fever!

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