JM– Flattery will get you everywhere! Well, I tell people that I am British, born and inbred. The one thing I would like people to know about me is that I am a happy person. I have a great family background and have literally never had a nightmare in my entire life. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have wonderful parents and a stable fun childhood. My adult life – well that’s another story!
I live my life by strict ethics and like to think of myself as ‘A man more sinned against that sinning’ (King Lear). I love mornings. They excite me. They represent fresh beginnings, prospects and opportunities. I tend to be a ‘Jack of all trades and a master of none’, but my focus now is to master filmmaking as a writer/director. The producing, line producing, editing, legal work, accounting and set building experience has just gone to make me wiser and more in tune as a filmmaker, I think.
ED– How did you get started in Film Production?
JM– I graduated with a BA in Visual Communications back in the UK, went to London and became a bodybuilder of all things. While managing a Gold’s Gym in London I also moved in front of the camera and became an actor. I mostly did commercials, tiny bit of theater and small parts in film and TV. Then I fell for the propaganda of Hollywood and moved over here many years ago. While paying rent as a personal trainer I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I now have about 11 screenplays that I feel comfortable getting into production and another 3 that will never be read by anyone! Not very planted seed flourishes into an orchid. But I wanted to be a filmmaker and to be a filmmaker you have to make films. So that is what I did. In 2000 I wrote produced, directed and acted in my first short film ‘The Guest of Honor’. With an interesting story, a couple of twists, high production value and a tremendous score I was able to hit a home run first time at bat. It was picked up and distributed on the IFC, AMC and WE TV channels for three years across America and Canada and also played on Delta airlines. So a couple of years later I made two more short films ‘Ye Olde Agent’ (my favorite) and ‘Two of a Kind’. My production skills got sharper as the films got longer and the budges smaller. I learned the art of making deals and putting what money I had up on the screen. The thing with short films is that you have to wear a number of hats as there is just not the money to pay all the departments. So I learned how to line produce which is the art of breaking down a script into a shooting schedule and from that building up a budget, dealing with SAG and all the legal paperwork. I also helped build the sets, design costumes etc. It was a great foundation for feature films.
ED– You have worn many hats in your career. You have been a Producer, Actor, Director, and Editor. What has been your favorite, and tell us something about each hat that you have sported.
JM– To me writing, directing and editing are the same discipline. It all involves a vision. In this case the vision is the same throughout my own films. It is easier for me to edit my own films than to be hired as an editor on someone else’s film. Producing and Line Producing are business skills. It’s not that creative, but it is very rewarding to see it all come to fruition. Directing is actually the easiest for me. It requires three things; preparation, preparation and …..oh yes…. preparation! I compare directing to a conductor of an orchestra. To the audience it looks like a man wafting a small stick. What they do not see are the weeks of preparation that has gone into each element of the orchestra so that they play harmoniously on the day. Same with directing. Knowing the pace of the script, the mood and feel of the piece dictates they style in which it is to be shot. I usually go to the locations and plan camera angles and lenses, create shot lists and visualize the transitions between scenes. What that gives you is time on the actual shoot days for inspiration based upon a firm foundation of what you want. Then all I have to do is coach the actors to give me variations and choices of performance within the parameters of the style for which I am looking.
ED-What is some of the latest projects that you are working on?
JM– I have three that I am juggling with. At the forefront is a passion film called ‘The Wide Boys’. Here I am able to marry two passions; filmmaking and philanthropy. The Wide Boys is a comedy. More importantly it is unique for the film industry in that I am raising the finances from tax deductible donations from the general public and foundations. Once the film is made I will donate half the net proceeds to charities dealing with the homeless, battered women and the mentally ill here in Los Angeles. If you want to learn more about it of become part of the film then click on the web site at www.TheWideBoys.com and look around.
Then there is a teen horror film with a difference called ‘Shadows’. I co-wrote this with a friend and we are looking to place that with companies like Dimension films as it is in the genre of ‘Final Destination’. But we think this has more potential than even that franchise.
Then there is ‘4 Play’ a romantic comedy. Can’t give too much away on that one except that I think it is like a young person’s ‘Full Monty’ style film.
And I recently completed the first draft of my WWI novel. It is just over 1,100 pages long and has been a labor of love for the last two and a bit years. There have been a number of interruptions to the writing process, all of them great ones – filmmaking! But I am near the last of the rewrites and should be happy with it by the middle of 2010. Although I would welcome interruptions, like making another film.
ED– Our readers for The Eerie Digest love Mysteries and Tales of things that ‘go bump in the night’. What have you done in these genres, and is there anything in your future for these?
JM– I line produced a spec pilot TV series with Eileen Grubba whom I know you interview. It was called ‘Ghost Writer’ and has great potential. Eileen was my so-star in The Guest of Honor and I can call her a dear friend as well as a fabulous actress. It is currently getting a polish in post production and I believe will be presented to Industry executives in the New Year for possible pick up. Again, a great group of people to work with. Created some great memories to take to old age.
I do have a psychological thriller feature film with a twist, but I need to be really established as a filmmaker before I can approach the A list actors that I want to portray the characters.
ED– Tell us something about your current work. We know that you have been working on a World War II film. Can you give us some insight on this project?
JM– Literally just wrapped producing and line producing a wonderful WWII film called ‘Fortress’, although that may not be the final title. It is a buddy movie about the crew of a B-17 Flying fortress bomber over Algeria in 1943. It was one of those projects you dream about. Great script, wonderful friend as the director and a terrific cast of amazing actors. I can’t give you too much more than that at this stage as it is a little hush-hush, but when it is complete and ready for distribution I can tell you more. We are about to start editing in mid December. You can become a fan on Facebook and follow its progress.
ED– What words of encouragement can you share with our students and aspiring actors and filmmakers everywhere?
JM– Passion. It is all about passion. Don’t just pursue money, that will come when your passion is fulfilled. Filmmaking is great fun, it is a privilege and few people get to do it. It is also tough but very rewarding. I would advise and encourage young filmmakers in all departments to follow their passion and dreams. If they are like me then they can’t do anything else. That’s not an option. It should be in your blood and a part of you. I have had very long stretches without making films in some capacity. That just went to test my resolve. And when you do get to follow your passion to fruition it is uniquely rewarding. The other thing I would advise is to just have fun with it.
ED– Julian it has been a pleasure talking with you and sharing your work with our readers. Please be sure to keep us informed of all the latest development with your work. We really look forward to having you return to The Eerie Digest in the near future so that we can here more about you in our columns and wish you much success in all that you do.
JM – Thank you. It has been my pleasure.