This week, we had a brilliant two-parter with Giles Alderson and Joe Marcantonio, director of Kindred. Discussing filmmaking, casting, crew, location and moving from shorts to his debut feature. Here is just some of his brilliant advice.
Where it started
“I think I got into filmmaking because my dad wrote adverts in like the 80s and 90s.”
Joe was about 8 or 9 years old when he visited Pinewood. At the time, his dad was working opposite the 007 stage. “And then just around the corner, they’d built Gotham City and I remember walking around Gotham City and having my mind blown.”
“My parents were always supportive. I never did A levels, I just went to college and did a B.Tech in media because I knew that I wanted to get into that industry. And then after I finished, I went to film school.”
Red Light to Kindred
“One of the thematic things about Kindred is that after my second child was born, I’d just shot Red Light and I didn’t really want to edit it myself. I was trying to find an editor but no one had availability and I was like I’ll just do it myself.”
His daughter was born in November, and he finished the film in January. The experience “brought up loads of stuff for me mentally, becoming a dad for the second time, much more than it did the first time. And that’s when I first started going to therapy.”
During that time, he started writing Kindred with Jason McColgan. Jason had premature twins, who were in the hospital for about a month “and that was the period that we got the first draft done from our outline.”
“I’ve always been quite careful to work thematically and to inject a lot of my personal experience and my thought process into my films. When I write a script, I also write a big look book to go with it, explaining my thematic thinking as well as my visual approach: the themes and the meanings behind things are quite a big part of it for me.”
Directing Not Dictating
Joe is a “big believer in when it comes to key crew, you hire them for a reason and you don’t want to dictate to them the way that they approach it.”
He said that he likes to have conversations with people. He asks whether they’d like to hear his thought processes and then work together to create a vision. After reading the script, he asked Natalie Humphries, who did the wardrobe on the film, what she thought. She replied that she could imagine them wearing X, Y, and Z.
Which Joe agreed with, but then they discussed an idea that he had also had.
“I had this thought about them, the wardrobe, the colour palette matching the location and she was really up for that. So we went to the location and took some photos of the different rooms so that we could make a colour palette. So it means that the characters that live in the house wear the same colours as the rooms they’re in most of the time; and Charlotte who goes into the house, if she’s feeling rebellious will wear a colour that clashes, or if she’s feeling under their spell, should we be wearing something that also matches the house.
That comes about through collaboration, not through being a dictator. A lot of people think that being a director is marching on set and telling everyone the way it is, it isn’t that at all, it’s picking the right people to help you make your film.”
After not being sure who to cast in the lead role, Joe was chatting to Jack Lowden, who had just got back from filming in the Dominican Republic. Jack told Joe that “the lead was called Tamara Lawrance and she’s something else” so they booked her in at the end of the day.
“So I get through the other people in the day and Tamara is the last one in and we chat for 10 minutes or so, to try and gauge whether you can get on with someone or not. And she is just the coolest person, and then we get into doing the lines and she absolutely smashes it.”
“And the cold, hard reality of it is you then have to have a conversation with your producers: ‘She’s the right woman for me, but we’re casting a young black actress in this role. That does affect international finance and that does affect whether you’re going to be able to sell the film in China or Russia. And we are going to have to really fight this battle. And it’s a battle that I want to fight, are you guys up for it?
And everyone’s like ‘Hell yeah. If she’s the right person for the job, we’re all team Tamara.”
Joe’s Final thoughts
“Number one: read that Sidney Lumet book (Making Movies) because it’s the best book about filmmaking I’ve ever read. I would also say, making films can be very expensive and it’s not easy to learn on the job (not as easy as people say it is). You’re not going to be given 50 grand to go and play.
But you can probably afford 50 quid to play. You have to invest that 50 quid in yourself and try and make something that is true to yourself. It’s only by doing those kinds of projects, you will find your voice. And everyone has a voice.
You have to be empathetic, but you have to be open and invest in yourself to find your voice. And that only comes from investing time, effort, and money in yourself in order to do that. If you’re not going to do that, no one else is going to.”