Films 4 Life- In Conversation With David Mackenzie
Films 4 Life are at the Odeon West End in Leicester Square this Thursday (9/10/13) to meet David Mackenzie, the director of Starred Up (a film about a violent teenager called Eric (Jack O’Connell) who is transferred to adult prison where his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) is also an inmate) ahead of its British premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.
As a charity, we’re focused on gaining inspiration from dedicated filmmakers by seeing what lengths the best go to achieve the results. In Mackenzie’s case, authenticity was paramount to creating a great prison drama. The major factor in achieving this was the location, which was an actual former prison in Belfast.
Whilst cameras are flashing at him from directions in the hustle and bustle of the red carpet MacKenzie was opening up about his experience of being in Northern Ireland filming. “It was really interesting! We were there for most of the winter in a very cold prison but it was the perfect environment to make the movie and I really enjoyed my time in Belfast,” he enthuses.
Elaborating on the important role the location had, he adds, “It was a former prison very much based on the Victorian architecture of the pentagon, which is based on Pentonville in London. And all over Britain, and other parts of the world the same architecture applies. This is one the best examples of that that’s available to shoot in.”
It appears that his drive to ensure the best filming conditions was the template that the film needed for everything else to fall into place “I really wanted to make the film feel as authentic as possible so it was really important to find that location where we didn’t have to cheat. And there’s almost no cheating. You know the doors don’t really lock, but geographically it’s continuous and that’s amazing.”
Implying the impact that being in the prison had on the actor’s also added to the sense of realism he says “The location did an awful lot of the work for us and it contained us and the psychology of being in that building.”
However, this purist approach had its difficulties: “It’s challenging because you have a camera crew that’s a minimum of two people and you’ve got to get the in there to do it and you’ve got very tiny spaces and you’ve got movement and all that kind of thing and there was no way you could do anything. These walls are very thick you can’t move so it limited the camera angles but at the same time it felt real so it was ok. There were lots of times that I wasn’t in the room only Michael the DP was in there.” He says.
Despite this obstacle, it appears that doing things the hard way has paid off. Starred Up is up for multiple awards at this year’s London Film Festival and MacKenzie’s passionate approach is inspirational to any budding director.
Words: Cai Trefor
Photography: David Wilson-Copp