So, a coupla days (weeks?) back, we threw some questions at Andy Mark Simpson, (writer / director for Mad About The Boy and Young Hearts Run Free) and generally asked him really awkward stuff just to make his life a bit difficult (kidding!). He was totally game for it, and came back with these awesome answers. Check it out!
A few lines about yourself:
I’m a 29- year old writer and director from Ashington, a former mining town in Northumberland, 12 miles from Newcastle. I’m really proud of my Geordie heritage. As well as making films I also work in the local community, helping out in schools and youth clubs, especially with children with special needs or from poor backgrounds. This helps to inform the type of stories I tell. I have made a few short films and my debut feature Young Hearts Run Free was released in cinemas last year. My other passions are music, especially the Beatles, punk, jazz and Northumbrian folk music, and football, I follow Newcastle United and Ashington FC.
Past, Present, Future:
‘The Past is a foreign country, they do things differently there’ -L.P Hartley.
I could talk about this forever. I’m actually a bit chronophobic, meaning I’m afraid of Time; and I’m obsessed with it. All my scripts are to do with Time at some level. Young Hearts Run Free has a 1970s nostalgia to it whereas Mad About The Boy takes place at a pivotal moment during the teenage years; both are coming-of-age stories. My current scripts are even more obsessed and one is all about Time, ageing, memory, life and death; it’s is a journey through the past, present and future of one person’s life. I find the passage of time, and observing someone’s life through it, really moving; try watching the opening ten minutes of ‘Up!’ without crying. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is my favourite film ever. I love any film to do with Time, especially Back To The Future (my 2nd favourite), Last Year In Marienbad’ and special mention goes to Terence Davies for his films ‘Of Time and the City’ and ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’ – great films about Time and Memory and they also get extra marks for having the most poetic titles.
‘That is the land of lost content.
I see it shining plain
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again’
There is definitely a North/South divide in this country, and it’s getting worse- on purpose, some believe. Some local councils in the North East have been tasked with making cuts of £140 per head of the population whereas in Tory heartlands the cuts demanded are just £5 per head. Cuts to the public sector are affecting the North more than the South, especially in areas where there has been a real struggle to find employment since the destruction of the traditional industries. In the former mining area where I live there is an average of 55 actual applicants for every job advertised. A more shocking statistic is that in my local constituency life expectancy is up to 10 years less than in the richer parts of England. It’s always the most vulnerable who suffer most. Our public services are being cut whilst our money is being used to prop up failed bankers.
Having said this, I don’t wish to forget the underprivileged in the South. London has some of the most deprived areas of the UK but they’re only a mile or two from where the millionaires live. How’s that for rubbing their noses in it? Recently we’ve seen tax cuts for millionaires while everyone else bears the brunt of the austerity measures narrative spun by the political elites. The amount of tax avoidance is as high as the national debt – if the bastards just paid their fair share we wouldn’t have a problem.
Ordinary people’s welfare is being sacrificed in service of the global financial system – it’s bizarre that the human race has developed this way – surely the institutions we create should be in service of the people, rather than the other way around?
Politics Vs Art:
I actually have a degree in History and Politics and I’m still very interested in it so it will probably be infused in all my work to some degree but I’m more interested in people than in politics. I want to create stories with realistic characters from whichever background, that audiences can recognise, empathise with and root for and to go through the story journey with them. I suppose I’m more interested in presenting a social situation than a political one but having said that I wish I had made a stronger political point with Young Hearts Run Free- personally I think I left some things too ambiguous.
I’ll add that politicians should probably stay out of the arts. Recently we had David Cameron making a very crass summary of a film industry report by saying we should only make commercial films. That’s like saying we should only buy winning lottery tickets, or bet on a race after the finish. No one knows which films will be commercially successful and every commercially successful film was turned down dozens of times before someone finally funded it. We need to make a variety of films at sensible budget levels appropriate for each project. Some will be hits and some won’t but if they can sustain each other then we’ll have a vibrant and varied film industry where new voices have a chance to be heard.
My feature film was not only self-funded and produced but also self-distributed. I fought for the attention of the national press and battled my way to get a cinema release. I travelled with the film doing Q&As and slept on floors, sofa, in cars and even in a shop doorway in Wandsworth as the film went round the country screening in cinemas, and village halls, schools and even at a coalmine.
DIY doesn’t mean doing it by yourself- you need a good team around you. As filmmakers we now have the tools to not only produce our films but also to distribute them; but it’s bloody hard work. If someone offers you enough money it’s probably worth just taking it and regaining a couple of years of your life. On the other hand, some elements of DIY filmmaking and distribution can be really exciting, especially the chance to really engage with your audience and form close links with them, ensuring that your work is building a loyal and passionate following; a great thing for an artist to achieve.
Info and trailer for Young Hearts Run Free
Info about me:
Both Mad About The Boy & Young Hearts Run Free will be shown at No Gloss Film Fest this 8-9 September 2012.