BWW Interviews: British Filmmaker Marcus Markou about Papadopoulos & Sons
One of the wonderful things about the arts is how people can go from medium to medium. Actors, directors, stage, film - storytellers can use different ways to convey their art. I am drawn to stories that show diverse cultures as well as adverse situations that one overcomes to prevail. British filmmaker Marcus Markou has done that in both his own life as well as the screenplay he has written for his debut film "Papadopoulos & Sons". The indie filmmaker took time to talk to BroadwayWorld from his home in the UK as he prepares for the film's debut on April 5th.
BWW: Marcus, thanks for joining us to talk arts and filmmaking. I read that you came from a background as a playwright after your training at LAMDA. How do you feel that background aided you as a screenwriter?
Marcus Markou: My first love was acting. It was the thing that made me feel good. I always wanted to be an actor. I was very lucky at school - we had wonderful drama teachers and I was fortunate enough to do plays by Dario Fo, Brecht, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller. But I never had the guts to actually go and pursue an acting career. As the son of an immigrant, who had come to the UK to escape poverty, becoming an actor seemed so frivolous an self-indulgent. I ended up becoming a magazine journalist and editor but at 27 I felt it was my last chance to do it so I went to LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and trained as an actor. It was a wonderful time but I just couldn't get started as an actor once I left. I joined an improvisation theatre company called Fluxx and I started to write. With Fluxx we would get up on stage and improvise 45 min dramas without a script. I think all these experiences were invaluable. You learn so much from being on stage improvising. I am convinced it's the same part of the brain we use when we write. And now when I write, I do get up and jump about and have conversations with myself. I sometimes do it when I am in public, if I am thinking about a scene or fictional conversation - and I do get funny looks.
BWW: What drew you to filmmaking?
MM: I'd had two plays staged and I was left feeling frustrated. I'd had a wonderful time writing them, I'd loved seeing them manifest. But something wasn't right. Critics were pretty harsh towards both plays and British theatre was saying... "Don't give up The Day job". It was frustrating because audiences were very much in favour. Then someone pointed out with my last play that the audience we had attracted was a literate TV/ Film audience that might not necessarily go to the theatre. Someone else suggested that what I was doing was writing film scripts and putting them on stage. I use lots of short scenes in both plays. Another friend suggested I write film scripts. Of course, my love of film ran in parallel to my love of acting and being an actor but I was horrified at the idea of making a film. The idea seemed too technical. With the stage, it's a very simple idea - a script, some actors, some costumes and some lights. Away you go. So I looked into doing some training and I found a part time film making course at Met Film School in Ealing. At the same time, I had met an old Hollywood Film Producer called Elliott Kastner. He and I had become friends during this time and he took a huge interest in my endeavour to become a film maker. So whilst going to film school, Elliott and I would meet and swap stories. In return for helping me become a film maker, I would help Elliott build an internet business - as I had run with my brother an internet business for some years. It's a story in itself. I ended up working for him almost full time! For free! But I adored him. He could get you to work for free. He was a true maverick. One of the last great mavericks in the film business and I felt I had an exclusive audience with him. I heard so many wonderful Hollywood stories about Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Marlon Brando - all of whom he was friends with. He was very ill and fighting cancer but he'd come from Chemotherapy and we'd have lunch and we would swap stories. The fact that he was fighting this illness so bravely and with such optimism was utterly inspiring. I had built him a prototype website for his business. It was really exciting. We became close. Elliott was one of those larger than life independent film producers that simply don't exist anymore. But he passed away after only a year of our friendship. His internet business never got off the ground but I started writing "Papadopoulos & Sons" not long after he died and I dedicated the film to him. I wrote, directed, financed and now I'm distributing this film. Elliott is in there somewhere. He just is. How could he not be? He wanted his internet business - which was called PieceofThePicture.com- (its nothing now) to be his big final hit. The big hit he always felt had eluded him. He used to say... "It's going to be worth 1 billion six... maybe one billion seven. You hear me!" I was so sad when he died because I felt that I was carrying this dream and I truly wanted to make it happen for him.