Writer/director, Q makes his feature film debut with Deadmeat, a film which he also stars. The plot sees Clarkie (‘Q’) learn on his release from prison that he was possibly set up by his brother Bones (Bovell) a rising internet artist and entrepreneur who has just bought a designer house in Notting Hill and has a new girlfriend, Melanie (Jo Martin), the lawyer who defended Clarkie. Within a week, Bones is found hanging, the suspected victim of a notorious cyber-vigilante who hunts down paedophiles online. Clarkie embarks on a desperate quest to solve his brother’s murder and from here the story unfolds.
From Wil Johnson, Martina Laird, to Robbie Gee this film features a stellar cast of some of the UK’s most amazing acting talents. Shot on a tight budget in 12 days and adapted from Q’s book of the same name that he originally sold out of the back of his car before it was picked up by publishers. It is evident that Q worked really hard to get this movie produced and onto the big screen.
With Deadmeat released on DVD this month and having received an award in the past for the Best British Feature Film at the BFI Film festival its only right that we have a word with the man behind the film.
Can you give us a brief synopsis about the film?
It is a dark time on the streets of London. An American serial killer the “Cyber Vigilante” is tracking down victims. Clarkie is released from prison and sets out to find the gang that murdered his brother. He tracks them down with the help of an undercover cop and dishes out violent revenge.
Where did you come up with the idea of Deadmeat?
It started as a book, which I sold out of the back of my car, and then it got published in the mainstream. So, I just adapted it, but the film just has an essence of the book.
How did you get into film-making?
I was an actor, got into writing for TV, so I was always around it.
You got an all-star cast in the film with some really well-know talent. How hard was it to cast them?
Casting is about 95% of my work as a director, and the other 5% is working out where to put the camera to film the action. I like to think of myself as an actor’s director. I understand the process of how an actor prepares and creates a character and my job is to help them to turn in great performances. So, if you have a script that an actor likes, then it makes it easier to cast them, even if you don’t have much money, actors want to work and they need good material to do that, so I try to write challenging characters, then approach the actor either personally or through their agent or a casting director and convince them as to why they should do the role. The best way of doing that is if the character is on the page.
The movie ends quite abruptly with loads of questions left unanswered was that intentional?
Yes. I didn’t want a Hollywood ending, where everything is tied up nice and neat. Sometimes, life is abrupt. I suppose I like foreign movies and a lot of these have abrupt endings, it makes the audience think, it creates an emotion, and questions like – Did he get the girl? Did the cop catch the criminal? I don’t agree that an audience doesn’t like to think, that a director must drawn the line for them. I actually shot a Hollywood ending to the movie and was about to put it in, and I asked myself why are you doing this? Then I left it out. Also people think I did the end that way it is because, I wanted to do a part two, no, I did it because, there are always unanswered questions, especially in the area of unsolved crimes.
Do you have any exciting up and coming projects?
Fever is my next movie. I have seven actors who are in the movie Aunvahood in Fever and they play great characters. It is just being edited, and will be in the cinemas at the end of the year; right now I am looking for new talent to contribute music to the soundtrack. I will also be doing a few scenes with a big name actor, and I am looking to put an unknown in the scene, so if you think you are that person we have started our Fever movie facebook page, so hit me up, and tell me what you do.
What was your first ever job in film?
Producing. I have also been curious about where the money is in the film industry, and I figured it was behind the camera, so I learnt how to produce.
What’s your favourite scene from the movie?
The sex scene. Because of the way the camera moves and the lighting. I saw a French film called “Betty Blue” and it started with this full on sex scene, and I was in the cinema and I was like “wait a minute what is going on here?” It got my attention, but more than that I was fascinated by the power of film and how it can be used to create emotions and make one question one’s self. The sex scene in Deadmeat is paying respect to “Betty Blue” because as a filmmaker, I NEVER WANT TO FORGET what Betty Blue made me feel. It wasn’t porn, it wasn’t there to shock. It was there because the director was saying pay attention to this because this is an important part of the story, of the relationship between the two lead characters, and this raw emotion is the territory that this film will be exploring, if you don’t like it leave the cinema now.
What do you love about the movie?
It was shot on 35mm film with anamorphic lenses. Think of all the big American blockbusters like Independence Day, Batman, when you go to the cinema, the curtains have to open even more than a normal movie to the biggest screen size to take it. As a kid when I went to the cinema and saw this I said to my mum, one day I want to make a movie that makes the curtain open that extra bit. Plus, it is good to see black actors from the UK in that big frame. I have never seen it before, and I don’t think an urban film in the UK has ever been shot on that scale. I also love the way the 5.1 surround sound, swirls around the speakers, but most of all, I love the look, the way that it is graded, it brings out the varied skin tones of all the different characters. When I used to watch TV, and a black character came on the screen in a soap opera or a drama, I was always asking myself why they looked so dark. Why they were not lit properly? So I swore to myself that if I ever made a movie, I would make sure that the black characters were well lit.
What was the biggest challenge of the film?
Getting the film made. But, every filmmaker has to go through this and having done it, I respect any filmmaker who makes a movie. The pursuit of making movies has killed some people, it has made best friends fall out, producers and investors have gone broke. There are many causalities of war in filmmaking, it is a fierce battle, it is all about survival, you’ve got to defend your film, think on your feet, run and shoot, borrow what you need, steal locations, do deals, don’t use permits, just get that film made by any means necessary.
Which film changed your life?
L’Argent by Robert Bresson, another French film. The title means Money. Bresson uses the pulling out, counting and passing over of franc notes from one person to another as a kind of repeated motif throughout, and it shows the love of money as a root of evil and how money can destroy the life of an innocent man, when fake notes land in his hands. It is a simple story but very powerful. It made me fascinated about money, the paper chase, you know, what people will do for bits of paper and little pieces of metal.
What is your favorite part of the process?
Editing. Editing is re-writing. Just like you can change the look of a movie in the grade, you can change the whole structure of a movie when you edit, you can put a scene that was written to be at the beginning at the end, and find out it works better there. I don’t edit my own movies, I hire an editor and sometimes they surprise me by their suggestions of moving scenes around, of taking dialogue from one scene and putting it over another and thus making the character and story more meaningful. I love collaborating with people.
Which was the most difficult character to cast?
Jamal, the young kid, who observes a drive by shooting. He was an unknown, a non actor. I actually use a lot of non actors, or what I call real people in my movies, I like it because they have not been trained to act, and I like to cast them opposite big name actors, it is fun for both, it keeps the professional actors on their toes because they have a real person in front of them to bounce off so it helps them create a better character, and the non-actors, get a professional who makes them feel comfortable and even takes time to give them tips about the filmmaking process, so everybody wins.
Have you ever had a crisis of confidence?
Everyday. I am constantly asking myself if I am doing the right thing, making the right decision. I am a confident dude, but I hope I am smart enough to realise that nothing is written in stone and thus things can change in a minute, being independent means you can react quicker to these shifting events. When people I know or have studied have flopped, even when they had the whole world in their hands, it was because they were overconfident, thought they were invincible, unstoppable, the bees knees. Then, they overlooked something, took their eye of the ball, got hit by a sucker punch and flopped. I am even having a crisis about this interview with FLAVOUR, am I saying too much? Could I say more? You see I never take anything for granted and try to be humble.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Guilt is such an emotive word. Pleasure is a strange word, because people will generally do all they can to avoid pain and gain pleasure. So for me, guilt can have elements of pain, so my guilty pleasure, is I spend my own money making movies. It makes me feel guilty, it causes me pain, but you remember I said the movie that changed my life was called L’Argent – MONEY, I have this love hate relationship with money. Using my own money causes me pain, causes me a crisis in confidence, I ask myself every day, why am I doing it? Why am I taking hard earned money from my family’s inheritance by investing in a high-risk venture such as film? It makes me feel guilty when I look at my mum; she came to this country with a suitcase and five pounds in her pocket, why am I not giving her the money? Now on the other side of the coin it’s pleasure. I enjoy the freedom money gives me, of being my own boss. I enjoy owning my movie. I enjoy creating employment for great actors and talented people behind the camera. I enjoy not having to ask anyone permission to green light a movie.
Do awards mean anything to you?
No. I think watching a documentary about Muhammad Ali when he won the Olympic gold medal, and then throwing it into a river, when he was refused entry through the front door of a restaurant or a hotel, during the Civil Rights Movement in America affected me. Here was this great boxer, with the greatest award on earth and it meant nothing to him, because the society he was living in was unjust. So I realised that there are many unsung heroes in this world who don’t get awards. But it was great to see Muhammad Ali given a replacement gold medal years later and him accepting it for his work in improving the civil rights of people of colour in the United States. Awards in the film industry are important, it means your hard work has been noticed, they can make your career; they can increase the box office takings for your movie, the red carpet is fun. There is so much competition out there in the film industry, so the general public takes notice of awards, but for me I just keep going with or without awards.
Which actors should we be looking out for in the future?
The ones in my next movie FEVER. In no particular order of importance, but ladies first:-
Shanika Warren-Markland she is hot, I keep telling her to leave the UK and go to America, but you know, I think I might have given her bad advice, she is smoking, so it is just a matter of time before America comes looking for her in the UK. As a director, I am attracted by intelligence. Shanika is not just a pretty face.
Femi Oyeniran, this guy’s comic timing is ridiculous; also he is a very intelligent actor in his choices. He also has the range to challenge the classics, although he makes jokes about it when I suggest it to him, but he can do Hamlet.
Ashley Chin, Richie Campbell, Jason Steed, these guys have such great qualities and they are great to watch.
Jazzie Zonzolo this dude is one of the most naturally talented people I have met; I wouldn’t say he is a comedian, but he is witty, quick, looks good on screen. He is good at improvisation that is his strength; I am going to watch him closely to see how he matures.
You all know him as an actor, he is not a new face but I have to mention him, Ashley Walters, I think he has matured, I think he will move into directing and producing, he is one of the best actors of his generation, he is older than the guys I mentioned above, he is more established, but he is now a man. I honestly believe and I have told Ashley this to his face, he can have whatever he wants in the film industry, I have never forgotten his performance in Storm Damage and that is the timeless quality I mean about a great actor.
Which film do you wish you had of directed and why?
Heat by Michael Mann. I just love this guy’s work, his attention to detail, his research process, his writing, directing, editing, locations, his use of real people as characters in his movies, I like everything about him. The shootout scene in downtown LA is off the hook, the sound design, the camera movement, the grading, and the performances of Pacino and De Niro, the cop and the robber, the good guy and the bad guy, who both have challenges with the relationships they have with the women in their lives.
Where do you want to go from here?
TOP DOG. I am going to build up the TOP DOG film distribution and clothing label. Make films audiences want to see. I am going to discover new filmmakers and distribute their films, discover new acting talent and showcase them in my movies, collaborate with the greats in the film industry. I am going to start a TOP DOG educational program to go with the TOP DOG label, to teach people the business skills that I have learnt, so they can come from, council estates and the road like me and sit in boardrooms of big corporations and make deals. I am going to teach them the secrets of earning money. I will tell you a TOP DOG business tip. If you really break it down, if you strip away all the BS, earning big money is really easy. All you have to do is FIND A NEED AND SERVE IT. This is nothing new; it is an age old principle. How do you serve the need? With the skills and abilities you have, and if you don’t have the skills, read books, go on courses and learn them or find a mentor. Now, once you have earned that big paper you will meet another challenge, KEEPING IT, that is even harder than earning money.
Please give 5 tips for aspiring directors.
1. Never Give up! A winner never quits.
2. Learn as much as you can about EVERY department in the filmmaking process.
3. Become a great communicator, your people skills have to be 200% on point. Listen to your team; they are looking for your leadership qualities.
4. Don’t compromise your vision.
5. Don’t be too precious about your ideas. Film is collaboration medium, so surround yourself with great people with great ideas, and be open to their ideas and don’t take it personally if someone comes up with a better idea than you, go with it, don’t be wrong and strong, if someone’s idea works better than yours, cool, at the end of the day, you will still get the director’s credit.
Are you on Twitter?
I don’t tweet anymore. I have a theory I am exploring, we seem to be living in a global culture where, everyone wants to be famous and have followers etc, I have had my 15 minutes of fame, a couple of times and now, I am a bit like the graffiti artist BANKSY, I created the Q image with the wooden glasses, because I like anonymity. In the world of social media, everyone is putting all their life, beefs and dirty linen out there, so, if I want to know about someone who interests me from a business point of view, I log on, after a few searches, boom, I’ve got loads of information. Twitter is a great tool for pop stars and celebrities to keep in touch with their audience. But, I give information on a need to know basis, and for me LESS IS MORE.
The full high octane film trailer of the UK’S FIRST URBAN ACTION MOVIE will be released early 2011 and available in all good stores and online now