We speak to Mark Herbert, managing director of Sheffield's Warp Films on opening a new 'one-stop' film studio, producing an Arctic Monkeys video and film and the new Shane Meadows film...
The creative and commercial success of Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes, produced by Mark and colleagues at Warp Films and released in 2004, influenced the emergence of Warp X. Their aim is to make low budget films that are distinctive and market oriented.
BAFTA winning My Wrongs
Mark Herbert began his work with Warp Films in 2002. His first production 'My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117', directed by Chris Morris [The Day Today / Brass Eye] won a BAFTA at the 2003 awards.
Prior to this Mark produced the critically acclaimed first series of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, the series was broadcast in 2001 and was nominated for Best Comedy at the RTS and Broadcast Awards.
Making movies and money
"Making films I think is getting easier because the technology's getting cheaper. Financing is hard, the most important thing is getting that first chunk, and then people get more confidence... we've got a deal with FilmFour.
"I went to Cannes last year for about two weeks, all the major buyers from around the world, Australia, America, Japan and France are already there trying to buy films that have already been made.
"Basically it's a big market place, there's a lot of prep work to do, it's a myth that you just go there and get a deal. You have to prep it, set up the meetings, send them the script, what the package is, director etc.
Image from Dead Man's Shoes
"At one point we were going to sell it off to a Belgian or Scandinavian firms, In the end we got it financed, mainly out of the UK, which is fantastic, but you literally go there selling yourself.
"You've got to have a directors vision, a very good script and you've got the producer trying to drive it. But if you don't get the right people, or you get one wrong it could all come down like a pack of cards.
"You've got to eliminate your risks, which is why you look for the track record of the filmmaker. This is why we're doing Warp X really, we make them for lower budgets, because then there is more chance of you making money, so you and investors have more chance of making some money back, and there's no reason anymore to make films for £3m.
"A low budget used to cost £3m, where as low budget now means £200,000 - £300,000. I think it's good because you're giving more talent more of an opportunity. It used to be a bit nepotistic... 'daddy's in the film industry' type scenario. I think it's becoming easier for writers and directors."
Mark has been working again with Shane Meadows of Dead Man's Shoes' fame, on a film called 'This Is England'. The film's currently being produced by Mark, and is expected to be released in the Autumn of 2006.
"It's based on his [Meadows'] life really, or an element. It starts off in 1983, on the first day of the Summer holidays and ends on the last day, about a young boy who's not got his dad around, lives with his mum, a bit bullied, a bit picked on.
Tommo stars in This Is England
"He meets a gang of skinheads and thinks 'fantastic'. He becomes part of the gang, and he's only 13 this lad, they [skinheads] think he's a bit cute, he gets his head shaved, gets the docs [Dr Martens] and everything, it's quite funny.
"Then one of the old skinheads comes out of prison half way through, and it all turns a little bit. It's the usual Shane style of very funny, then very dark within five minutes."
The actor for the lead character was plucked from a community project in Grimsby and will make his screen debut in the film, Tommo [Thomas Turgoose], as he's known is expected to make a big impression with the audiences:
"It's like a Kes type performance that he's done, he had a laugh that was infectious... his laugh is fantastic. He has a good relationship with Shane.
One stop shop
"With Warp anything goes, the film's got to have a certain budget, they've got to have a market focus, we look for genre films like horror, comedy, with a twist on that genre.
"We're not making 'worthy' British films... we're making films with an edge to them and we're developing films with that in mind.
"But what's quite different with Warp X is that we're offering the development, the production and then the distribution in one-stop shop... I think it's great for Sheffield.
Mark produced the Arctic Monkeys video release for Scummy Man, a short inspired by their single 'When The Sun Goes Down'.
"Their manager had seen Dead Man's Shoes, really liked it and gave a copy to the lads and told them the guy who did it was in Sheffield.
"Last Summer, before we stated filming 'This Is England' they [the band] came round to the house one Summer evening with their manager Jeff, and I showed them some short films, I'd done a couple of shorts that were on DVD, one with Chris Morris [My Wrongs].
Monkeys: 'A really good experience'
"It was just that idea of trying to look at a pop video differently, and they've got a lot of integrity, the way they've released things has been different, and the way they've built their fan base... we discussed making a short film.
"We'd make the short film and use the rushes from it to make the video, so you've got two platforms, and the idea just snowballed. It was a really good experience actually.
"We don't really do pop videos... but when something like that comes along, I went to see the band last Summer and thought 'wow, this is good, this is something we should get involved in'.
"What was great, it felt like a collaboration all the way through with them and their label Domino.
The future of Warp in Sheffield
"Well the family is here, the office is here... you don't need to be in London. I don't want to make seven films about Sheffield with Warp X, but the fact that we're here is important.
"It's important to me to be from Sheffield, being out of the London bubble you see things on their merit, you don't care if the writer's not done anything before, sometimes if it's a good script, it doesn't matter who they are.
"We've got a fantastic film called 'Travels Of My Virginity' which is about a young guy trying to lose his virginity in 1972 and he decides to go to France, and hitchhike across France, it's a comedy.
"We're looking at moving into some drama stuff, I've not done TV for a while and I quite miss it. Film takes ages to get off the ground. It would be good to do a comedy actually, it's all been a bit dark, the stuff I've been doing for the last year... I wouldn't mind having a bit of a laugh!"
last updated: 07/11/07