An Edge Hill alumnus has written and directed his first feature film after discovering a love of filmmaking during his studies.
Mark Brown, who graduated in 2000 with a degree in Communication Studies, wrote and directed Guardians, a comedy thriller set in the East End of London, which was recently premiered to sold-out audiences in the UK and the US. The film scooped three awards – Best Screenplay, Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actress (for Mark’s fiancée, Victoria) – at the GenreBlast Film Festival in Virginia and was nominated for four others.
Described as a cross between Withnail and I and Panic Room, the film centres around two disparate men who end up living together as guardians of an old townhouse. But what starts as an odd couple comedy turns sinister when there turns out to be more to the house than meets the eye.
“The film was self-funded and only made possible by calling in a lot of favours,” said Mark. “The house that it is shot in is my own house, and we also used the Queens Head Pub across the street. They let us shoot for free until 4am. That is indicative of the generosity we received from people. We couldn’t have made the film without it.”
Although Guardians is Mark’s directorial debut, he has written other films, one of which, Heckle, premiered at Cannes in 2013. He has also written films for Hollywood studios, such as Nu-Image Films, and currently has three other projects in the pipeline including Coldfell, a Scottish set thriller, that won Best Screenplay at the 2017 NOLA New Orleans Horror Film Festival.
“I wrote my first feature script as part of a filmmaking module at Edge Hill,” recalls Mark. “I always wanted to make films but that wasn’t deemed a reasonable life goal by most people. After I graduated from Edge Hill, I did a City and Guilds in Film and TV Production, and after that, I decided I didn’t care what anyone else thought and moved from the North East to London to pursue my dreams.”
Mark set up a theatre company with some friends and produced 55 plays in three years at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. But film came calling again when he met director Phil Haine. After making a short film together in 2006 called The Empty Chair they set up a film company, Braine Hownd Films which, over the following decade made 17 short films and won awards all over the world, including Cannes, the US, UK and Europe.
“My time at Edge Hill definitely helped me get where I am,” said Mark. “My first script got decent feedback from my tutors so I was heartened enough to keep doing it. I found the environment encouraging and I didn’t feel like I wasn’t insane in thinking that this could be something I could do for a living.”
With another feature film planned and two more ready to go into production, Mark feels he was right not to listen to other people’s career advice. He added:
“It all seems to be going to some kind of haphazard plan so I’m pretty happy at the moment.”