Gerald McMorrow - Exclusive TCM InterviewAn exclusive interview with TCM classic shorts winner and Franklyn director, Gerald McMorrow.
Gerald McMorrow first came to the attention of the movie world with his winning entry in the 2002 Turner Classic Shorts competition, the surreal and futuristic, Thespian X, which tells the story of an out-of-work actor visiting a dole office inhabited by a variety of aliens and mutants.
K-Pax director, Iain Softley described Thespian X as, “witty and stylish, a great idea well-executed,” while Neil Norman of The Evening Standard called it, “technically sophisticated entertainment…refreshingly politically incorrect.”
Gerald has since completed his feature debut, the astonishingly imaginative Franklyn. We caught up with him to find out how it was all going and get a little inside information in an exclusive TCM interview.
You studied film in New York. Did you find film school useful for opening doors into the industry?
It was certainly beneficial in giving a mini-foundation course into discovering what it is that you really want to do. There were people on the course who went in wanting to direct and left with an absolute obsession in Editing or Lighting. In terms of industry doors opening I think you are always going to have to work hard and make your own luck.
How would you describe your cinematic influences?
I¹ve always been interested in fantasy and science fiction ¬ this meant that I was inevitably brought up as a Star Wars kid. I was the right age group to get hit square in the eyes back in 1977. However my influences and interests soon grew to everything from Hitchcock and Cassavetes to Burton and Gilliam.
What other art-forms hold inspiration for you?
I paint and draw, which I’ve found useful to demonstrate ideas, there are artists in the world that can give you an idea for an entire story just by looking at one of their pieces. Francis Bacon springs to mind.
How hard was it finding backing and distribution for your first feature?
I was very lucky that I was steered toward Jeremy Thomas at RPC. He managed to construct a very tricky financial package for what is essentially quite an unusual film. We were lucky that the script appealed to the cast and that the entire crew got behind an ambitious project and put every penny of our limited budget up on the screen.
What was it like making the jump from shorts to feature directing?
There are aspects of it that are very similar. Franklyn was like Thespian X on a massive scale. Short films give you an excellent insight into the long form. Shorts are also a chance to be as pure as you’re ever going to be. If you work in commercials or music videos you are inevitably obeying masters, no matter how much freedom they give you. Features are also bound in commerce to some respect. The short film is the best way of saying this is me, without any interferences.
You’ve assembled a great cast for Franklyn. Ewan McGregor was originally slated to play the lead. What happened?
Putting a four hander together with essentially four leads is always a tricky thing to do on an independent project such as Franklyn. People’s schedules change and you can find yourself watching a major support yanked out of a house of cards that has a serious knock on effect. Casting changes on every project, more often than not you end up with what’s meant to be.
Did the casting changes affect the script or production in any other way?
We had to move quickly we had a window to shoot so it did get rather busy in those last stages, but on the whole our changes manifested themselves in a positive way. Different people bring different ideas to the project.
How did you go about choosing the locations for such a personal vision?
London is an incredible place. When we decided what Meanwhile City was going to look like (a kind of Rome or Florence sent three miles into the sky) it was just a case of driving around London rubber necking at the fantastic architecture available. Double Negative sent their guys out with Hi Res cameras and they shot the hell out of every church, gothic building, cathedral and gargoyle that they could find. The vision of Meanwhile is a fractured collage of everything that already sits right in front of our noses.
How much of yourself is in your characters?
My friends have noted that there are a few semi-autobiographical beats in the film! I think there is an overall sense of me in all of the characters. Maybe they’re all a little bit like me. They say write about what you know.
Now that Franklyn is on general release, what’s next in the pipeline?
I¹m writing at the moment - a romantic mystery set in Paris set between 1952 and present day, also working on some visuals for an animated film that has been on my mind for a while now.
Franklyn is in cinemas now.