Michael MacBroom's Endless Life
The Belfast filmmaker prepares to screen his second feature film at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
Your second feature film, Endless Life, is premiering at the 2013 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Wednesday, May 8. What is the film about?
The film is a character study about friendship, freedom, acceptance. The protagonist is Eva, a young woman living in Belfast with no family, no job, no prospects. After her mother's death and a later miscarriage, Eva's ex, Will (whom I play in the film), returns to Belfast from abroad. Will offers Eva a temporary place to live and their tenuous relationship becomes strained.
The notion for the story sprang more from themes around the idea of a lead character without an arc, someone who continues on as they are while the people around them seek to control, save, judge. It was shot in digital HD format, and was self-financed to the tune of £2,000.
You wrote, directed, produced and star the film. Which element do you prefer?
I much prefer to direct. Writing can be addictive but difficult. It all depends on your methods, what and who you're directing, how much freedom you have and whether your writing is for you or for your film to get agreed by a funder. As I made Endless Life completely independently, I had all the freedom in the world to write and direct as I felt. The drawback is that having no budget restricts what you can do.
Is the film autobiographical at all?
I hope not, though it is a personal film and there's different elements taken from experiences and people I've known or met over the years. The actors bring their own interpretation and experiences to the characters, which alters the fiction again. I'm very much in favour of that.
It stars your better half, Karen Kinghan, in the lead role. How did you find working together?
It was great working with Karen. She is a brilliant, intuitive actress and, because she's also a filmmaker, she automatically understood and could easily work with the technical side of things. We had lots of time together to go over the role and talk it through, so logistically it was much easier than working with another actor. We really benefited from working together.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to filmmaking?
I became sick of temping in the late 1990s and eventually managed to get to Queen's University. The film course was in its infancy and we were guinea pigs, so I'm doubtful that I learnt much there at all, though I got to see some brilliant films and I did direct a couple of shorts.
It was really from meeting Karen and taking to her non-stop about films that put me in the direction of film training. I've since worked with people all over the country and made dramatic films with children, old people, psychiatric patients, teachers, farmers and the like.
I've always worked on my own personal projects as well. I wrote and directed I Wanted To Talk To You Last Night in 2008, and that really got things started for me creatively. I learnt so much making that film, and made some life-long friends as well. I'm very open to collaboration – experience isn't the most important thing at all.
Was producing a feature always the burning ambition?
If you mean producing, rather than directing, then no. I don't really enjoy that side of things at all, but I didn't have to deal with any real money or legal issues with Endless Life, so I suppose it wasn't too bad. If you mean produce in the general sense, then yes. I love feature films and I love to be involved in something of that scale. Digital cameras are getting better, and I'm working on finishing things more quickly. That said, I'd love to shoot on film.
What lessons have you learned from writing and shooting Endless Life?
Endless Life was the right way to film at the time. I played it safe, but I'm ready for something more formally challenging. I'd like to play around with images and time more. In writing a script, it's better to write fewer scenes that are more significant.
Also, having no money, I felt the restriction with locations. I want to be able to dress sets and have decent locations and costume. I should say that my friends went to great efforts and let us use their houses all the time. We really pushed our luck, people were very good to us. I think I need to do something for them all soon, actually.
Which filmmakers do you most admire?
There are so many filmmakers I love, but it doesn't necessarily show in my films. I think it's wise to play to your strengths, and so I don't want to try and emulate a blockbuster with £500. I love Fassbinder, Nic Roeg, Bergman, Cassavetes, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, Chabrol. Sometimes it's just an individual film I love more than a director.
It seems that the Northern Irish film industry has taken a turn for the better in recent years. Is it exciting to be a part of that?
It seems like a good time to be a filmmaker in Northern Ireland. Working on the margins, I only feel part of it peripherally, but I think that's still important. It might bring people together and help create more of a film culture here. All these films, like Good Vibrations, Jump, Endless Life, might give other people the impetus to pick up a camera and make a film. If people are collaborating artistically because they believe in their work, then great things could happen.
The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is one of Northern Ireland's biggest arts events. Is it daunting to see your film in the programme?
It wasn't until you pointed it out... I'm very nervous about any screening. I've played music in front of hundreds of people and that's very easy compared to people watching your film. A filmmaker once told me you may as well be standing naked in front of the screen with everyone watching, and that's true. More than anything, I'm happy that the cast and crew can finally see it, and hopefully they won't make a human sacrifice of me in Writer's Square afterwards.
What's next on the MacBroom agenda?
A normal social life and a restoration of relationships with family and friends. Then I will undo that good work with another feature. There's currently a race between two ideas – one is about voyeurism, male desire and the struggle to love, the other is about two old friends meeting after many years who clash in re-imagining the past.
Is there a particular quote from a filmmaker or other artist that inspires you as a mantra?
There's a famous expression that I attribute to my own father. It's appropriate for the characters and stories in both features I've made, and I think there's a wider philosophy in it. It goes, 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.' I also like Rob Nilsson's 'Don't go down main street'.
Endless Life premiered at the 2013 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Wednesday, May 8, and has been entered into various national and international film festivals during 2013.