“[John Maclean] told me the idea, showed me the script, and then told me he wanted to shoot it on a mobile phone. I thought, ‘Hm, this guy, he’s an original.’ And so that experience went well, and then it was like okay, let’s shoot another short with the aim of getting financing for a feature film.”
Actor Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Inglourious Basterds) on making the short film Man on a Motorcycle (2009)
“I studied Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh Art School and The Royal College of Art in London. After graduating I formed The Beta Band with a couple of friends. I made many of the music videos, which were very DIY and tried to be short films in style and a great training ground for film making with little to no budget.”
Writer/director John Maclean
Indiewire/Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers
Since my last post (Bob Dylan & Your Filmmaking Career) was a mixture of music, filmmaking, and being from places far outside the Hollywood system I thought I’d point out a great example of someone from Scotland who’s making a great go of it recently.
Scottish filmmaker John Maclean’s IMDB credits actually begin in 2000 for a song on the soundtrack of the well regarded film High Fidelity. He made some videos with a couple of bands he was in through the 2000s (what he calls his film school), and in 2008/09 he wrote and directed a short film called Man on a Motorcycle using a smartphone to shoot with four actors. (One of those actors happened to be Michael Fassbender who gave Maclean one day of shooting.)
That went well enough that Maclean and Fassbender made a second short film, Pitch Black Heist, which won a BAFTA award.
That led to writing and directing his first feature film Slow West (again with Fassbender) which was the Grand Jury World Cinema Prize winner at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Back when I started this blog, Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places, in ’08 who would have bet that there would be a filmmaker from Scotland that year who would make his first short film using a cell phone and just six years later end up a Sundance winner? (And to make those odds worse that that film would be a historical western set in Colorado and shot in New Zealand)
If you want to get a glimpse what shaped Maclean into a filmmaker beyond studying drawing and painting in college and being in bands for a decade here’s the answer when asked what filmmakers inspired him :
“The work of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Bresson, Brunuel, Carpenter, Allen , Spielberg, Scorsese, Bergman, Hughes, Kurosawa, Denis, Herzog, Wilder, Altman, Cassavetes, Hitchcock, Lynch , Polanski, Leone, Tarkovsky, Lumet.”
P.S. Since Maclean mentioned Bresson it trigger a memory that I think it was either an interview with screenwriter Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) or in his book Transcendental Style in Film where he mentioned watching Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest once a year. It’s not only where you’re from that gives you a unique voice, but the kinds of movies you ingest.