AU ABROAD

the AU interview: Eoin Macken (London/Dublin)

Eoin Macken is probably best known out this way for his role as Sir Gwaine in the hit BBC/Channel 10 series Merlin. Along with acting, Macken is also an accomplished film maker, with three independent feature films under his belt and a fourth, entitled Cold, nearing completion.

Through interviewing Irish band and Macken's childhood friends, Evora, a month or so ago, I was intrigued about the work Macken does behind the camera and so after a comical bout of miscommunication and missed calls, I finally got the Irishman on the phone to chat about Cold, the production process and what it's like to work with close friends.

How have you been Eoin?

I’ve been very good, thanks. No complaints!

That’s great; it’s so good to finally get a hold of you.

Yes, sorry about that, I can be a bit crap. You can ask Alan [Rickard, of Evora], he’ll confirm that.

Not a problem. Now, Cold seems to be coming along really well; what stage of the production process are you at now?

Well, making films are a pain in the ass. We’re just finishing the final edit, so hopefully in the next week or so we can move on to finishing the colour correction and the music and the sound. You know, we’re going pretty quick, comparatively speaking, for a feature film. I think we’ll be done in about four weeks…but I did say that four weeks ago. It’s going to be done when it’s done, as it were.

Fair enough! Can you tell me more about the film; how long has Cold been a project of yours?

It’s actually been about a year; if we do get it done in the next four or five weeks, it’ll probably be less than 12 months since I wrote the first draft of the script to completion. Which is very short. It just happened that this time last year, myself and Tom Hopper, we were going back on to Merlin and we decided that we wanted to do something together. I wanted to write a script for him and that’s how it happened.

Oh excellent. I know it’s completely independently created and it’s not the first feature film you’ve made; taking all of this into consideration, would you say the production process has become any easier? Especially now you’ve done it a few times?

Well, the thing about it is…although we raised some money for it and so forth, I still went and initially made it off my own back for the first block. We kind of raised the other money retrospectively because I couldn’t finish it. It’s bizarre that, even when you raise money, it goes very quickly! All the other films that I’ve made have been off my own back and they haven’t really been for very much. I spent a little more time prepping this but at the same time, myself and Tom were on Merlin for the whole time, so we had about a week off as it were. We did the first block in about ten days so I didn’t get to prep for it beforehand. We had to shoot literally the week and a half after we finished the series so… I had a lot more prep in my head!

Just on the crowd-funding campaign that you launched for this film, it was great to see that there was so much support behind it. What were your thoughts on Pozible and the whole crowd-funding trend that’s popped up, before you became involved in one yourself?

I personally was quite blown away by it, because we weren’t sure if people were going to be interested in it or if they’d just dismiss it, but people seemed to be very supportive of it which was great. I think it’s great. I’d like to do it again; I didn’t really realise the full potential of it. We did that and then we did the convention (ColdCon) and so forth, but it was really interesting to see how many people had an appetite for engaging and helping support it and also being involved. That was fascinating. I think there is definitely more potential to do that. I had never done any conventions before, personally; when people came on set and then when we did the convention, they got to meet us, which seemed to be really exciting for them. That was really cool, to meet people and talk about it. They got something and we got something and it was actually really enjoyable from that regard. I was quite blown away bit so yeah, it was quite interesting!

Definitely. Well, on the convention you organised for Cold; it must have been a bit of a bizarre feeling to rock up and see that these people were there, not only for you as an identity, but to support the whole separate entity that was the film. To see how far the film’s reach actually was at something like this and to see how far it had grown, that must’ve been a trip?

You know it’s funny, because I’d never really thought about that until you just said it. [Laughs] When we were in the convention, myself and Tom had literally just flown back from Dublin because we had to go back to do a pick up for the film. We’d been shooting until three or four in the morning and then we had to fly back, so we had like, an hour’s sleep. The next day, I was going to Mexico and Tom was going to start prep on his thing and we actually just wanted to make something really cool. Because all these people had come, we were like, ‘Oh fuck, we’ve got to make sure this is something worth their while’! We didn’t really consider it in terms of how much of a reach it was, it was more like, ‘Oh my goodness, I want these people to come. Fuck, we’d better make this interesting.’ They were all really lovely and that was the thing. We were like, ‘Fuck, you guys are really cool’! We just wanted to make sure people weren’t bored and didn’t feel sorry for coming!

From everything I’ve seen online, the movie’s seemed to have gained such a great amount of positive momentum. That’s great to see for any project, but even more so I think, for an independently produced project, you know?

Yeah, I mean it’s a funny one. Once we get it finished, we’ve then got to send it to festivals and send it to people and so forth, so it could take a while. Hopefully then, people are still interested in it. It is a long process. I’ve written a blog about it, I think some people think that life’s begun in two or three months, but I don’t think we’re going to be quite like that…

Yeah, you might have a bit longer to wait…

Yeah!

Of course, the way I was directed to the film and the work you’re doing with it was through Alan and the band.

Of course.

I know that, along with those guys, having Tom in the film, these are people you’ve known for ages and have worked closely with. How much easier has it been to work with these sorts of people you’re already close with?

Well I think that is what I like to do. When I was first getting involved in film, I was only in college when I got interested in film and photography and all that stuff. Previously I had been doing athletics and David Attenborough had made it occur to me that you could make photographs and films. I liked that idea, you know, you look at people in New York in the 60s, 70s and 80s; you read interviews with people and they’d be making films with each other. Robert De Niro was friends with Martin Scorcese and so they’d make a film together, you know? I always thought that’d be really cool. My very first friend, Emmett Scanlan, who was in Hollyoaks, we were in our first seven projects together just by circumstance. I had him in my first film. I just always liked to make friends with people I like and work with my friends; if could do that and they happened to be really talented or even more talented, then that would be great. It is fun, you know? So with Alan and Tom and even people like Jack [Reynor] and Rebecca Knight…it’s enjoyable!

Oh for sure. I suppose it’s great to work with mates, even with the possibility of getting under each other’s skin.

Well I remember having one little row once and I’ve had the same with Emmett and even with some of the guys I’ve gotten pissed off once or twice, but I think you have to go down that route. You’re trying to make something creative. What I mean is, you’re working with people you like because then you can have a pint afterwards and enjoy it in between, but you’re working with people who are hopefully more talented than you are and who also want to do it. So everyone’s being professional about it; it’s not like we’re just hanging out, you know? You know what I mean, you’re working with people who are more talented than you are so you’re like, ‘This is perfect’.

Totally. You’re an actor as well as director; how do you find your approach to film changes when you’re switching between each capacity? Is it difficult to do both?

Yeah, it’s hard. I think, to some extent, it can limit the things you can do. I wanted this film to be about Tom anyway so it meant that I was able to play off him a little more and let him drive things. At the same time, sometimes you can’t fully see things so you really need to trust your D.o.P and trust the people you’re working with and say, ‘Do we have that?’. A lot of the time, I got used to just watching what people were doing in the scene at the same time I was doing it. You need to trust your instinct on it. It is a lot of hard work and I don’t know how often I could do it.

Well it’s good that you’re finding these avenues to delve into directing in amongst your acting schedule.

Yeah! I mean, life’s too short, right? What’s the worse that could happen? Fuck it up, who cares?

Pick it up and move on from it.

Yeah, exactly.

As for yourself, now that Merlin’s wrapped up, are you involved in any further projects UK based you can tell me about?

Not with the UK; I did a pilot in the States for the NBC straight after we finished Cold. I literally did that and finished just before Christmas. Basically, we’re waiting to hear about that and waiting to see if it gets picked up. They haven’t made a decision on it or on dates so I’m basically finishing Cold while I wait to hear about that.

Hopefully it goes well for you in that case!

Well, so do I! [Laughs] You and me both.

For sure. Well, that’s basically all I had for you tonight Eoin, as far as the film goes. It’s just great to see it’s all going well for you.

I’m so sorry it took so many phone calls for you to get in touch, I do apologise!

Oh don’t worry about it; it was completely my bad the first time! I spent the rest of the next day thinking I’d made such a bad impression as a journalist! But it’s okay, we got there!

[Laughs] Oh no, no! Well you know what, I’m kind of glad then because it makes my neglect this morning not seem as important. Which is great.

We got there in the end, that’s all that matters.

We got there. If you tell Alan that it took three days just to have a conversation with me, he’ll just laugh. I’m really glad you’ve worked with Evora though; their album, I know you might not have heard their album, but their stuff is really fucking great. They’re really good.

Well yeah, I’ve only heard a few things so far but after doing that interview, it seems like they’re onto a really good thing.

Yeah, fingers crossed. He’s worked hard at it. I think part of what he was talking about, when I went off to make Cold and started doing it, he got kind of pissed off and was like, ‘I’ve really got to make this thing, don’t I?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah! You lazy fuck.’. Back to when we were talking about working with friends and stuff, myself and Alan and the other lads…we used to live next door to each other. If his stuff works out and if my stuff works out, that’ll be really nice.

For sure. Thanks so much again for taking time out of your no doubt busy schedule; hopefully we’ll see you out this way some time.

Oh no, it’s a pleasure. I’m coming to Australia actually in June, coming for two weeks to Melbourne and Perth, I think for Supanova.

Oh cool; that’s a shame you’re not coming through Adelaide, where I am though!

Ah no! Tom was in Adelaide and Brisbane last year and I was meant to go with him, but I couldn’t. I’m making up for it by going to Melbourne and Perth.

Oh well, they’ll love you out that way I’m sure.

I’m looking forward to it.

Excellent stuff. Thanks again Eoin, keep us updated on how things go with “Cold” and we’ll catch up soon.

I most definitely will do! It was a pleasure talking to you!

For more information about Macken's directorial and cinematographic work, vist http://www.blankcanvaspictures.ie/.