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Interview – Marcus Markou – ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’ – A Short Film


Posted September 16, 2018 by

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Interview – Marcus Markou – ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’ – A Short Film

Marcus Markou’s Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times touches on the topical issues of racism and poverty. This must see film has been selected for numerous high profile film festivals and won many awards. This live-action short stars Laurence Spellman (Ready Player One), Sargon Yelda (C.B. Strike), Dimitri Andreas (Tyrant) and Alistair Cameron (Silent Witness).

Alistair and Samir meet five different times, but it is only when they meet as old men that they can finally put their prejudices aside and meet as friends. This film champions friendship and compassion over separation and distrust.

Writer and Director Marcus Markou made his first short film The Last Temptation of Chris starring Ed Stoppard in 2010 and quickly created his first feature Papadopoulos & Sons, starring Stephen Dillane. In 2014, Markou was nominated by the London Critics Circle Awards in the Breakthrough British Filmmaker category and founded the production company Double M Films. The talented director is currently working on a number of original feature film and TV projects with Movie Collective; a new crowd funded production company he co-founded with Hollywood producer Cassian Elwes.

Just some of the film festival awards include the Best Short at Maryland Film Festival, Best Short at Ohama Film Festival, the People’s Choice Award at Taos Shorts Film Festival, the Audience Award for Best Foreign Short at Long Island Film Expo, Best Dramatic Short at Beeston Film Festival and many more.

The film was co-produced by Sara Butler and Sophie Andrea Mitchell, the cinematography was created by Christopher Fergusson and the wonderful music by Sophie Mojsiejenka.

Marcus Markou - ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’ - Interview


To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’…

Last year I was working hard getting a new feature film off the ground, but whilst I was waiting for things to land, I thought I would shoot a short. The mechanics of shooting a short film are the same as a feature film, in that you are engaging the same parts of the process – script development, casting, art department, budget, schedule, finance, rehearsals, camera, sound, performance, editing, wardrobe, hair and makeup, grade, sound mix and then publicity and festivals. So you are doing everything you would do on a feature film but obviously in a shorter space of time and with less money. I love the short form because in some ways the challenge in engaging an audience emotionally is greater because you have a much shorter time span to do it in. I wanted to create something that truly moved the audience. I think we do this well.

Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved?

I was seeing so many stories of xenophobic abuse after the referendum here in the UK and I had friends who were also experiencing this too. I also felt it on the train and on the bus. Something definitely shifted after the Brexit vote. It was as if it was okay to have those thoughts that “foreigners were not welcome”. So I wanted to tell a story that started there. I thought about a refugee story at first but there were so many being told at the time, I thought it was a story already being told extensively in the shorts being made. I had a colleague who told me his story of racial abuse outside the tube station and it got me thinking about what would happen if my colleague then found himself interviewing this person. And from there I asked a lot of “what if” questions. And the discovery was that no one is really, truly bad. Often, we are products of our conditioning. This is what the story explores. It’s a very humane view of the world.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring in ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’?

I work with an experienced and respected casting director called Sarah Trevis. Sarah sent me lots of CVs and the actors that stand out, for me, are ones who have done a lot of theatre and have worked with the great theatre directors of today. Laurence Spellman’s CV caught my eye immediately because he was being repeatedly hired by some of the best theatre directors in the country – specifically Trevor Nunn and Declan Donnellan. I was on holiday when I got these CVs in and I emailed Sarah and said that we should offer Laurence the part immediately. Sarah said that I should meet Laurence first but I insisted that we simply offer him the part. I figured if he was good enough for Trevor Nunn in four different productions then he would be good enough for me. Sarah however, did convince me to meet him first! This is what makes her a good casting director. Which I did. And of course, we hit it off. Then at the meeting Laurence asked if I had cast the other part. He then mentioned his friend Sargon Yelda. Sargon and Laurence had been school friends at primary school and then lost contact completely but were reunited in a play at the National Theatre called “Emperor and Galilean” by Ibsen – which by coincidence I had also seen. Again, Sargon has great theatre credits with some of the best directors in the country. But because Laurence and Sargon’s real life story seemed to capture the spirit of the short film, he became a “must have” actor. When it comes to actors and a project, the stars should align naturally. Yes, you can push for certain actors and I always carry a screenplay on me in case I bump into an actor I admire – but the truth is, the spirit of the actor and the spirit of the screenplay should and often do just come together – especially when there is very little money involved!

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

I am obsessed with how stories act as therapy. We are story telling creatures. Stories explain the world, explain ourselves. They give us context, relief, joy and closure. Stories are as important as food, clothing and shelter. And filmmaking is the greatest story telling artform of all because it draws on the talents of so many people. So my influences are people. And their stories. But if I had to choose other filmmakers that I have admired and influenced me then I would say Billy Wilder and Woody Allen. I adore their movies and their ability to capture the tragi-comic essence of humanity.

What advice would you give any up and coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

Don’t try and crack the industry! Go out and be passionate about your stories. Find your voice. Your voice are the stories inside you that your soul is crying out to tell. These stories have a chance because you will be motivated by passion and not from trying to second guess a market. And this is what actors and crew will love about you.

When and where can we expect to see ‘Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times’?

It’s currently doing the festival circuit. It’s already heading towards 60 festival acceptances, winning many along the way in its category. Once the festival circuit is complete then we will release it for a wider audience either via a short film distributor or directly on the internet.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

I am involved with a new movie business called “Movie Collective”. It’s very exciting as I have partnered with the producer Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club, The Butler, Mudbound). We broke new ground when we crowdfunded for equity – the initial capital for a slate of movies. The first movie, which is now in preproduction – is Utopia Road starring Anjelica Huston and is the debut feature of Rosson Crow – an acclaimed LA artist. Because of how we tapped into the crowd and because it’s giving a female director their first break in the business and because it’s with Cassian, I am giddy with excitement about it all. The second movie on the slate is called Crazy Blue – which I wrote and I am directing. We are currently casting this.


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