The arty outlaw: How I quit my legal career for an East London gig and then a feature film

evin Marsh, Waking Dead director, in Press coffee bar, Chancery Ln London © david altheer 2017
All smiles: barrister Kevin Nash who went into the movie biz

Could you make a movie one day? Kevin Nash, above, describes how he never gave up on his childhood ambition to direct his own feature film

 

WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I dreamt of becoming an actor. Instead, I trained as a barrister, moved to the United States and eventually became a partner in a law firm.

Yet I never forgot that dream and at the age of 51 I decided to take up acting. I quit full-time legal work, did some acting classes and for about a year acted in some local plays and short films.

Working on films changed me: I was mesmerised by the magic and the complexity, how so many different elements could come together and be transformed into a story.

I realised I wanted to control the whole creative process rather than be just a part of it. I wanted to direct.

So I did a short film-school course at New York University, bought some basic equipment and started making shorts. The challenge of a feature film eluded me until I returned to London and did a film studies MA at Queen Mary University of London at Mile End E1 4NS.

For my final project there I ran a workshop using the improvisation process of Mike Leigh.  His ability to improvise feature-length scripts fascinated me: I wanted to do something like that.

After graduation, I found three talented actors who were also good improvisers. We worked for 18 months to create a script, starting with the characters they had created then fashioned a scenario, improvising dialogue, finally editing it to a shooting script.

The result is Waking David, made on a budget so small the movie is called a “no-budget film” (less than £100,000).

Still, raising the money was difficult, because we didn’t have a final script until about a month before shooting started. Fortunately, I had found a producer, Marilena Parouti, who loved the story and was fascinated by the improvisation process. She worked out a way to shoot the film in 15 days and stay within budget.

I feel a strong East London connection with Waking David.  It grew out of my work at Queen Mary; we rehearsed, improvised and filmed some scenes at the uni and it provided facilities and some equipment. My director of photography, Lukas Demgenski, and I often worked at his home in Hackney discussing the kind of film we wanted to make.

Waking David taught me not to listen to people who claim that you can’t make a feature film for under £100k. No my movie is to receive its world premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival in Arizona this month April 2017.

If you are passionate, have a script you believe in and actors serious about their craft, if you have artistic integrity, you can make a film and it will be shown.

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* The writer’s regular job is lecturing on film studies at Queen Mary University of London.

* Press here for a Waking David  trailer. The film is due to show in Phoenix this week, on 7 and 8 April 2017.  

* Backstory: Little cinema reopens in HackneyFrom Hackney to Hollywood?; Life and death with the Roma   

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