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indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Neil Marshall, director of “The Descent”

indieWIRE INTERVIEW: Neil Marshall, director of "The Descent"

British director Neil Marshall made a mark on the film scene in 2002 with his action/horror “Dog Soldiers,” garnering awards at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, including a best film nod from the Catalonian International Film Festival. Returning to the genre with his latest, “The Descent,” Marshall, who also wrote the film, tells the story of a cave expedition gone wrong. A group of female explorers become trapped following a rock fall and are pursued by bloodthirsty creatures. Their predators, however, are only one source of fear as they begin to turn on each other. The film won Marshall a best director prize from the British Independent Film Awards in ’05, and will be released by Lionsgate Friday, August 4.

Please give us an introduction — a bit about yourself…

I am 36 years old. I was a film editor for eight years before I made my first feature, “Dog Soldiers.” I am from Newcastle upon Tyne, in the northeast of England. I currently live in Cambria [England].

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker, did you go to film school?

I always wanted to be a filmmaker and became one through sheer single-mindedness. I came to filmmaking from a background in graphic design. I went to film school at Newcastle Polytechnic.

How did the initial idea for “The Descent come about?

I was on a train journey and had an idea for a film set in a cave, [and] on the same trip I had an idea for a horror film. Then the two ideas sort of came together as one. I suppose the seed of the idea came from a trip down into a cave I took when I was ten.

What were some of the challenges you in developing the project?

The hardest thing really was getting the script to work, specifically getting the female point of view right, then the practical challenges of filming in the tight spaces. Once we got those things figured out, financing and distribution were fairly easy as these things go.

So how did you finance the film?

The film is financed by Celador, the company behind the global TV hit “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” They also financed “Dirty Pretty Things” (Stephen Frears).

What are your biggest creative influences?

Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and my dad, who is a painter.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

One that’s made free of studio influence, maybe one that’s less tied down by market restrictions — for example the requirement of name actors in the cast.

What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why?

Raiders of the Lost Ark” made me want to make films. I am wild about the films of John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Howard Hawks and Sam Peckinpah.

What are your interests outside of film?

I don’t really have a life outside of movies. But I like to climb mountains and walk the dogs. I like fine wines and good restaurants.

How do you define success as a filmmaker?

I define success as the ability to connect with the audience, which in turn makes one able to keep on making films, which is my personal goal.

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