EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors who have films screening at the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Screening in the Narrative Feature Competition, director Mark Webber‘s “Explicit Ills” will be having its world premiere at the South By Southwest Film Festival. With a large cast including Lou Taylor Pucci, Frankie Shaw, Tariq Trotter, Rosario Dawson, Naomie Harris and Paul Dano, “Ills” follows a group of characters who come together in a story of young love, drugs and poverty.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
I grew up poor and was homeless for a year and a half with my mom when I was ten years old. When I saw movies I left my body and went somewhere else. I could escape my sadness for a couple hours. So a fantasy developed. The fantasy of becoming a movie star. That turned into a dream which turned into a goal which turned into a way of life. I would become the characters I saw on screen and then eventually developed my own. Eight years of struggle and focus. I was now 18 living in Philadelphia with my mom. I got into a preforming arts high school. I had an amazing teacher, who basically taught me not to listen to him. I liked that. The Principal didn’t like me because I liked Shakespeare more than geometry, so she kicked me out at the end of my sophomore year.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I walked into a casting director’s office in Philly and said I was available to audition, they looked at me like I was crazy, but good crazy because they started calling me in to audition. I worked as a bike messenger and delivered pizzas to get by. Then I started getting parts in plays. Then I got a part in an “indie” movie. I had no idea what that meant, but have since learned very well what that term means. That movie got me a meeting with an agent in New York. She liked me and signed me. She is still my agent today, ten years later. I have been in over twenty five films in that time period working with amazing directors and actors. I have learned from all of them. I got sick of acting. I wanted more control. I wanted to express myself in a different way. So I wrote a script.
What was the inspiration for this film and how did it evolve?
My own personal life experiences. It evolved just right. That is the biggest thing I have learned in filmmaking. It always evolves. Know when to fight it and know when to succumb to the moment.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
I wanted to make a true independent film. A piece of art. Something I would want to see. I wanted to learn. I wanted to rehearse, knowing that I would throw it all away to the moment. I wanted it on film. I wanted it on 35mm. I wanted good performances. I have been influenced by so many people, places and things, but director wise that would be my executive producer Jim Jarmusch.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
The biggest challenge was getting the money and now it will be getting distribution. The whole making of the film was a huge challenge, but fun. The wheeling and dealing, the business shit, it fucking sucks big time. The “business” tests me on a daily basis.
What are your goals for the SXSW Film Festival?
I want to sell the film so more people can see it. I made it for people to see and not to sit on my shelf. That is why I am incredibly thankful and honored to be a part of the festival, because they are giving me the opportunity to show my work in a theater, to my friends and family and others. It’s a dream come true. I’m really nervous…