Friday, 14 October 2016

Malcolm Benson speaking about his award winning film RETURN OF THE DON! (Interview- Part 2)


Right, on to Return Of The Don. How gangster are you Malcolm? Zero. I’m not a gangster at all but I feel that in films you have to solve social issues. You have to look at why you are making the film. You have to think why people would even bother to look at the film- what issue are you trying to address; is it having any impact or are you just trying to make an impact for no particular reason? To me, I have followed the issue of gun crime and gang issues of young people in this country and if this is the only way I can shed a bit of light on it without glamourizing the gang, then so be it. To me, it’s saying these are the issues our politicians and the government are not really addressing properly. The only time we hear about gangs and gun crime is when another young person is shot dead and it comes on TV, we hear about it and after that it ends; nothing else happens. You see young people who are tagged as bad people but what have you done for them to help them get out of crime? They are being used as criminals to facilitate criminal acts and they are vulnerable because they have nothing better to do. What can the government do to change their way of life? Even if what they are doing is there it’s not good enough to solve the issues. With film you can actually shed some light and leave it to those young people to use their intelligence to say, ‘those are the likely consequences of my actions and I might be able to learn one or two things from this.’ To me, I’m more or less trying to highlight the issue of domestic violence. We need to make films that address issues like that which people are not fully aware of. We see people everyday but we are not aware of what they are going through at home. With film we’re not going to change the world but we are going to expose some of those things so people can get some kind of help through the film.

MA Benson & Aida Emeliya Nova
I think the film is proper gangster! You can imagine the Cray Twins or something like that. What sort of research did you have to do to recreate the authentic gangster feel?  I have researched and watched other gangster films. In the beginning I was watching just as entertainment but when it comes to actually making my film I watched those films again to see the meaning of why things happen, the under-pinning rationale behind some of the actions the characters took. I was looking at it as if it was a documentary, as a learning process rather than just watching a film. If someone is watching a film just to entertain themselves and someone brings out a gun they can sit there saying, 'Kill him, kill him,' because they are into the film and not interested in the moralities of who is being victimised or whatever. But when you’re trying to address an issue you’ve got to read between the lines and try to understand. I have researched films like The Godfather, Wolf of New York and a few more from Hollywood and the UK. There was a documentary I saw with Trevor McDonald where he did some good grass roots research into gangsters on ITV and the way he explored really helped my research as he was telling what happens and why they do what they do. Those are the people who have been gangsters for a long time and have come out of it and are telling their story of why and what they did and what it means to them now that they are no longer gangsters. That helped me a lot. I’m not really into gangster films but I looked at them for the purpose of what I want to achieve.


Return of the Don has a very intriguing story line and is unpredictable. Is that how your mind is? Do you keep on squirreling with ideas? My mind is very reflective. I know I’m serving a purpose and with the way the film’s gone so far what’s come back to me is what I put out there… what it’s going to do and the potential it has. I feel its self-actualisation has been established where you have something in your mind, your goal in life and you feel you have done it. It hasn’t been very easy at all but you are able to do it. I kind of sit back and enjoy all the things that come with the film- all the thoughts, the reflections,  the learning curves and  the people I’m  meeting through the film; the generic overall, so I’m sitting back reflecting and it helps me to face any challenge I will come across.
Steve McTigue and Paul Van Beaumont
Right, you have your script together and you’re about to cast. What kinds of things are you looking for in your actors? I always believe and look for genuine actors who are natural. People that understand what a character is all about; not just performers. These are different things. Performers are just performing but they do not understand the under pinning rationale behind how that character was created. It’s not about you as a person, it’s about the character. Are you able to be that character and bring that character to life? If a character is supposed to be a psychopath, you might not be a psychopath yourself as an individual, but you need to understand that when you become that character you have to become a psychopath. You cannot be a normal human being pretending to become a psychopath, it’s two different things- pretending to be something and being something. The person that played my psychopath was Aida Emeliya Nova and she’s Eastern European. When you see a character, especially when you have written or are directing the film, a character that hits the button- I kind of feel that this is a talent I have. I have a good eye for picking characters and it just comes very naturally to me. I see a script, read it, see the development of the characters then I see a person wanting to be that character and you can easily tell if they can do it. I could have been a casting director as I have cast my few films really well. I have had help from casting directors but they haven’t taken over and I have always picked good actors. My film, Ortega and His Enemies won best actor and best actress in Beverley Hills Film Awards, Darrell Las Quevas, Ortega and Adi Alfa who played Sarah have both done very well in other projects.


Amanda Lara Kay
Did the actors take the characters in slightly different directions to the way you had anticipated? Yes, again it’s about give and take in production where the director gives the actor and the actor gives the director ideas in return. It’s where the actor understands what the director is trying to achieve and not what the actor wants to achieve. My actors, I really love them to bits because they come in with a lot of great ideas but they want to know, what do you want? So they give you options and do not come and say, ‘this is how I see this character.’ It’s not how you see it, it’s how the director sees it so basically my actors came on and for example one of the mafia wives, Amanda Lara Kay, she played Dana Ackerman, she came in and said, ‘what accent do you want?’ She gave me different options  and she’s English and I just wanted to keep it that way but at least she was able to offer different accents and it’s great that she’s thinking outside the box. What really thrilled me is how Steve McTigue was able to become this Jack Ackerman to the full potential of what Jack’s supposed to be. The voice  he brought in- I didn’t tell him anything about that voice but he gave me the way Jack sounded and that was his original creation so I very happily embraced it. He nailed that and he was able to keep it going, not forgetting how the voice sounded, and he was able to come back tomorrow or next week and speak like Jack Ackerman. When it comes to looks I wanted Jack to wear a hat and dress in suits so he’s more the part which he did and it was really well delivered.



You opened up with a helicopter. Where did the inspiration for that come from? Well at the end of the day we have to recognise that this is a film entertainment industry. We have to entertain as well as tell the story. You don’t just go, you give people something to catch their imagination from that opening sequence. If it’s ten seconds, or fifteen minutes- whatever, the opening has to have something to get their attention or you’ll probably lose your audience. We need to come in in a big way and make an impact. That’s getting the commercial value for the film. When you are flying in a helicopter people will know you’re not just broke detectives. When you’re looking at gangsters that are controlling the city you want to come in air, land and sea. They’re coming in on a helicopter because they’ve got to survey the area, make sure it’s safe and that no one’s hiding somewhere and then you land. It shows the commercial element so the audience takes your film seriously. That was the rationale behind the original script and we had to embed it in.

Return Of The Don is doing well with twenty two award nominations isn’t it. Yes, twenty two and counting at the moment; it’s been amazing. I’ve got the Canada International Film Festival Awards exceptional merit. I have the Hollywood International Moving Pictures award and I actually won them, not just nominations, and I won accolades. Some producers and directors who have won accolades have actually gone on to win Oscars, so I kind of feel Okay, perhaps it’s an indication that one day, just one day I might win an Oscar. Never say never. I have to think big and dream big- who knows. Depth of Field Film International Awards, LA and it just goes on. The whole list are on my website. London Independent Film Festival awards, Festival International, Cannes- I went to Cannes twice to premier the film. It’s still rolling and I’ll be heading to L.A. and am expecting something out of it. The nominations just keep coming; what can I say?

Amey StCyr Paul Van Beaumont Aida Emeliya Nova Lucien Morgan

So what’s your plan for Return Of The Don? You’ve had your premier at the Imax Cinema Waterloo so what are the next moves? Return Of The Don, I do have a distributor for the U.K. and we are looking to distribute from October, that’s the plan. This is for the cinema and we’re finalising everything we need. We have a strategy for distribution and it’s more like limited theatrical that we have planned for now to kick off with before we go full scale, depending on how the limited one goes. I’ve got another screening booked for 12th November at the Genesis Cinema, Mile End. That will be a very special release for those who didn’t see the actual premier at the BFI Imax. People can book straight away so tickets don’t run out like they did at the BFI one; they can go online and book that one. We have distribution for Japan and Hong Kong at the moment and that is for video on demand. We are also targeting the United States. I had an invitation by the New World Cinemas to premiere the film in New York and we’re still talking about that to see how realistically it will pan out. But my main focus at the moment is to get the film out there and to really get enough eyeballs to see the film. That’s the whole idea. I’m more interested in mass distribution, bearing in mind that I got number 23 in the UK box office for the opening weekend. It would have been great to keep that momentum going but based on the advice I had it was decided to delay the distribution till October so that we can gather some energy while we get the plans put together. I’m always open to advice when working with other people. It’s all about teamwork, yeah.

When you’re saying you’re 23 at the box office is that up against all of the big blockbuster movies as well? Absolutely, that is absolutely correct. We were up against all the films that were screened in the UK that weekend. The entire film figures were reported to Box Office Mojo and other figures were reported through agencies, so Return Of The Don is there on record- number 23 UK Box Office, and is accessible for Friday 17th June on Box Office Mojo, for that weekend.


How did you feel when you saw that your film had reached number 23 on the billboard? It was an amazing moment and I couldn’t quite believe it. You never know what the figures are like with the others and always assume that all these big blockbuster films will be on top and you’re gonna be right at the bottom. So when I looked at the films I saw Return Of The Don had passed I was thinking, with all of the money they pour into these films how can this happen? Obviously I was thrilled and at the same time encouraged because my film that had no known actors whatsoever could get in the record books because at the end of the day it’s always referenceable. Anyone can flag it up, it’s not deletable. What was at number one? I don’t remember! And has it been done before? It might well have but I would have to do deeper research to see, but I was very excited.

Your final words Malcolm? Making a film is not rocket science, all it takes is enthusiasm.

Big thanks to Malcolm and we wish him much continued success with Return Of The Don and his film making career!

Link to part 1: My Reality

Jaz McKenzie~ The Word Magician Contact: itsbraap@live.co.uk

1 comment:

  1. That was awesome Jaz. Thanking you with all my heart M A Benson

    ReplyDelete