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netribution > features > interview with ben hopkins > page two


People have compared it to Gilliam's films, does that interest you?
It's not up to me, people will say what they want but it’s the first time I've heard anyone compared to him so I'm quite happy about it.

Would it be correct to describe it as sci-fi?
No it wouldn't be right I don't think.

What was the budget for it?

And Magus?


How did it feel to have such a smaller amount at you disposal?
Fine, it was very enjoyable actually. As soon as you are over a certain level of funding insurance companies and financiers have a much stronger element of control over you and more of a vested interest in what you are doing. It becomes important to make it look like money has been spent on it. Magus, like my short films, is very intricate and quite elegantly made and I got fed up with that so I thought I'd do something that looked like I'd just knocked it out next. I shot Katz on 16mm, DV, High 8, Super 16 and Beta Cam.

Its rare for a low budget British film to be high concept. In America it's been done more often with films like Pi and Cube.
Yeah, one often feels that without much money one should concentrate on social realism and not light it properly, shit wallpaper etc. It's nonsense of course, you make be really imaginative with little money. Eraserhead is a fine example of how to create a entirely different universe with no money, that's inspiring.

What do you think of British cinema at the moment?
What do I think of it now? I'd say it's OK but in the last year I've noticed that Hollywood is producing some really interesting stuff like Three Kings, Magnolia, like Fight Club and we are doing Maybe Baby still, we are seen to be kinda behind and that perhaps we are less avant garde than Hollywood. That attitude pisses me off and it seems a bit stupid but we it is going to take a while for us to catch up.

There is a greater emphasis on class in British cinema.
Yeah that's true but it's not something I'm terrible interested in, I'm just not very interested in daily life to be honest. I live in daily life and I don't need reminding of it every time I pay my money for a ticket, I'd much prefer to pay my money and be taken to another world!

Is there a problem with British cinema, is there a problem with scripts, producing, distribution?
I've heard various different theories and had various different arguments about it but I've very much come to the conclusion that the problem is due to the distribution and exhibition sector in that you can make all these wonderful films and still have nowhere to show them. Or that it is very easy for them not to be shown. America wants to market and sell their own product in their own outlets and a film like Simon Magus probably had a bigger audience than it did just won't fit in any of these cinemas. They can have She's All That or American Pie. I think we could deal with less money for production and development and more money to create a quota system or we could construct new cinemas or pay off the Americans to guarantee 2 out of 10 films will be European. It's almost as fucking impossible to see European films as British.


It's like the system in France where a guaranteed 25% of films shown are French.
Yeah, France and Korea have this quota and in both cases they are perceived as highly by the Americans in all trade talks.

Denmark doesn't have a quota and yet 20% of their films are Danish.
Sometimes you don't need quotas and they are often best avoided. I'm not anti a free market or an anti capitalist but there is an unofficial in the distribution sector which in any other business would be regarded as very suspect. It's just as if you were a car dealer and every warehouse was owned by Mercedes Benz.

Is it that films like Maybe Baby only thrive through successful marketing campaigns and that that is really the issue?
Yeah and it's amazing that…something else to gripe about - I don't think we have any imaginative, creative and interesting distributors and I wonder why they bother spending good money on a product that is quite clearly shite. It's so stupid and a terrible waste of money. If you think of what could have happened to the celluloid that made up the 200 odd prints of that film, why? What if the apocalypse happens tomorrow, all that's left is 200 prints of Maybe Baby in a warehouse somewhere.

Have you ever considered going across to the lower end of Hollywood as a career move?
If you'd asked me that 5 years ago I'd have never considered going because there'd have been no future for me but now maybe there would. I have to say that generally these interesting US films are being made by more established filmmakers like David Fincher and Spike Jonze. If I went out there I'd be back on the lowest rung, I'd have to do…some crap film first to prove that I could take it up the arse like the rest of them.

Have you had any offers?
No and I wouldn't expect to with the type of films I make. You have to be pushy to be believed in America and I'm not pushy, I'm a reserved Englishman!

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