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netribution > features > interview with mark herman > page one
Imagine getting into the National Film and TV School to study animation. Sitting down for the first lecture and introducing yourself to a nervous looking kid called Nick Park. Sort of like resitting your Maths A Level with an 11 year old Einstein. Such was the fate of Mark Herman, and so came, fortuously, came the move from animation - via writing lyrics for the Christians - to films. Starting with Blame it On The Belboy, Herman went onto make the brilliant Brassed Off before taking over the reigns from Sam Mendes on Little Voice.
His next film, Purely Belter, is released in October and tells of two young Newcaslte boys who will do anything to get a couple of season tickets for Newcastle United.

| by nic wistreich |
| photos by nic wistreich|
| in edinburgh |

How did the film come about?
Jonathan Tulloch, the writer of the book shares the same agent as me so I managed to get an early copy of it.

And what did you find attractive about it?
I think it’s the mixture of humour and tragedy that enjoy directing, it’s a similar sort of tone to Brassed Off.

Did you consciously follow Brassed Off and Little Voice with another social realist piece?
I wasn't intending to do another after those two but I enjoyed the book so much that I thought that if I can afford to make the film quickly and cheaply then I'll do one more. We completed it very quickly, within a year, but it was also very exciting working with a bunch of first timers, I mean without any stars whatsoever was quite a challenge.

Why did you return to a smaller budget on this?
The expected step would have been a bigger budget, higher profile film but it wasn't a backward step, it was more sideways and it was new territory for me. The bigger the budget the less control you have, this was Film Four financed and there was no interference at all. It was a question of trust really. As I say there were no stars in it and after coming of the back of Little Voice and Brassed Off there was quite a lot of pressure. Its quite a brave film because of that, it’s a hard film to market, it needs good word of mouth and reviews and you can't stick Michael Caine on the poster.

How easy was it to cast?
Finding the two kids was quite difficult, that was a long and very important process. Because these two kids get up to a lot of no good you've got to like them and finding two likeable kids was quite a hard job. They hadn't done a great deal in front of camera before but they were great and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of them.

Did that fact make filming them easier or harder?
It was more spontaneous and they were fresher. We saw a lot of kids who'd done a lot of TV which had made them quite mannered but there was a lack of potential about the ones we chose that was really appealing. It made the actual process of shooting a lot harder but it was very exciting watching them learn and improve every day. By the end of the first we they wanted their own trailers!

This is perhaps your most bleak film to date, is this a change in your frame of mind?
I think its an age thing, a lot of people my age find it a very bleak film and the kids don't recognise that so much. The book is very bleak and too bleak to put on film so we had to re-structure it, put levels of humour through it to make it more acceptable to a film audience.Did Film Four push that humour?When we went to them with the book we'd already said that we'd cheer it up a little bit. Jonathan, the author, recognised that and understood that we wouldn't just mess with it but that film is a different medium.It's another working class film.That's just the way it turned out, I don't want to get pigeon holed and it’s the third and last for a while, the next one will be very different.Do you know what that will be?Yeah, I'm doing a film for Miramax set in the Mediterranean, it's not necessarily working class.


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