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netribution > features > interview with Martin Gooch
Martin Gooch very kindly dropped off his showreel to our office and stayed for a chat that, after seeing his work (especially Orgasm Raygun), convinced me to interview him…just for fun. He directs and shoots comedy shorts exclusively, he's never received a penny in funding for a variety of reasons (none concerning talent) but he seems immune to the vacuum of disillusionment that swallows so many in his position. This isn't a high profile interview, and I'm sure he won't mind my saying that, but he's very talented and his manner is a good lesson to a huge section of our audience. He doesn't give up because he loves what he does, he doesn't take himself seriously (a common problem in this industry) and he pays for his films by working in the industry.
| by tom fogg|
| photos courtesy of whatever pictures |
| in london |

Tell us about yourself as a filmmaker Martin. How did you get started and in what capacity?
Foolishly I went to college to do a degree in film. It was a complete waste of time as, having a degree, I still came out and got a job as a runner on 8000 a year in central London doing 50 hour days.

I took the runner, head runner, camera trainee, clapper loader, focus puller route. With brief stints as visual effects assistant, 1st AD, art department person and production manager. All of those were slotted between 200 odd jobs outside film - far too dull to go in to here.

I still feel that I would have been better off not bothering with a degree, and I never put BA(hons) after my name as camera crews tend to take a dim view of 'qualified' people.

Would you take a different route into the industry had you another chance?
Yeah, my course was hopeless, I learnt a lot but was taught nothing. If I had my time again I would get a job in a studio sweeping floors and within 3 years I would be way beyond the position I was in having completed my degree.

I did have a nice time but it was a waste of time and when you have that 'burning passion' to make movies that I had raging inside of me, it can be incredibly frustrating. My course only required me to make a couple of films but I actually made and shot over 30.

How long have you been a filmmaker now?
I made my first crap animated short when I was 18 and I've been making hopefully a little less crap films ever since.

How do you support yourself?
The majority of my income comes from my work as an assistant cameraman but I receive a small income from a couple of Gentlemen's clubs that I run in Istanbul.

Tell us about your comedy short Orgasm Raygun. Firstly, who wrote the poem?
I worked briefly for a great independent record label called Humbug Records. One of their artists, Martin Newell, wrote poetry and one day he showed me Orgasm Raygun. It was hilarious.

How did you persuade Leslie Philips to narrate?

The poem had a characteristically British feel to it and I had always had Leslie Phillips' voice in my head. When I finally decided I was going to make it, I got his agent's address from the Spotlight directory, faxed over the script and got a 'yes' the same day.

A very small amount of money changed hands, mostly to ensure that the copyright remained mine, and then Mr Phillips invited both myself and my soundman to his house. We recorded the sound in his front room!

Is it fair to say you shoot from the hip in everything you do?

I'm addicted to filmmaking, I love it, I need to have something to be working on, whether I am writing, shooting, or editing. It's my hobby and I wish it was my livelihood.

My films have been financed almost entirely by myself but I am not a rich man. They usually come in under 100 quid, which is damn cheap. Orgasm Raygun is another matter completely, I think it cost about 800 to make and another 1000 for a 35mm projection copy. We had a lot of problems with the neg registration in the original camera and we had to have the 'weave' corrected. Of course this would never have happened if we had had a decent camera to start with!

You mentioned that pitching yourself as director as well as camera op causes problems when looking for investment?
Yeah, when I apply for directing jobs people can't understand that you can be a cameraman and a director, simply because camera work is technical and directing is creative. In my experience the BBC are the worst for this, which is why so much of their recent programming looks like it's been directed by sea urchins.

Their policy for employing directors is that they must start as a runner, they must then become a researcher, then assistant producer, then producer and finally director. That's having never set foot on a film set, knowing nothing about directing from having never worked with directors.

What are you working on now?
There are five features I'm scribbling away at, two already completed and three in draft form. There's a dark romantic comedy, space war, tank drama in North Africa, one about luck, and another about the Ministry of Misery.

I've also just finished writing a short, and I've begun filming another about the world's first toast kicking contest.

What's your ethos as a director?
I'm very basic and I don't make issue based films. I want to entertain, and make good films with decent equipment. I want to make people laugh and I want to enjoy making these shorts. I can't think of anything I'd rather do….unless I was in Vegas of course.

Martin Gooch can be contacted through Whatever Pictures

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