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Pictures and videos from the archive of shows I have directed – Lord of the Flies from 1998 – 2008

18 Jun

Library - 0679This was the show that took my work across the country for a period of 10 years. From 1998 – 2008 we made 5 separate productions of this that played over 960 performances in almost every theatre in the country to audiences in excess of 500,000.

We had 5 casts that overlapped as the shows progressed and we co-produced with Lyric Hammersmith, York Theatre Royal to first deliver this with Pilot Theatre back in 1998.

Library - 0680The show toured across the UK and we even tool it to Bermuda to their International Theatre festival. It also played versions across Europe as part of EU collaborative projects. Library - 0700

The crashed aeroplane set was designed by Ali Allen and Marise Rose – and its multi-functional use became a real trademark for the show. This was combined with the first full soundtrack composed by Sandy Nuttgens which underscored the entire piece. Again a first for this kind of work.

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We used projection and titles from the first production again giving the pice a cinematic feel. The full soundtrack and moving shapes from the plane were combined with real elements too. We had two real fireboxes on stage that really created a sense of danger.

Library - 0680The show itself was a series of controlled danger moments. With falls and crashes and swinging metal from the structure, as the actors leapt over flames and slid down the structures that they beat with metal bars.

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The rotting pig’s head at the start of Act 2 with Simon ( played by Neville Robinson)

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Phillip Dinsdale as Jack

The use of blood, water and fire and a pulsing soundtrack ensures that there were moments of adrenaline rush in the audience that could tip to a moment of pin drop silence, when we killed the soundtrack dead – as the motionless body of Simon hung limply from the edge of the wing section.

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Neville Hutton as Piggy

The bullying and baying of the characters whipped the story to its terrifying climax – as we flew in a ‘helicopter’ effect to blind the audience as we dropped in a parachting SAS officer.

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This show always worked incredibly well for the audience of young people who had sometimes been reluctantly dragged along to see their set text piece of work. As a director I wanted to ensure that they witnessed something they would never have seen before. And to ensure that they would not be bored and there would be scenes that would burn into their memory by the sheer audacity of the action in front of them.

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QUOTES & REVIEWS

“William Golding meets Quentin Tarantino”

The Financial Times

“Brilliantly evoked…see it and weep”

Time Out

“Terrifying and exhilarating production…heart stopping”

The Guardian

“Visceral production…thrillingly choreographed”

The Independent

“Brilliant – Stunning production…superb ensemble…skilful direction, if you see nothing else, see this.”

Manchester Evening News

“This is a superb production of which everyone involved can be proud”

The Scotsman

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Directed by Marcus Romer

Designed by Ali Allen and Marise Rose

Soundtrack by Sandy Nuttgens

Lighting design by James Farncombe

AV Arnim Friess

Movement Hannah Priddle / Gill wright / Faroque Khan

Relights James Molyneux

Photos Simon Warner

 

The trailer made by AGE from New York back in 1999 – before Theatres did trailers…

 

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Thanks to all the actors and creative practitioners and office staff who worked on this project over the many years. It was a great show and was great fun to make.

Marcus Romer – Director / Filmmaker / Speaker /

18 Jun

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Director / Filmmaker / Speaker

Marcus’ work has spanned three decades in theatre, film, television and consultancy in the Arts.

He was Artistic Director of the award-winning National Touring Theatre Company Pilot Theatre from 1993 to 2016. He directed work across in the UK, throughout Europe and in Argentina. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Marcus has collected three Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for his productions of Lord of the Flies and Beautiful Thing. Marcus’ adaptation of Looking for JJ won the UK Theatre award for best production for young people.

He is a freelance director and was interim Artistic Director at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from July 2019 – June 2020 where he directed Pride and Prejudice, Peter Pan and Shirley Valentine.

He is currently a founding Artist of Mutiny Projects who made #Covid19Threads and are currently developing #LocusSolus a digital performance platform on Roblox with Simon Poulter and Sophie Mellor.

He is a published playwright. Marcus wrote the screenplay for The Knife That Killed Me (2014) from the novel by Anthony McGowan. He co-directed the film for Universal Pictures.

He was an Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 2016 – 2018. He has also been an Associate Artist for Harrogate Theatre since September 2017. For both of these organisations he Produced Livestream theatre projects into health care settings for The Space.

In 2018 Marcus directed for National Theatre Wales, where he developed part of their project, NHS70 – As Long as the Heart Beats.

In 2019 Marcus directed ‘Let the Right One In’ for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and ‘Justice 39’ for the People Power Passion project with Revoluton Arts in Luton.

Marcus is a TEDster, class of 2007 / 2011 / 2013. Participating in the conferences encouraged him to set up the annual conference to discuss technology and the arts, ‘Shift Happens’. He has also hosted the TEDxYork conference, and co-created No Boundaries for Arts Council England in 2014 and 2015.

He provides training and consultancy to Arts organisations, companies and individuals with online mentoring and directing. He is a mentor for the Colchester Mercury Creatives.

Marcus has also worked as an actor and has appeared in several long running series and TV films – including Prime Suspect, Dalziel and Pascoe, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Hillsborough and The Bill.

For detail about his work please see below – or email him for more information

marcusromeruk@gmail.com

 

FILM

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Marcus wrote the screenplay for the film, adapting the book by Anthony McGowan. He co-directed the film with Kit Monkman.

The Knife That Killed Me was released by Universal Pictures.

It was ranked #10 in the Top Thirty Films of the Year (2014) by the Huffington Post.

“…like a hi-tech version of Lars von Trier’s Dogville” The Guardian

“Easily one of the best films of the year” Huffington Post

“Alive with visual intention” Empire

“an experimental British drama… with a densely intensive visual verve.” The Times

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THEATRE

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Marcus was the interim Artistic Director at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from July 2019 – June 2020.  He was an Associate Artist at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 2016 – 2018. He was also a Producer for Collusion, Harrogate Theatre, and a director for Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. . Marcus was Artistic Director at the award-winning National Touring Theatre Company Pilot Theatre from 1993 to 2016. He has directed work across in the UK, throughout Europe, and in Argentina, including national touring productions of: Antigone, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, Beautiful Thing, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, Looking for JJ, Road, The Fever Chart, Bloodtide, and Rumble Fish.

In 2018 Marcus developed and directed ‘As Long As The Heart Beats’ for National Theatre Wales, as part of their NHS 70 project. He also developed the first Active Reality project ‘Reveal’ with Simon Poulter for Collusion.

Pride and Prejudice:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good production of Pride & Prejudice must capture not only the elegance and era of Jane Austen, but also the intelligence and wit. Director Marcus Romer and his talented cast have managed to do all of that and more in the clever new adaptation.” East Anglia Daily Times

Let The Right One In
“It’s only mid-February but we may already have a show of the year on our hands with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s exquisite production of Let The Right One In. Brutal, terrifying and tender, Marcus Romer’s production catches all the winter chill of its Nordic setting, its gothic horror gradually intensifying as its young protagonists Oskar and Eli discover common ground in a small little town where a spate of murders leaves everyone on edge.” The Bristol Post *****

As Long as the Heart Beats:
“If there is one stand-out message from National Theatre Wales’ NHS70 programme, it’s the fact that the institution thrives because of the people who keep it moving. Examples of this are given through the five one-act plays commissioned for the season, but it is this promenade production that really drives the point home. Borne out of real experiences people have shared, As Long as the Heart Beats is a beautifully captured snapshot of life inside an NHS hospital, and the people responsible for making it so.” Wales Arts Review

Antigone:
“The 90 minutes of the single-act play gallop along towards the tragic finale. A young audience absolutely lapped it up.” The Independent ****

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
“Flawlessly directed by Marcus Romer and stylishly designed by Lydia Denno, the discussion this show will provoke will run and run” The Observer

Sing yer heart out for the lads
“…the production seems to have everything: pace, precision, power. The result is sensational” The Guardian ****

Looking For JJ
“This is a genuinely important piece of theatre, every bit as thoughtful and demanding as its audience deserves” The Times

Lord of the Flies
“William Golding meets Quentin Tarantino” The Financial Times

Beautiful Thing
“engaging, sensitive and it does your old heart good” Yorkshire Post

Rumble Fish
“The show generates the kind of rapt attention in which you could hear a pin drop.” The Guardian

Road
“Superlative acting and a dynamic, inventive production by Marcus Romer that splices film footage and suitably atmospheric music into the action.” The Evening Standard

 

Consultant / Cultural Leader

No Boundaries 2014 - York

Marcus has become a mainstay for arts organisations seeking to improve the way in which they approach technology. He has spoken at conferences in Venice, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Palm Springs, London, and across the UK. He has delivered projects and business and cultural development projects for Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Kettle’s Yard, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Theatre Peckham, Theatre Royal Stratford East.

2007 attended TED in California

2008 – 2013 created Shift Happens, a celebration of innovation and a forum for discussion for arts organisations across the UK. Speakers have included Ken Robinson, Clay Shirky, Howard Rheingold

2011 Hosted TedxYork

2014 Co-curated and hosted No Boundaries for Arts Council England and the British Council

2015 Co-hosted No Boundaries 2015

2016 Innovation Norway, conference in Tromsø, Norway

2016 Arctic Moving Image Film Festival, Harstadt, Norway

2017 European Theatre Convention, Karlsruhe, Germany

2017 UK Theatre Touring Symposium, London

2018 Mainframe Derby

2018 With Collusion in Cambridge Marcus produced projects in King’s Lynn and Bury St Edmunds. This included developing and creating ‘Reveal’ with Simon Poulter.

2019 Harstad Residency in Norway developing a new green screen project

To find out about working with Marcus as a speaker, contact him here.

 

Projects and Innovation

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Through Pilot Theatre, and as a freelancer, Marcus has led many high profile arts events across the country:

The Great Exhibition of the North Marcus was on the bid writing team for The Great Exhibition of the North for Harrogate, and presented the bid for Bradford

HOME Created and delivered a new digital strategy for HOME in Manchester

ACE and Norwich City Council A research study for St. Andrews Halls in Norwich

Creative England Creative Director for the Eagle Lab Flight Programme in partnership with Barclays UK

International Indian Film Academy Awards Marcus and KMA created the opening event in 2007 at Sheffield Arena, for a live audience of 15,000 and a TV audience of 500 million

UNESCO Was part of the team that placed the winning bid to make York the UNESCO-designated ‘City of Media Arts’

Tour De France Organised the Cycle of Songs with HistoryWorksUK: the opening event of the Cambridge leg of the Tour de France 2014. The event featured a walking tour app that worked along the route of the race around the city with 9 originally commissioned songs geo-tagged to your location

Immersive Theatre Worked with SlungLow in August 2013 to produce Blood and Chocolate (pictured above), a fully immersive theatre show with 200+ actors that worked via headsets for all audience members and a walking tour across the city of York

Conferences Created the Shift Happens conferences, leading to the No Boundaries events to connect the Arts with technology and to shift thinking

Livestreaming Executed the first ever multi-camera livestream of the York Mystery plays, which enabled viewers to choose from 6 camera angles and to curate their own viewing for the BBC and The Space

Produced Reasons to be Cheerful by Graeae for The Space as a live to digital cinema release in 2018

Produced Theatre Royal Stratford East Christmas shows into Barts Health Trust as a livestream 2016 and 2017 for The Space

Produced Harrogate Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk – livestream to Harrogate NHS Foundation Trust for The Space

For more info please contact

marcusromeruk@gmail.com

Pictures and videos from the archive of shows I have directed – The Indian International Film Academy – The Bollywood Oscars Award Ceremony

17 Jun

In 2007 I was commissioned to deliver the opening of The IIFA awards –  the Bollywood Oscars, which in that year, was taking place at Sheffield Arena.

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I pulled the team together for the event and the video was created by Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler (with whom I went on to make the movie ‘The Knife That Killed Me’ for Universal Pictures) We shot hundreds of people from Yorkshire on Green Screen and put them against images from Yorkshire.

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The music was created by Sandy Nuttgens who put together Johnny Kalsi from The Dhol Foundation with the Kaiser Chiefs to create the Ruby remix

The live opening of the show was directed by Marcus Romer with Kully Thiarai, with choreography by Darshan Singh Bhuller, costumes by Ali Allen.

The video was the backdrop to Aerial Artists, dancers and performers, who rehearsed with the video so the action and timings were integrated.

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We had aerial artists on silks who came down from the rig as part of the narrative of the three ribbons heading towards the arena across the landscape of Yorkshire.

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Here is the video that was used as the backdrop for the stage set that included all the images of Yorkshire and the people we shot on Green Screen.

 

The dancers and performers appeared also with 30 children from a local primary school in Sheffield. Here are the main performers post the show.

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Here is the TV interview pre-show and the full Arena Show on video too. It was broadcast on Star TV in India to an audience of over 500 million.

 

 

The experience of making this on Green Screen with Kit Monkman started our working relationship which led to the making of The Knife That Killed Me in 2012 for Universal Pictures.

Photos – Marcus Romer and screen grabs from the video edit.

 

Pictures from the archive of shows I have directed – Beautiful Thing – by Jonathan Harvey.

15 Jun

I have in fact directed 2 versions of this show. The first was in York in 2003 and that will be featured in a later blogpost. But this was the production we remade and set it in Gorton, Manchester – thanks to Jonathan Harvey’s permission – as we ran the show for. month at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton in 2005. It won 3 Manchester Evening News awards. For best newcomer for actor Oliver Lee as Jamie, Best Design and best Technical team.

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Jonathan Howard and Oliver Lee

Written by Jonathan Harvey

Directed by Marcus Romer

Designed by Laura McEwan

Lighting by Jude Cloke

photos Karl Andre

The cast – Oliver Lee, Jonathan Howard, Kerry Stacey, Marie Critchley, Andonis Anthony.

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Jonathan Howard, Oliver Lee and Kerry Stacey

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Oliver Lee and Andonis Anthony

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Oliver Lee and Kerry Stacey

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Oliver Lee and Jonathan Howard

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Oliver Lee and Jonathan Howard

Review **** The Guardian

You’re supposed to start noticing your age when the policemen look younger. I’d say it’s when they start updating the references in Beautiful Thing. Can it really be be over a decade since Jonathan Harvey first produced his tenderfoot study of shy teens coming out on a Thamesmead estate?

Apparently it is; and Pilot Theatre’s purpose is to remake the piece for a new generation. In come nods to Britney, Beckham and Will Young, while the action is transplanted to a raw Mancunian council development. Director Marcus Romer even adds a Shameless-style narratorial introduction which is a little, well, shameless: but the good news is that a play routinely described as “feelgood” feels better than ever.

The typical Pilot touches of video projection, seat-rattling soundtrack and street-smart production suit the play. But Romer’s real innovation is to speed things up. There was a lassitude to the original Bush production which suggested that Harvey was the new urban Chekhov; when really he was a superior Coronation Street scriptwriter-in-waiting.

Romer’s production has the no-holds-barred attitude and verbal snap of Harvey’s best Corrie scripts. It’s incredible that the cast generate so much noise seemingly without opening their mouths.

Yet the best thing about it is that it’s 100% genuine – the two teen leads, Jonathan Howard and Oliver Lee, grew up a stone’s throw from the theatre, and turn in debut performances of easy naturalism and exceptional emotional accomplishment. Andonis Anthony and Marie Critchley provide complementary portrayals of feckless adulthood; and Kerry Stacey makes an impact as the gobby Mama Cass obsessive who lives next door.

Harvey’s now-classic play has been characterised as an urban fairy tale. Clap your hands if you still believe in urban fairies.

Pictures from the archive of shows I have directed – Romeo & Juliet

10 Jun

This was a national tour that ran for 6 months between September 2010 and March 2011. Opening at York Theatre Royal and with a three week run at the Unicorn in London.

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Directed by Marcus Romer with Katie Posner

Design by Chloe Lamford

Lighting by Richard Howell

Music by Sandy Nuttgens

Associate Director Katie Posner

Photographer  Karl Andre

Cast

Rachel Spicer as Juliet, Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo, Mary Rose as Lady Capulet, William Travis as Capulet, Chris Lindon as Mercutio, Richard James-Neale as Tybalt, Bryn Holding as Benvolio, Louisa Eyo as Nurse and Prince.

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Rachel Spicer as Juliet, Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo

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Rachel Spicer as Juliet, Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo

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The cast on the flower filled set

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Oliver Alvin-Wilson and Louisa Eyo

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Rachel Spicer as Juliet, Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo

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Louisa Eyo as The Prince

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Rachel Spicer as Juliet, Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Romeo

Trailer from the show

 

Quotes

“Much like Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version, this is an ultramodern Romeo & Juliet, but theatrical rather than cinematic. Out go Pilot’s trademark multi-media flourishes; in comes traditional, flesh-and-blood, physical theatre strengths, allied to Sandy Nuttgens’s always appropriate music.”

York Press

“This is a stylish take on Shakespeare’s ever-popular tragedy. Pilot Theatre’s reputation for productions easy on-the-eye has been well-earned and they don’t disappoint with Romeo and Juliet.”

Yorkshire Post

“As a company dedicated to reinterpreting classic work for young people, Pilot can be depended upon to apply a fresh perspective.”

The Guardian

Making and directing a piece of #ZoomTheatre across Norway during the #lockdown

8 Apr

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 14.19.36Welcome to Radio Harstad…

Harstad is a beautiful town in the Arctic Circle, and I have been visiting and working there every year since 2016. I first went when my film was screened at the Arctic Moving Image Film Festival. I was invited by my now friend and colleague Helene Hokland who is the festival director and who also runs the lovely 1930’s cinema in the town. To screen The Knife That Killed Me – and to do a director’s Q and A. Also to run a workshop for the FHS in Harstad and their drama and performing arts students.

It was here that I was taken to the school at the north of the town, which runs from an enormous building that houses the students and staff. It is a one or two year residential course and the students come from all over Norway. It is a tertiary college and students range in age from 18 – 23. It has a drama and film black box studio, a recording studio as well as making spaces, large communal rooms and the most amazing view across the Fjords.

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The Theatre Director is a wonderfully creative powerhouse and inspiring woman called Hege Fjeld who runs the course and leads the students. She has invited me back every year to work with her and her students and it is an immense privilege to do so. I normally spend a week working and making something with Hege and her students. This year of course is different. All the students are at home under lockdown across Norway from Alta in the very North to South of Oslo – a distance of over 1200 miles and 24 ours of driving. Norway is huge…So over the last week, Hege and I have been working remotely in Harstad and Cambridge and making and directing this piece together.

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So we have spent last week for two hours a day meeting on Zoom and working through a script version of War of the Worlds that Hege has translated. Here you can see one of the students, Embla, presenting as the weather reporter for North Norway where you can see Harstad at 8 degrees on the West Coast.

We rehearsed the students together and individually on the Zoom platform. We used the additional backgrounds tool and were able to add in all the locations we needed for this first part of the project. You can see the Radio Harstad insert via green screen on the picture at the top too.

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We chose the backgrounds carefully to allow the students to be placed in the locations for their direct to camera address. Part of the online rehearsal and work was about getting the light right, and also the capture device at eye level for the actors to rehearse straight down the lens. All too often the image on the screen is who speakers tend to talk to and this is too low for eyelines.

So after rehearsal we were able to then mute and take off screen all the other students and focus on the main speaker. We then used the capture and record button to shoot a take. This was done a few times then the files were then transferred to Hege and the edit suite and studio back in Harstad.

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Some characters were supposed to be in the same location. So again with careful use of a correctly angled background image we were able to give that illusion between the interviewer Karoline Phillips and Professor Pedersen in our shot above.

The files were then edited together and additional foley sound and score were added from the recording studio at the school. We have completed the first part of the project and we have 18 minutes of captured, edited and scored material. We will meet for a couple of hours a day from the middle of next week and complete this piece of work.

It is incredibly rewarding to spend creative time with such talented students, and the learning for all of us has been a rapid curve over the 5 days we spent working.

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The Zoom platform is great for recording – and the sound quality is very good indeed. The image quality depends on bandwidth at each end, and this can vary when the platform is in heavy usage.

The excitement of going for a take is the same as any form of filmmaking or theatre production. It involves focus and concentration and this is undoubtedly a really good training opportunity for the students. This level of focus and discipline from within their own home environments during this time – is the same for all of us.

I have always been excited to explore the possibilities of how we can harness the power of emergent technologies to make connections and creative work happen. From early livestreaming work back in 2008 – through to multiple camera livestreams and making feature films in Green Screen studios. This exploration with Zoom Theatre is part of that journey.

If anyone would like to know more about the process please drop me a line on here or find me as @marcusromer on social platforms.

I am going to leave you with another view of the Arctic Circle with its amazing light and clarity. IMG_5787

“I know a film can’t solve the issues of knife crime, but it can start to raise some of the right questions”

10 Feb

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As a director and filmmaker I wrote and directed a feature film that had the subject of knife crime at its heart. Literally.

The Knife That Killed Me was released by Universal Pictures in 2014. It was well received, got a 4 star review in The Times, and it was one of the top ten films of the year in the Huffington Post. It had time in cinemas and at various festivals around the world and it still has a rating of 7.2 on IMDb.

It is available to watch on Amazon Prime and iTunes and if you are old school you can still get it on DVD. The adaptation was based on the novel by Anthony McGowan which is also available.

I have seen this film in movie theatres across the world, and on one memorable occasion with over 900 young people in Rome at the film festival, where it received a standing ovation. It will be screened again the year in Norway in Harstad following our successful screening for a young audience at the Arctic Moving Image Film Festival there. You can view the trailer on IMDb.

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The reason for this renewed attention is the rapid increase in knife attacks between young people over the last few years. Now of course a film can’t give any right answers, or solve this very pressing issue, but I do believe that a piece of art can raise the right questions if framed in the right context.

There was a Guardian article by Catherine Bruton about this very topic

“why doesn’t the UK government put titles like Hate and The Knife that Killed Me on the new GCSE syllabus rather than obsessing over Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy? “No one who reads The Knife that Killed Me is ever going to carry a knife – ever. In fact, they’ll probably eat with a spoon for the rest of their lives.”

There are ways that work like this can find a way into the lives of young people. I have spent my career as a director making theatre and film in this area –  in theatres, schools, and public settings. I know that you have to start at the grass roots level and build the narratives that are appropriate for the intended audience. But it can be done. It can work. It can raise the right questions, it can get young people addressing the subject matter in their own way.

The question I always used to ask was, if the result of the work that I make means that just one person decides to not carry a knife any more – then that is potentially one less crime statistic or part of a story that leads to yet another young life lost.

And that is something I believe is worth fighting for.

If you would like to help me drop me a line Marcus@artsbeacon.uk

 

Lord of the Flies – it was 20 years ago today…

7 Sep

Hard to believe when some things pop up in your online feed, but I realised that it was 20 years ago today that I first made the theatre production of Lord of the Flies. It seems like another lifetime ago. But I just wanted to take the time out today to thank all of the actors, artists, designers and teams who helped to make this show happen over the following decade.

Library - 0680The show ran for 6 productions for the next 11 years. We gave over 960 performances in over 60 venues across the whole of the UK – and also as far afield as Bermuda, and Portugal. We were nominated for numerous awards and picked up a fair few along the way too. There were 6 casts and technical teams – but the original crashed plane design by Ali Allen and Marise Rose and the soundscape by Sandy Nuttgens were constant thoughout the whole series of productions.

It put my career on the map and certainly established Pilot Theatre as a leading touring theatre company across the UK.

Even back in 1998 – when the world was a different place, I placed innovation at the core of our work, online resources, free CD’s and DVD’s on the programmes – remember those?

It was great to make a show that made things happen. For me it enabled us to launch the careers for many emerging actors, lx designers, associate directors and stage managers.

Here is the clip for the trailer made by the video company who flew over from New York back in 1999 to make it for us. It was a video trailer for the show. This was years before YouTube was born, but we realised then the power that images, sound and vision could have that could help to develop a new era of audience and theatremakers.

Thanks to all who had a hand in helping to make this happen all those years ago

You’ve got to join the tribe…