Stoke Newington film producers talks about his short film Indigo
Stoke Newington film producer Jules Mascarenhas talks to Emma Bartholomew about making short film Indigo, performing pigeons and a fierce dogs.
Indigo secured a Special Mention award at its global premiere in February at the Berlin Film Festival, and the team is now waiting to hear if it has won a prestigious BAFTA and Oscar.
Jules is no stranger to awards - in his final year at the London Guildhall in 1999, he wrote the FujiFilm Scholarship Award winning screenplay The Brothers Martorana, about a trio of Italian knife-throwing brothers, which went on to win Best Film at the BAFTAs.
Short films present an opportunity to get noticed by potential investors, and 18-minute-long Indigo marks another step towards Jules’ ultimate dream of producing feature films.
“I think that’s why just about everyone in the industry gets into it - they loved watching films when they were younger, and consider themselves to be story tellers,” he said.
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Written by Tom Bidwell and Jack Price, who also directs, Indigo was partly shot in Walthamstow Marshes, across the River Lea from Hackney’s Springfield Park, and tells the tale of a young Indian boy who learns who learns he has special powers.
It was shown at eight of the world’s top film festivals this summer, culminating with Brief Encounters in Bristol last weekend.
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As producer, responsibility for the whole shoot fell on Jules’ shoulders - from securing locations and equipment, to legalities, budgeting, financing and ensuring it remained on schedule.
“Generally speaking it means managing the whole production, the buck stops with you. It’s not an easy task but I relish it,” he said.
Jules considers Indigo presented most of the “classic producing challenges.”
Crashing vehicles with stuntmen flying in the air, special effects like a knife stabbing a hand and drawing blood, and making the necessary arrangements with police and local authorities before filming with a firearm, were just some of the things Jules had to arrange.
“You can’t just charge into that, a friend of mine shot a film with a gun in it without getting permission, and had police closing down the whole road, with snipers positioned in the surrounding buildings,” he said.
Jules also needed to find a bird that would fall out of the air as if it had been shot, struggle on the ground, and then sit in the hands of Varun Mann, who plays the young boy Hanesh.
Jules had already learnt the hard way to “always get the experts in, because if you don’t’ you end up in a world of pain.”
On a previous film Jules worked on, the producer claimed to have arranged for a “fierce dog” to appear on set - but in fact he had just called in a security guard who owned a big Alsatian.
”The whole crew was there in the middle of the night, and the big dog just sat there and did nothing,” said Jules.
“It wasted time and money, and you don’t’ get your shot either.”
Since then, if Jules needs an animal, he always calls in the services of an animal wrangler, who trains animals to perform on command.
The wrangler advised him not to use a raven, which are prone to aggression, and together they decided the pigeon was the ideal candidate, because it was docile enough and intelligent enough to take direction.
“Inidigo was a brilliant production for all the producer tricks,” said Jules.
“But we didn’t get to blow anything up though unfortunately, so that’s on my “to do” list.”
In the past to make enough money to finance the films he wanted to make, Jules has worked in call centres, and even took part in a drug trial.
But in 2004 he founded his own production company, Quince - meaning he can follow his passion, making films in the form of commercials, corporate films, and online adverts.
He’s able to learn on the job and try out new formats, techniques and post-production tricks.
“As much as it’s great to win awards, it doesn’t put money on the table, so I have to do them to survive - but I have really good fun,” he said.
Based in Walford Road, Quince’s client list includes drinks manufacturer Bacardi, German bank Commerzbank, shoe company Dr Martens and the previous government’s Department for Families Children and Schools.
Jules has two more films in the pipeline – but precious little time to devote to them.
Kemboi And The Oilmen, a tale about a young Kenyan farmer striving for Olympic running gold, is still being written, while Birdwatching, a farcical black comedy about a suicide pact going hilariously wrong, is ready to go with secured finance.
Jules expressed his respect for private financers who are willing to put their money up to promote the arts, without the guarantee of a return, as they did with Indigo – although the film has been so successful investors probably will get their money back.
“They believe in art as an important part of human existence, and we need it to gain a deeper understanding of what we are doing here,” said Jules.
“Without it I think we would all be a bit lost, and fortunately there are people who understand this and are pleased to put their money forward.
“It would be great if some rich dude read this article and said, “Here’s half a million pounds, I’ll be your patron,” he joked.