Last month marked the third annual Radio From Hell Film Festival, poking fun at the competition with a creative twist on the side. --- Run much like the 48-Hour version, the morning-show-hosted event made several stipulations to would-be directors to insert into their films (including a ceiling fan as a jab at mobile-monitor-ratings cheaters) for a one-night screening. The prize: tickets to Coachella!
At the end of the night, after all the laughs and tears and heads hung low from poorly filmed material, director Mark Nott was the grand-prize winner with his three-minute film, One Man Novelties. Today, we chat with Nott about his filmmaking career so far, entering the festival, thoughts on winning, and a few questions on the local film scene.
Gavin: Hey, Mark. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into filmmaking.
Mark: As a kid, I made little claymation videos with my parent's video camera. They were horrible -- big clay monsters eating green army men, army men crashing their truck ... we need to train our army better! But looking back, I'm still pretty happy with those videos. I learned the power and magic of movies through making them.
Gavin: What first got you interested in film, and what films and directors would you say had a big influence on you?
Mark: I've never considered myself a cinefile. Although I love the mood and intensity of a great Hitchcock mystery, which definitely has influenced my style), it was growing up watching David Letterman sketches that made me want to tell comedic stories. I love when a normal situation becomes silly, absurd, but still believable and real.
Gavin: Have you taken any college or production classes or are you mostly self-taught?
Mark: I took a few film classes, but life and work has gotten in the way, and I never finished. I think I like to figure things out on my own, anyway. That's both good and bad. Stay in school kids!
Gavin: How did the idea come about for you to start up Nott Block, and how did you get everyone in your troupe involved?
Mark: For years, I had funny ideas but no way to tell them. I kept thinking that someday I'd be a big deal in Hollywood and then I'd make them. Then I realized that I had a camera, I had software, might as well do it now. So I presented the idea to my brothers Matt and Adam and we did it.
Gavin: You've had a series of shorts and collaboration videos on your YouTube channel for three years now. How has it been working on these small projects and building an audience?
Mark: Watch episode #1 of Nott Block. Okay, now stop watching it, 'cause it's horrible. Now watch One Man Novelties, which we just made. Much better, right? Like all things, it has taken practice and learning, and we still have a long way to go. We have to be all right with the fact that a lot of our stuff that's out there isn't our best, but it was the best we could do at the time. We're incredibly grateful for our friends and family who have been giving us such great support from the beginning.
Gavin: Getting to the festival, how did you first hear about the Radio From Hell Film Festival, and what made you decide to enter the first one back in 2010?
Mark: I've listened to Kerry, Bill, and Gina since the '90s, so I got pretty excited about the chance to put our skills to good work and share with a new audience. The idea of seeing our movie larger than a YouTube video in a Web browser was pretty exciting!
Gavin: The first year you entered you didn't place; the second year you earned the Best Comedy award for Job Interview. What changed between the two years that made you stand out?
Mark: The first year we presented our movie Lincoln, which I still think is a funny idea, but at the time, I didn't have the skills to tell the story properly. Since then, we kept making short little videos and I learned more and more each time about what worked and what didn't. Winning with Job Interview last year was great! It was a great payoff to all the years I'd been working at this. But looking back at Job Interview now, I see a lot of things I would change and do differently. Already I've got things I'd love to fix with One Man Novelties. I'll never truly be happy.
Gavin: This year you entered with One Man Novelties. Where did the concept for the film come from, and had you decided on it before or after you heard of the requirements?
Mark: We had a completely different script written up, one that would have blown M. Night Shyamalan's mind, but because of some complexities, it was going to be too hard to make. So I had to think of something new. One of the requirements for the films was a ceiling fan. I happened to know of a large, empty room that had several ceiling fans. I brainstormed for several days about that room till I came up with a concept that I was happy with. It was such a bizarre idea, I'm glad that my cast and crew were happy with it, too.
Gavin: What was it like on set during filming, and how long did it take you to film and then edit it?
Mark: I wish I had planned out the shoot better. Because I had a large empty room with a few props, I figured it'd be easy to set up all the shots I wanted. I think the "blank canvas" gave me too many options, and the cast and crew were very patient while we tried and experimented with different things. Because of that, editing took too long. So days of planning, hours and hours of shooting and editing, all for a three-minute video? It was worth it.
Gavin: Were there any difficulties that came up along the way or was it all pretty smooth?
Mark: I think everyone understood the vision of this movie, so it flowed very well. The funniest stuff in the movie came from other people's ideas, not mine. They made the magic.
Gavin: Unlike a lot of the other films, there weren't a lot of props or special effects; it was mostly pantomime and somewhat embodied an impromotu performance. Do you believe that helped set you apart from the rest of the films, or do you think there was something else that helped?
Mark: We just wanted to make our movie the best we could. I don't think that pantomime was the thing that won it for us. It was our use of color, costuming, editing, acting, special effects ... yeah, it was probably the pantomiming.
Gavin: Did you show the film to anyone prior to the event, and if so, what did they think of it when it was finished?
Mark: Thankfully, everyone loved it. They kept praising it, telling me how funny it was, and that I could stop pointing the gun at them, that it really was funny and I didn't need to act so dramatic.
Gavin: What was it like seeing it there and hearing the audience reaction?
Mark: The audience was silent for the first minute of the film. That made me nervous. Then they laughed. That made me happy.
Gavin: At the end, you won the overall competition and grand prize. How did it feel winning and receiving that recognition for your work?
Mark: My brother Adam won Best Actor, and I was incredibly pleased with that award. He really did a great job. So I was doubly thrilled when right after that we won Best Picture, too. I thought there were some other great films that night, so I hope they come again next year and I can beat them again.
Gavin: What were your overall thoughts on the other submissions and the festival in general?
Mark: Like most film festivals, some were great, some were good, and some were neither of those two things. Overall, I enjoyed most of them. I especially thought Everybody Verbs, It Figures, and Grow Pal were really well done.
Gavin: Going local, what’s your opinion of our local film scene, both good and bad?
Mark: In the digital age, local is a strange term. My stuff gets put on YouTube for the world to see. I love that anyone can do that, and anyone can see it. So, I guess no matter where you are, make movies!
Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it more prominent?
Mark: Local festivals are always fun.
Gavin: Are there any local directors or production companies you feel are at the top of their game?
Mark: No. I should probably network with people better, huh?
Gavin: Do you know what you’re doing for your next film, and what can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Mark: Last year, we got funding through KickStarter to make the Nott Block movie. We've got a great script written up and we hope to start shooting in the next few months. We'll have information about it on our Facebook page.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you’d like to promote or plug?
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