BL&F 5: SHAUN McGOWAN INTERVIEW
Shaun McGowan played Timothy Victor and Mr Patient in Django Away!
Hugh Moir: Where did you meet Daniel Hutchings?
Shaun McGowan: It was at a gig we were both performing at in Asheton.
What were your acts like?
I can remember the act I did, it was awful (laughs)! I didn't have an act. No, I don't even want to think about it, it was horrible. But I remember Daniel did his 101 Green Bottles, where one fell off. Another time I met him, he was doing his Beatles tribute act thing with his Beatles band, that's the one I remember. "What would you do if I sang out of tune" and he sang it out of tune (laughs).
What made you commit to making Django Away?
Daniel. Just his enthusiasm for it really. Also, I did a short film with him and the first shot that I saw myself in, the way it was done, I thought "He's quite good at doing films". So I could see he knew what he was talking about so I went with it.
Was there anything about the Django Away! script that struck you as unique?
(Laughs) Yeah, it was mental! I liked the idea of a world without weapons, that was quite interesting actually, that you can hurt people with your tongue.
Timothy Victor faces the horror of Joe King's ruthless putdowns.
What was your most satisfying moment on set?
Being in bed! I'd done a particularly hard day's work and I thought "Eugh, I've got to go do some filming now!" and then I realised I don't have to do anything but lie down in a coma. That was a GREAT day! Although I did mess that up twice. They had to cut because I fell asleep and I was snoring (laughs).
McGowan as Mr Patient, Hutchings' captive audience.
What do you think of your characters? How do think your Reality character and your Exifestern character relate to each other?
I don't really know. I meant to ask Daniel about this, but I don't really know to be all honestly fair. I mean what can I say about Mr Patient, the coma man? He just lay there. So I don't really know what the connection was, maybe I should find out. Ask me again in a year (laughs).
How did the Hutchings' zero budget methods compare to other work you done?
Well, the difference is I didn't have my own trailer. I'm used to having my own Winnebago. I was going to say the catering truck wasn't around but, to be fair, he did feed us which was quite nice. We did get bacon butties and lunches and things so that was nice. But, do you know what, you're still hanging round, still the hitting your mark and doing everything the same to camera. It wasn't that much different, it was quite a good experience. I just missed my trailer (laughs). But, you know what? The difference was not huge because most of the films and tv programmes that I've made in the past, I've always come in as a guest. So the crews already arrived and I've only had to come in and meet one or two people, and work with those people and that cast member, and then I'm off again.
Where you ever worried about Hutchings' shooting method?
No, nothing like that. It was fairly quick, it wasn't super quick, but it was quite good. But I didn't worry about how it was going to look for one minute because of the way Daniel was with the project. I just knew he had a vision in his head. I couldn't see it, I couldn't see the vision, but I knew what he wanted from me, and hopefully I delivered that. But I was never "oh, is that it?" or "how's it going to look?", never worried about that at all because I just knew that he knew what he wanted.
How did you find the experience of working with such a small crew?
(Laughs) Well, there were a few funny moments that wouldn't happen on a bigger shoot. When we shot Timothy Victor's scene, it was me, Daniel and a cameraman. God knows where we were! I was lying in a field somewhere and Daniel went off in the distance with the cameraman to set up that big wide shot of me alone as a speck in the middle of the screen. I was lying down and after a few minutes I looked up and I couldn't see anyone. I was in the middle of nowhere lying on my back on a cold damp day thinking "I don't know anyone, no ones around! They've left me!" (Laughs). But then I heard a voice from the distance cry "Action!" and, eventually Daniel ran back with his hat full of water (laughs).
McGowan as Timothy Victor as he waits for Django to fetch him some much needed water.
Is there anything that this kind of approach to filmmaking can offer in story and narrative that maybe larger films cannot?
The one advantage it does have over a budgeted film, well there's not one advantage, there's a few advantages, but one is there's less pressure to stick to a certain budget. Also, the time scale is less pressured. It gives us a bit more freedom as to when you shoot. And, most importantly, you've got the freedom of artistic integrity and to do what you want rather than someone saying "it's got to be done like this". The story and the narrative of the film can go in any direction the filmmaker wants to take it so on that level there's total freedom. So you pay for that by it being a film that will probably not make money but it's got the potential, as a way of filmmaking, to tell stories that otherwise simply wouldn't get made because on paper they just look like a strange idea. So that's the advantages. The disadvantage is I've not got my Winnebago (laughs).
Hutchings confides in McGowan's Mr Patient about his jokeaholism.
What are your favourite moments in Django Away?
It's not what my families' favourite moment is, which is when I get drenched with water in a field in the middle of nowhere! One of my favourite moments was the fluff in the pocket. I really liked that, when he showed Spud the fluff. And another shot I really liked, just because I know what the set-up is, is when Daniel is tap-dancing in the street. It was shot from far away so people walking past wouldn'tve known what the hell Daniel was doing yet he was brave enough to go tap dancing in the middle of the city for no money. That made me laugh a lot, I liked that. Another moment I liked, quite poignantly actually, is when he's talking to the barmaid played by the wonderful Nina. When he's trying to make the world laugh one laugh at a time. I thought that was a nice moment. I also liked it how it turned out Daniel played Joe King! I don't know why I didn't see that coming. Maybe other people did and I'm just thick! But I didn't see that coming and I liked it because I was wondering, all the way through, which actor had he got to play Joe King?
McGowan gets his much needed water.
Did the final film turn out how you thought it would from your reading of the script and from your performances?
(Laughs) No. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would to be fair (laughs). Like I said, I knew Daniel knew what he wanted and I couldn't see it but then I'm not very good at doing that, I'm good at delivering what I can do. But I was thinking "It's going to cost no money so lets see how it gets put together". I was really pleased at the outcome. It actually exceeded my expectations. Looks good. The guy knows what he's doing.
Extracts of this interview were used for the What4 Film Specials that Presents Inc made to promote Django Away!