Here at PoetsIN we every now and again get to announce something that is truly great. So we’re BEYOND excited to announce that we are a charity partner to Anonymous Film. It’s a feature film about mental health and addiction by an award winning director at Bafta, a Netflix actor, and a channel 4 actress with an amazing cast of diversity. We are proud to support these lovely folk and wanted you to get INvolved.

To learn more about the film and the people behind it, we got some time with screenwriter and director, Alasdair Mackay.

Alasdair in action

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Alasdair Mackay, an award-winning screenwriter and director in the film industry.

What is your relationship with words and how has that evolved?

I have always made time to write, but I never realised it could be a career until I was 30, when I went to a short screen course at 3 Mills Film studios in Bow, East London and fell in love with developing words for actors. From there I started writing short scenes and then short films prolifically and before long the process consumed me. Getting better motivated me and directing didn’t arrive until later on. It started with writing for me.

How long have you been writing scripts, what is your favourite genre and why?

It feels like forever, but it is actually still less than 10 years. I am not sure I have a favourite genre or a particular style, but friends and colleagues that read a lot of my work would probably disagree – they see patterns more than I do. I love indie film more than the big budget stuff, but I am not totally adverse to a fantasy epic either.

Can you remember the catalyst for you beginning to write? If so, what was it?

There were two events, one when I was 17 and in New York for the first time. I started keeping a diary of my trip for my own entertainment, but then took great joy in developing it in such a way that it became entertaining for other readers. Then, 13 years later, in 3 Mills Studios, sitting and watching an actress named Sheryl Miles struggle her way through a scene because one of the lines wasn’t quite right. I made a suggestion, it worked and the rest is history, as they say.

When did realise you had a talent for script writing and filmmaking?

I don’t think I ever considered my talent, it was just about the joy of doing it. Other people came to me and told me I was talented and it became something I loved to do and was good at, so it was sort of an obvious career at that point.

You’re making the film Anonymous. What’s it about?

Anonymous is a film about addiction recovery. Recovery is the key word there, there have been loads of films made about addiction, but I wanted to make one that shifted the focus from demonising the substance and, by proxy, it’s direct victim; on to celebrating the victory that people have through recovery. The whole film is set on one night, when a seemingly average man takes the step to attend a meeting for the first time.

Are there any elements of you in your scripts’ protagonists?

I like to think that there aren’t, because my characters develop as unique human beings in their own right. Saying that, there are always reflections of people I have met and know in my own life, built into the characters in my films. Anonymous is no different in that respect.

You have asked PoetsIN to be a partner charity – we’re stoked. Why did we stand out?

I think what you do is so unique and well-thought out. There are a lot of charities that are set up with the right intentions that become carbon copies of each other. PoetsIn looks at mental health and says who else can we help; what else can be done to make the process of understanding and starting the journey of recovery more holistic. I admire people who think like that because, in essence, it is creative thinking in itself.

Many of us have experienced times where creativity has helped us overcome times of pain. Describe the first time you realised the true power of creativity as an outlet.

Creativity brings us all to life. At some point we all descend from being liberated toddlers that run around playing games into responsible adults. For me, I was working in a job I hated, alongside people I had nothing in common with and for people I didn’t respect. The only time I was truly happy was when I was alone with a film, exploring other worlds. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I was miserable and even longer to admit it to the rest of my world, but once I did it was a relatively quick process to discover the joy of being creative and then, thankfully, turning it into a career.

What is your favourite word and/or favourite film?

My favourite word has always been omelette. I couldn’t tell you why, I just really like the way it sounds. Life doesn’t give me enough opportunities to use it, unfortunately. Favourite film is much tougher – I always point to True Romance as the reason I am in the film industry; but Tsotsi, Prisoners, Cinema Paradiso and A Few Good Men would probably be what I would consider to be better films.

How does a script start with you? Is it a strange little occurrence that you build a story around, or does the story come first?

Each script is different, sometimes it starts with an idea, other times it starts with an experience and sometimes it starts with a title. The important thing, I find, is allowing it to develop organically and enjoying the process of developing the idea before you actually start writing.

Do you have any unusual habits when you finish a script a la Misery when he finishes a book?

Haha! I used to love taking a photo of the cover page on my phone. That’s about it, though – no cigarettes or champagne, sorry.

What would be the one film you insist everybody watch?

There are loads, but I think Rocky is so misunderstood. Anyone who thinks they won’t like it because it is a boxing movie need to understand that it isn’t. It is actually a beautiful love story about a boxer. Sylvester Stallone is one of the best screenwriters of any generation. He is a phenomenal writer.

If our readers were to start on your films, where would you recommend they begin?

It really depends what they like. I have done a film called Glow, which was something of a mini-road movie and a bit of a tear-jerker, but there is also Confession, which is more of a thriller and then my comedy Superhero series, NightwatchMan comes out later this year, too.

What book is on your bedside table right now?

I mean, my Bible is always there and my wife recovered one of my favourite kids’ books from my Mum’s house recently (Dogger by Shirley Hughes). I tend to read screenplays, to be honest. I can’t recommend When Harry Met Sally enough, as a piece of writing. Nora Ephron was another brilliant film-maker.

Is there any advice you can give to aspiring filmmakers?

Persevere because you love to do it. The road is hard and ultra-competitive and you will always have doubters in your immediate circle. People you thought were friends will surprise you in a bad way, while other people will surprise you in a good way with their support. Just keep going because you love to do it and, even if you think you are bad, you will get better by learning from your mistakes. If you stop loving it, stop.

Writer’s block, real or a myth?

Real, and it becomes more of a problem the moment you recognise that you have it. I developed a method to combat it really early on, which was to have multiple scripts happening at all times, so if you are struggling with one you can shift your focus to another project and maintain your flow.

Finish this sentence… Words are the epitome of…

An omelette. Phew – I feel better, having got that word in somewhere.

Filming the trailor for Anonymous

What does the future hold for you?

In the short-term, Anonymous. Next up will be whatever God decides is next for me. I have 15-20 finished screenplays waiting for the right investor or opportunity to be developed. And I will continue to write more and develop more. The process is the joy for me and I want to keep doing it for as long as possible.

What social media/sites should I share and link to?

I am everywhere, but more of an Instagrammer, so find me @thealasdairmackay. You can also check out @anonymous_the_film or look at the www.shelloutproductions.com website. There is an Anonymous shop on there for anyone who wants to check out our merchandise. 15% of the profit goes to our charity partners, too.

What a fantastic interview and what an interesting man Alasdair is. Thank you. You’ll be hearing much more about Alsadair and the film over the next few months. Meanwhile, Co-Founder Paul had the pleasure of talking with him on IGTV this week. You can see the full, fun and very open IGTV interview below.

Over the coming weeks, the production and media team at Anonymous film will be hosting a series of raw interviews surrounding mental health on their IGTV and YouTube. We are giving you the opportunity to be interviewed and speak your truth to a wide audience. Fancy it? Hit us up in the comments or ping us an email to sammie@poetsin.com.

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