Jack is a struggling writer recovering from the death of his wife. His daughter, 10-year-old Eternity, loves digging for treasure in the forest behind her house. In a coincidental turn of fate, Jack agrees to undertake a writing project about the ‘Legend Of The Black Flowers’ at the same time that Eternity discovers a mysterious object in the woods, and the forest wants it back. They’ve unlocked an ancient curse and must now fight for survival.
The film hails from award-winning director Martin Gooch, whose credits include many comedy shorts as well as films and series such as Death (2012), The Search For Simon (2015) and TV’s Hollyoaks.
Let’s first talk about your inspirations as a filmmaker.
Do you remember where you were when you realized filmmaking was your destiny?
Yes – I’ve always wanted to be a film director since I was 5 years old and an aunt took my brother and I to see Disney’s The Rescuers at the cinema. I remember it distinctly and can even tell you what ice cream we had and what the carpet looked like. I was hooked. But I didn’t get to make a decent short film until 1999 when I made the Orgasm Raygun short which was bought by the BBC and put on TV. After that I made a whole load of shorts (I think I made more than 20) and I was a winner with BBC Best New Directors in 2001 and 2002 and eventually they gave me a job directing Doctors for BBC1.
And in terms of The Gatehouse, did you sit down and watch similar movies before scripting or shooting?
Not really. I wrote the story pretty quickly after a chance encounter at the actual Gatehouse location we filmed at. I read quite a bit of Gothic fiction, but I didn’t want to be influenced too much even subliminally by any other film maker or steal too much from anyone else. So most of my research was comics and novels rather than movies, which means your brain does more work and you can create your own personal vision rather than a copy of someone else’s.
In terms of directing choices, anyone you emulated here?
When I completed my first feature film DEATH (AKA After Death in the USA) the British newspaper The Guardian ran an article which basically said I had created my own genre of ‘Kitchen Sink Weirdness’ which I thought was rather wonderful and I have tried to keep that tone with the rest of my films. I believe it is vital for a film maker to develop their own director’s fingerprint, rather than just steal and recycle other directors visions.
I spent 15 years in the camera department as a 1st and 2nd AC before I directed a feature and I learnt a great deal from many directors: what works and also what doesn’t work. I wanted to develop my own visual style and I think I have achieved that.
What’s the best compliment you’ve had about the film?
We’ve won a whole load of awards for this film including best Film at the London Independent film awards, which was pretty cool.
I think the nicest thing anyone has said to me was “It was wonderful” which was wonderful and quite a few people have stayed after screenings to talk to me about ancient history, fables and the occult, which is always interesting. Lots of people have said how beautiful it is and well shot which is fantastic when you think how little kit we had and how fast we were working.
Do you consider the film a success only when it hits a certain monetary figure?
In the eyes of the investors, Hollywood and the media a film is only a success if it makes a profit. It is after all called ‘Show Business’, so of course a finically success is a wonderful thing. But we have already won a whole load of awards on the film festival circuit and have had some good reviews, which is always nice. There will always be those niggling bad reviews which hurts like a wasp sting in the eye, but those are the breaks when you show your work to the world. Someone is gonna love it and someone is gonna hate it.
Has the movie opened doors for you?
It hasn’t been released yet so we will see, but it has already played a whole load of festivals which was great fun and I met a lot of people which is really what it is all about!
Where to next? Something totally different?
I have literally just wrapped on my 4th feature film a sci-fi post apocalyptic movie called Black Flowers which is all about a families fight for survive in post apocalyptic America. I’m on the plane from LA to London as I write this. We shot it in North California and Montana USA and filmed in an actual nuclear bunker. It should be complete in the spring.
I was also invited to Beijing, China in the summer where one of my projects was picked up, so hopefully that might graduate to production.
I’m also currently in the process of financing Alice on Mars, which follows the further adventures of Alice of Wonderland fame. She’s been to wonderland, she’s been through the looking glass and now she’s going to Mars. It’s a wonderful film full of excitement, adventure and sci-fi action!
I just want to go to work, to keep on making films, making art and entertainment and making engaging films that people want to watch, it’d be wonderful to have bigger budgets and more time to shoot to create stronger and more satisfying work with less compromise and more time to explore creatively and make art. That is what I am working towards.
The Gatehouse, written and directed by Martin Gooch, is available on VOD December 5th from Uncork’d Entertainment.