The Trial of The Marvel(Lous) 7 is a spoof submitted by last year’s winner Mark Haldor. Some of The Fetishman cast has seen an increase in numbers this year. Mark has also teamed up with comedian Kunt and the Gang to produce original score.
The film has won the Best Costume Design, judged by special judge Gillian McKeith.
We spoke to Mark Haldor about his experience.
This is your second time submitting a contribution to the DAFTAS, what made you want to enter the competition again? And was there anything different about it this time?
I think having done so well the first time around. I think the long and short of it was we all just had such a good time, we couldn’t not do it again. The results added an element of: was the first time a fluke? Not a fluke but, you know, we wanted to see if we could at least do it again to some degree. And also there were more entrants this year, so that was more appealing.
You had £200 to work with only £200 budget – was that particularly challenging to you and was it more difficult this time?
Good question. I think having done so many independent films and short films and the previous DAFTAS, the budget never really came in to play. When I write a script I kind of have that in mind. And also, being a parody it really lends itself to being able to do stuff on the cheap because the nastier it looks, the funnier it is. So yeah, it never really bothers me in that respect.
I think when it comes to finding locations to shoot, that’s where the budget is pushed and you have to rely on a lot of favours but no, not really. I think if we had to do something that wasn’t a comedy that would be more demanding budget-wise.
So, you won best costume design; is that where most the budget went towards more?
Yeah I think Ebay and Amazon did very well out of us.
Can you talk to me a bit about the challenges of filming everything in only 2 days? Was it easier this time as it was your second time?
The first time you entered the competition it was only one day, was it easier? Because it’s still a very short amount of time but it is double the amount of time you had the first time.
Mark: I think they both have their pros and cons. I think the first time around everyone knew we’ve only got one day, and we found a day that worked. And we literally shot from I think it was almost 7am to 11pm and what we did orchestrate was that we splintered off in the afternoon so that someone else could film the inside scenes while I filmed the outside filmed, whilst being in them as well.
So, we got through it but it was a long long day. Which s pretty standard for a professional set anyway but not with that sort of budget. Second time around, I think, the rule was introduce mainly because of covid difficulties. I planned on only shooting it in one day in truth. And had everyone been available that’s what would have happened. But we literally had people drop out because of covid.
So, the second day was always my pick-up day. So it was like ‘let’s get the bulk of it done in the first day and anything we can’t get we know anything we need to re-do – which didn’t happened actually – we can do on the second day.’ I focussed on a one day shoot yet again but I knew I had that safety net which came in really useful this time.
In your previous spoof, The Fetishman, you chose to play on Scorsese’s famous comments on the lack of substance in DC/Marvel films – and their reliance on spectacle to gain popularity, – what made you want to engage in this debate with your spoof?
I’ll be honest with you, that wasn’t a driving force for it. I wrote the script for that in about half an hour and it was just one of those magical moments where it wrote itself. And what I tended to do… when I say I wrote it in half an hour I’m giving my secrets away here. I had to revisit the film, I mean I watched the film previously over about 5 days.
And then I drew it for this competition and my heart sank and I was like ‘oh my god I need to watch this again for three and a half hours or however long it is’. So I did. I think I watched it in two sittings.
And I watched it in a different way. I picked out key scenes and I thought that would be good to spoof. By the end of it, I probably had about ten options and I narrowed it down to about 5 or 6 or however many it was. I wrote and strung it together and I thought the only way I can do this is by making it a parody. I’m a big Marvel/DC comic book fan, I really love that and it was just one of those… it’s obvious. You know he made this comment, it’d be silly not to utilise that. And it worked so well.
In your second entry to the DAFTAS, you repeat the theme of blending superhero films with BAFTA nominated films – what made you want to repeat this?
There were a few reasons. First of all, I do have a passion for that. I think the big thing was… because I did think about doing something completely different and I don’t like to repeat myself generally so that was a big draw and I think if I was to do it again, I would do something different.
But I think because it did so well the first time, there was this ‘don’t fix what’s not broken.’ Which works. And I thought we were so identifiable by that, and it was pretty much the same core group of people with a few different people. I thought it would be quite nice that people know us for this and there’s this theme throughout so yeah that was why I chose to continue doing it. Because I thought it really shows us up as a group. I think had it been me and five, six new people I would have done something different.
In your spoof, your heroes protest the ‘Josstice League’ – is this a critique of Joss Whedon’s cut of the Justice League film?
I’ll let you be the judge of that… It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss to take a cheap shot. I’ve watched both versions now and I do… I’ve probably got an unpopular opinion here but I think Zack Snyder’s one is a masterpiece there’s no question; the narrative and the way he’s really brought out all the details, it’s a different film.
It’s fantastic. It’s a bit long but it’s great. I went back and watched Joss’ after watching the new one and I don’t hate it. I think there’s some really nice moments in it; I think there’s some really bad moments in it. But because now we’ve got the definitive version, I think having that as one study against how different directors and editors put films together is a great comparison so that was something I wanted to incorporate into the way I did the film was to show this distinction and also I think there’s moments in both and in my head, and this is probably the unpopular opinion, I think instead of it being 2 hours and instead of it being 4 hours, I think if it was 3 hours and they took some of the comical moments from Joss’ and took the integrity of Zack’s I think you would have a near perfect film.
How did you approach including explicit covid restrictions – how did feel about referencing it?
I think it being a parody, it would have been criminal – especially the time it was going to be shown – not to reference it. Because there’s a hive of opportunity. I’ve watched a few things since… I know we’re coming out of it, but I’m seeing things on TV now and I’m like ‘oh that’s a bit weird,’ the reference. I watched the new series of After Life the other day, the last one: phenomenal but there’s a reference to covid in it. And I was ‘oh that feels weird because it felt like it was from months ago.’
It is going to date anything I feel. I don’t think if I was doing something that’s a drama I would have even gone there. In answer to the other part of your question, as I say I read very much… I think… I don’t know what everyone else has done but the way I’ve approached covid is just try to use a bit of common sense. At the end of the day, even the government have proved they don’t stick to all the rules and sometimes it’s just not practical.
You do what you can do but you don’t put others at risk. Now, everyone on the set was comfortable, they were happy, we made sure of that. A lot of the filming was outside. So, that proved less of a problem. In the house we had filming in one room and then other cast in another room getting changed… everyone kept a reasonable distance the best way we could do it.
How did you come up with the idea of a social distanced fight and the soundtrack by Kunt and the Gang to match?
I used the same process as I did for The Irishman: I sat down and watched the film, picked out key scenes and there’s this scene in the park where they’re fighting the police. And I thought that’s an opportune moment to get the whole cast involved. But I was puzzled: ‘what the hell do we do?’ And then… ‘oh my god DC versus Marvel’.
We didn’t win the soundtrack the first year and it was on my little hit list – I wanted to try and get that one. And now I’m no musician. But who could I get to do it? I thought of Kunt but would he?
I cheekily messaged him and he was so amazing, he was up for it. I sent him The Fetishman to watch and he replied ‘absolutely, what do you need?’ I’d cut the film together very roughly to give him an idea but I wanted Kunt to have free reign. And when he came back he’d just scored it so beautifully.
There’s this hilarious moment when the eyebrow of the lawyer gets stuck to his glasses when he dramatically pulls them off in court, you can hear laughing in the background and the actor looks directly into the camera to give the finger. Why did you leave this in the final cut? And how do you feel about improvisations in general? and their ability to alter a scene?
I’m a massive fan of improv. I think a lot comes from it; you need to have your core. I think where improv works is if you know what your film is and what you’re doing, anything else is just a bonus. Because you can’t make magic like that happen. We could not have planned that.
It was similar with the nose in the first one, we couldn’t have planned it. And I watched… we filmed it right and we filmed it like that, and when I watched both takes I couldn’t stop laughing. So why would I not put that in? And I wanted to do a similar thing with this one where you can see we’re having a laugh, it’s a bit of fun. And I think some of the funnier moments are those improvs.
Words by Katie Hyatt
Photos: © Mark Haldor