Future Artists: Interview with Mark Ashmore

unnamed-3by Sinead Nunes, Editor

Art in Liverpool meets Mark Ashmore, Director and Producer of THE LOST GENERATION (2014) – the new hit independent film, showing this February at FACT and other cinemas around the UK.

Who, or what are Future Artists?

We should not exist at all! We are a group of artists, from across all disciplines, who, when the call to action sounds, come together to make things happen; stuff that needs to happen, stuff with reason. We work under the battle cry of a Frank Zappa quote, ‘without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible’ – and despite being 5 years old, we have never had a penny from the arts or film councils – for some reason our bids have always been unsuccessful.

We have to create a living from all this madness – so you will find us teaching and being hired to make corporates more interesting! We have made feature films, shorts films, put on numerous theatre pieces, run mini festivals, put art galleries in shopping centres and are currently touring our feature film The Lost Generation.

What events inspired you to make such a politically-charged film?

In a nut shell, I was very angry with everything I could see around me. I started this project when I was 30, and I had promised myself that I would be a feature film director by the time I was 30. People liked my short films, they liked my stories, but I could never find the finance to make my debut, so I channelled a lot of anger into The Lost Generation; from what I think about reality TV, to how as a society we have become so docile and depressed. Social media rules our lives now; we vote for who is the best at everything, but we don’t nurture or co-operate anymore, so I decided to spend what little Future Artists had in the kitty and make a film about our time. You will be glad to hear I’m more mellow now too, having got it out of my system.

Why do you think art has the power to make people more aware of socio-political issues?

When I was backpacking around Asia in my 20s, I ended up in Cambodia, at S21 which was one of Pol Pots most notorious murder chambers – it makes Guantanamo Bay look like Disneyland. Underneath the stairs in this place, written by another tourist were the words: ‘there is no place in art for sunsets and flower vases while this goes on, art must scream for those that cannot’ and that is why I do what I do.

The film was shot with a notoriously small budget – did you see this as a problem or a challenge?

Our budget paid the crew for their time, and was run as a co-op so equal pay for all, which was an experiment in it-self. You realise when working for the common cause, some people are greedy and some people are very generous. We asked all of our filming locations if they could sponsor us, by giving us say, the Hilton Cloud Bar or a TV studio, and in doing so, would get their names in print – so hopefully I have kept my word.

Once you take money off the table, you have people’s creative minds and problem solving abilities to make stuff happen – I chose a team with a varied skill set, meaning the actors could be crew, the crew could build sets, and everyone knew how to use their networks to make this project happen. That’s what having no budget does for a project, and I must say, it’s a more productive and more creative environment than one that issues blank cheques all the time.

Lost Gen DVD Cover copyThere are Orwellian undertones to the story; who or what were your key influences in making the film?

I think any film about our times now will always be Orwellian, anything post 1984 – he just nailed it didn’t he? Writing as he did, in that hell hole in Orkney, on his near death bed, Orwell knew what the government was trying to do, and he fought in enough civil wars to understand the human condition. I have read his works and I have read his letters, but this project was crafted out of the comments and ideas of the cast and crew – about our lost and depressing times, but told in an entertaining way.

Where will the tour of the film be taking you?

We start in Liverpool as the lead actor (Victoria Connett)’s family are from here, so it is a sort of home-coming, plus we have some talented actors from LIPA involved in the project too, so Liverpool made sense as the first stop. We are touring 10 cities in total, based on where our Future Artists fan base is located, so places like Sheffield, Newcastle, and we might even do a show in London – but to be honest we are concentrating more on the North.

The main attraction about this film is that you can watch via video on demand now – just head to
http://www.projectlostgeneration.co.uk or you can book a screening of the film, and we can come and do a Q+A after it. We are touring like a rock band because we are a collective, and without our audience, we are just shouting in the street, with no one to listen.

How have audiences responded so far?

It has been mixed really – some people get it, they get Future Artists, and understand the levels we have added, whereas some audiences have been like ‘I don’t understand’. To the latter, we are glad you came, because really it’s for them, to wake them up a bit. These cats, the ones that don’t get it, they need saving. They think reality TV is real and that the world is like The Only Way is Essex – beware of those who are a shade of orange and smell like a Boots counter.

What’s next for Future Artists?

Flower Power! No seriously, I think as a collective and what we have had to overcome over the last few years has been hard graft. We are all working class heroes and so value hard work. It took me 4 months to smile about what we achieved with this feature film, like getting a national release, and how our fans have supported us. Moving forward we are going to quit being ‘the lost generation’ and join the masses for a bit, but do it our way, the way of the counterculture. This will see us do a web series for Dailymotion (www.dailymotion.com/gb) and also build a space for people to come and join in the world of Future Artists – we don’t know what that will be yet, we just know it will happen.