Director Mitch Jenkins talks to Screen about his debut film project, a collaboration with graphic novelist Alan Moore.
A burlesque photo shoot might not be the most common of inspirations, but that’s precisely where seeds for photographer Mitch Jenkins [pictured left] & writer Alan Moore’s debut film project were sown.
“Alan [Moore] was bringing out his Dodgem Logic fanzine and he asked me whether I’d do a photo shoot for him. One of the pieces they wanted to visualise was something on burlesque girls, so I went along and shot it, but I included some stranger characters to make it more interesting and it was a great success,” Jenkins tells Screen, when we sit down with him before the London preview of his debut film project.
“I went to see Alan a few weeks later and said I’m going to film this photo shoot and at that point, he said ‘shall I write you some dialogue?’”
The result is a five-part transmedia project entitled The Show with our first glimpse of Jenkins & Moore’s deliciously weird world coming from the first two parts – Act of Faith and Jimmy’s End – which are available to view for free on their official website and YouTube.
Act of Faith acts as a prologue, setting up the main character Faith (played by Siobhan Hewlett) who has a, shall we say, interesting fetish, while Jimmy’s End sees Darrell D’Silva’s titular character venture into a pub no one would want to step foot into, replete with possibly the world’s most downbeat clown.
Having made Act of Faith on just an £11,000 budget with shooting taking place on a Canon 5D, other elements for the project seemed to fall into place. “[Act of Faith] gave the project a bit more reality to it: it wasn’t just me and Alan talking about making a film,” explains Jenkins. “All of a sudden the money came for Jimmy’s End. We went away and shot Jimmy’s End which took us a week, shot it all in Northampton and finished at the end of July and that’s where we are now.”
Following its first week of airing on YouTube, Jimmy’s End will have annotations added to it which will take the viewer to different sites with content that Moore has written to involve people further into the world of The Show.
Part three Upon Reflection is pretty much completed with just grading and sound design to go, while part four A Professional Relationship – described by Jenkins as “incredibly funny and incredibly dark” – has been filmed. The climactic instalment His Heavy Heart has been written, with plans to be finalised on what Jenkins and Moore can afford to do.
While parts one and two were available free online, parts three, four and five will only be available on a complete DVD of the project, due next year. Following the completion and release of that though, Jenkins and Moore are planning on a feature film to continue the story.
So was there ever any intention to film these five as one feature-length film? “They were always standalone and the idea really was we’d have a further five, maybe six, short films which build the other characters up as well,” Jenkins notes. “The plan is as and when we start making those to start dropping them around because we want to build up this narrative. Every single part means something so you can still enjoy them as individual pieces but the more you delve into it, the more you then think ‘ah, I get it’.
“It’s Alan taking what he learnt with Watchmen, how to have stories within a story. But that was just on 32 pages, six panels a page in a comic book 30 years ago. We’ve now got the whole of these different platforms to work with and we’re looking to use all of those to tell the story.”
The transmedia project won’t include a graphic novel though, despite Moore’s expertise in the area. “This is a film project, it does have a lot of transmedia elements that are analogue and digital,” says Jenkins. “We’re not going to steer everyone to those, a lot of people will just have to find them but they will be out there. You can live without them but if you do come across them, you’ll have a greater understanding of the whole thing.”
One thing’s for sure, Jenkins and Moore have no lack of faith in their project, displayed by the bold move to put the first two parts freely available online. Jenkins is refreshingly pragmatic about the decision. “What are you going to do? If you make something, you can’t just keep it in a darkened room and be scared to show it to anyone.
“Put it out there and if they like it, they like it and if they don’t, they don’t.”