A while back, I was sent a film called Fizzy Days to review, and I reviewed it for the January 2007 issue of Rogue Cinema. I knew it was a 70’s retro kind of a flick, but I wasn’t prepared at all for what I experienced when I actually sat down to watch it. What I saw was one of the most brilliant, professional and entertaining films I’d seen in a long time. Five minutes into it, I knew I had to interview it’s director Mark Millicent and find out all about how this brilliant piece of work came together and what he has in store for us in the future.
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Ok, first off let’s have you introduce yourself to everyone and tell us all a little about your background.
Duane thanks for this opportunity to talk about Fizzy Days. I’m Mark Millicent I live in LA but I am originally from the UK–. I came here over a dozen years ago as a storyboard artist with dreams of making it as a Director—a dozen years later I’m still a storyboard guy. I still dream of being a director. I am the writer and director of Fizzy Days, but still dream anyway!
Where did the idea for this film come from and how long did it take you to take it from idea to finished script to finished film?
I realized that despite popular myth and my youthful good looks nobody actually comes along and says ‘Hey you boy, direct this piece will you? Our original director is busy”—So I thought- I’m going to need to write something that someone might find half entertaining and want to film. I wrote the first draft fairly quickly 3 or 4 weeks. People seemed entertained but didn’t want to film it. It took maybe two and a half years to get it to that stage where we were filming the short. I honestly must have sent the script out to maybe 300 people—agencies –production houses—producers—looking for interest. I was lucky enough to draw a comic strip for almost two years based on the script. The script was a semi finalist in the Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope competition. It did well on some web based submission sites…Slowly it began to get some legs.
Did the writing come easy or did you make a lot of changes to the script before the film went into production? What about during production? Were there any changes made on the fly?
We have cherry picked a few scenes from the feature and tied them together for the short. I jot things down in a sketch book and noticed over the years rather than sketching I enjoyed writing down bits and bob’s just as much—and after several half arsed attempts at finished scripts my wife Luisa said ‘Why don’t you write about something you know about”. Strange notion, but I tried it! Thus I started on Fizzy Days. It’s based loosely on my youth, as a bit of a scally in the North of England. When getting a moped and inside a real girls knickers was the most important thing in the world. I’m not sure things have changed a great deal over the last thirty odd years.
Although, the onset of middle age changes those goals slightly, and you do get way too big for a moped!
Where was the film shot and are there any interesting stories behind the various locations?
The short film was shot in Colne Lancashire about 5500 miles from my house. It’s a very characterful town in the North of England. Lots of mills and moorland. The Wills house was pretty amazing, almost a private zoo in the middle of where you would least expect it. More budgies and ferrets than the eye could count. The funniest story about Fizzy, didn’t involve me, The lads took the film to Cannes and Kris –‘Eddy’, managed to collapse on a red carpet premier of something or other they weren’t supposed to be attending, only to be whisked away by the police and ambulance and wake up in a French hospital wearing a diaper with his stomach pumped… alcohol is a wonderful thing!
Shooting a retro film and making it look authentic is an extremely difficult proposition. Where did you manage to find all the wardrobe, props and what not to give everything an authentic look? Most especially, when did you find all the Fizzys in brand new condition? They were amazing.
In the early 70’s the Yamaha FS1E or ‘fizzy’ as it was known was the king of mopeds. Get one of those buggers and you were a star—the ladies under wear would just fly off at the mere exhaust note. Today it is a very sought after icon and many survive in pristine condition each worth several thousand dollars more than it’s original $360 price tag—A little shop in Yorkshire called ‘Fizzy Galore’ was our gold mine for bikes—thank you Russel!—People want to see their machines on film, the bikes of their youth, and to that end their are clubs and society’s devoted to the bikes and their preservation and restoration (www.FS1E.co.uk) I also have a sad inclination to repurchase my youth off ebay and was able to use stuff I already had for the film, although I have yet to use my prosthetic leg.(…Waiting for the feature!) Granada Studios in Manchester has a huge costume department and Mark Nuttall a director friend of mine from way back who has ‘contacts’ was able to do a deal and we got many of the costumes from a 70’s show called the Grimley’s. Willing and able, wardrobe people also came along for the ride.
The Fizzy Days website includes storyboards for the film and drawings of individual characters. That’s something you rarely see people doing and I found it to be quite interesting and nice that you took the time to do it. This isn’t the only time you’ve done storyboards though. Tell us about your art background and about your previous experience doing storyboards.
I have been directing other people’s stuff on paper for about 20 years. That’s why I thought, wait a moment, if you don’t do something about this itch, you are never going to do it. So—tired of beef burgers and Barbie dolls I embarked on Fizzy Days. I have worked on a couple of features but strangely enough the pay is better on commercials. I was the sole storyboard guy on the 2003 remake of "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and had several weeks stint on the rather duff Arnie flick "End of Days" before the original director was fired. But movies are where people want to be so you can often get people to work for a lot less than you would pay a commercial storyboard artist—people want to be in movies and will do movies for free if they have to and rightly so it sorts out those that really want it.
The cast in Fizzy Days was just phenomenal. As I said in my review of the film, there simply wasn’t a bad performance in the entire film. Tell us about some of the cast members and how you managed to assemble such a perfect group of people.
Every one was great! The credit goes to Steve Rigg and Mark Nuttall who acted as producers on the short film. They read the script and along with myself thought it would be great fun to do. The three leads Kris, Scott and Sam did cracking jobs and I hope I get the chance to repay everyone who worked on the short by giving them an opportunity to stand up for the feature. As I mentioned before Mark had contacts within Granada and we threw the script at people and people wanted to help and become involved. Nat Bullen also from TV land was our DP and did the work of 10 men. He had no assistant. He was camera operator, lighting man and grip. Nat is responsible in no small part for the look of the film. Maybe even a big part!
What were some of your biggest obstacles to getting this film made? Alternatively, what things went easier than expected?
The distance between my front door and the rest of the project was probably the most formidable obstacle. The music was probably the easiest aspect—easy for me but again the lads must have worked so hard for such excellent results. The guys that scored it and wrote that wonderful theme song ‘On Fizzy Days’—-top geezers indeed ‘Dexterous’. I went over to the UK 3 times to complete the film once for casting and locations, and twice for the actual shoot. It’s the hardest thing in the world to get a film made so the communication between both Steve, as heavy-duty production manger as well as Mark made things flow as smoothly as could possibly be expected. I used my air miles and all my wife’s good will to spend a few weeks in Lancashire.
What was the budget for Fizzy Days and how did you get the money, crew and equipment together to make it? Getting all of these elements together plus assembling a great cast are all such daunting tasks…how did you manage to pull it all together?
The budget was a used car–probably about 10k but of course I didn’t budget at all for post. That killed me. That was probably double. We reckoned I should spend a used car on Fizzy, which I probably did…. a nice one!. But it was the online, coloring, sound and final layoff throw in a bit of digital tinkering and that kills you. Here in LA I was surprised that $1700 an hour is not an uncommon rate. But you are best —marrying or dating, or blackmailing a contact who will do you a deal—Mike Hackett, our editor—-edited it in his free time here in LA on the avid and spent so many unpaid hours that I will be donating my third born child to any worthy cause he sees fit. Steve knew the music lads and seemed to have a contact with almost every one in Colne. It was his locations that added immensely to the colorful feel of Fizzy.
What experience did you have with film making before Fizzy Days?
My experience is what you pick up as an observer of years of commercial shoots. Hanging around Pinewood Studio’s watching deodorant shoots or boarding a scene for Wim Wenders or Tony Scott or Mike Figgis. Boarding countless beef burger and Barbie doll shoots—But this is my first film, so watch out James Cameron.
You mentioned that a feature length version of Fizzy Days is in the planning stages right now. Is the script already completed for the feature length version and what’s the current status on the feature?
It’s probably close to four years since the Fizzy ball started rolling. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes another four, but I am up for it! These things aren’t easy! Forecast Pictures a French production company with a good track record have recently taken an interest and have attached them selves as Executive producers. The short was only ever a teaser for the feature and that script has been around from the beginning. I’m completing the storyboards at the moment, and we are trying to find a producer to become attached—then a budget! Easy! Be great to use some proper licensed music tracks from the period as well.
Aside from a feature length version of Fizzy Days, what plans do you have for the future? Any other scripts in the works right now?
I am hoping that we enjoy some success with Fizzy. I have several other projects I would like to move on. A Pyramid scheme selling marital aids in a bakery—A bouncy castle rental business that has a really bad day—‘A Bouncy Business’—-All finished projects, script wise that may need a teaser short to start the ball rolling…. who knows.
You’ve sent Fizzy Days out to various film festivals. What’s the response been like and have you been surprised by any of it? Also, are there any festival appearances coming up that you’d like to mention?
I’m not too sure about the festival thing— Several people in an auditorium to watch their own prospective projects? We are always the longest film in any of the short festivals we have played in. I think that hindered our acceptance rate. It’s a lot easier to schedule six, five minute films and please a lot more people than one thirty minute one! But I had read somewhere that if you can entertain for 30 minutes it’s no great leap to make it a 90 minute one and a feature length so that was my reasoning. We won an award—which was very satisfying. A bit obscure, but when I looked it up I was more than pleased at the definition best —‘mise en scene’.
If you could give one piece of advice to filmmakers who are just about to start on their first film, what would it be?
Make a really good one!—or learn as much as you can from the bad one. Seriously, you have to want it. Really Really want it. Tweak the nose of defeat and laugh in the face of adversity. Also make your film between 7 and 15 minutes no longer—preferably shorter. Start when you are a kid—or younger. Never ever take things too seriously! Always eat your greens.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
Have a look at our website, you can buy the film at Indieflix.com for $9.95— Bargain! Thanks again.