Fresh off his Directors guild Award win, we spoke to Scott Mannion about his craft, and his upcoming feature Immateria…
So what are you allowed to tell us about immateria? What’s the setting?
Well, the film takes place in turn of the century London, 1883,
it’s about the rise and clash of science and mysticism, and one scientist’s battle to prove telepathic phenomena exist, fighting an establishment hell bent on destroying him, and weeding out any threats to their fledgling rational order…
So it’s supernatural fanfare, is that what attracted you to it initially?
Actually telepathy was a serious area of research for many of the great scientists of the day, we now know better but this was a very real fight for the minds of the public, add to It was a time of great wonder, and a time of great fear: ancient and mysterious artefacts, esoteric knowledge, and the shadowy deities of foreign religions flooded the city from the far reaches of the empire… one morning you see an X-ray for the first time, showing we can see inside bodies, through matter, then a mystic comes along claiming to transmit their thoughts… it’s not a leap for the public to get on board, the impossible was manifesting itself almost daily. Now that’s a world worth playing in.
Why did you feel like this story needs to be told?
“We need stories, but no story needs to be told. All art is inherently selfish, it’s created out of compulsion or obsession with beauty in the form, or the subject. No artist would survive the hardship if they weren’t obsessed. “You’re giving something to an audience, true, and that is the emotional and beautiful thing about it, when you see them cry and laugh and gasp. It’s the best part, but that is so far away while you’re making it. You’re obsessed with the process. “Some of the great films inspire and save people, but I think those films would never be described as ‘stories that needed to be told’ by their makers. Maybe if a marketer handed a PR brief to an actor or a director before a press junket. “That aside, I proved I can do period with The Defector, which was as much a career choice as an artistic one. This is a natural next step. Both are cases where it’s a very strange true history that has not been explored in drama before.
Looking at The Defector, you seem to focus on Period work, why is that?
I imagine Period is more expensive, why not make something contemporary? Most contemporary films have become overly political and issue driven, political lectures are where drama goes to die. Our responsibility is to make the audience wonder what happens next. That’s it. They didn’t pay for a sermon. So, creating a period film offers an opportunity to escape identity politics and explore an analogue time when the human individual was more potent. With Silicon Valley pervading every corner of our lives, who doesn’t wish to escape that for a while?
Well we have to agree there, thanks for the time Scott. I hope you’ll chat to us when you’re shooting?
No problem, of course. Look forward to it.