He wrote the script of Gray Matter Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Hi Mark. This is your second interview for the site. Thank you very much! Remind to our readers, who you are and what do you do?
Mark McFarlane: Thank you very much for having me back, it’s always a pleasure to speak to you! My name is Mark McFarlane, and I am a filmmaker, writer, designer and artist based in Ayrshire, Scotland.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a screenwriter?
Mark McFarlane: I never actually considered pursuing writing, or even believed I had any talent for it actually, until I began attending college to study filmmaking. I come from a commercial art/graphic design background and initially I was focused purely on the visual aspect of filmmaking. However, creative writing was a significant part of my first college session and I was encouraged to pursue it by two amazingly supportive lecturers. Being a long-time Stephen King fan, his short stories were always my favourite part of his literary output, so naturally I gravitated to writing short stories myself, with King as a huge influence. Once I attended university to study film it was natural for me to begin writing my own scripts, and it was then that I really fell in love with the process of screenwriting. Being able to see my own words put to the screen was, and still is, incredibly exhilarating.
SKSM: You wrote the script for Gray matter Dollar Baby Film. I recently read it and I loved it. I think it’s very faithful to the original short story. Would you finally have made any changes before shooting the movie?
Mark McFarlane: Thank you for your kind words about the script, I’m extremely glad you enjoyed it! I don’t believe I would’ve made any significant changes to the script before shooting. Whenever I make films I understand that it is a hugely collaborative process. In the past, I’ve had whole scenes play completely differently on screen than it appeared on the page purely through the input of the incredibly talented actors I’m working with. In that case I was working from my own material and I was absolutely willing to make those changes. I think though, when you’re working from material based on the work of people like Stephen King, you must remain absolutely true to the spirit of the characters he has written, and the situations he puts them in. I spent a lot of time throughout the multiple drafts to really retain that structure he had in place, so I don’t feel any changes would have been necessary.
SKSM: You worked in a script based on a Stephen King short story. It was your most challenging script for now?
Mark McFarlane: I think every script has its own unique challenges, and while I wouldn’t say ‘Gray Matter’ was the most challenging I’ve ever written, there were very particular issues which I needed to work around. These were mainly issues brought about by me transplanting the original Maine setting to my home country of Scotland. I could’ve retained the original setting but I think having a bunch of Scottish actors putting on their best New England accents would’ve been deepl detrimental to the film! That said, I think everyone is aware that us Scots have our own distinct way of talking that doesn’t always translate well! Fortuately one of the things I love about King’s work is that I find it universally relatable. I’ve known many older men in my life who I could draw easy parallels with the characters from ‘Grey Matter’, despite being separated by nearly 3000 miles of ocean, so it was simply a case of tweaking their voices to sound natural and unforced in my native accent. It also helped that I find ‘Grey Matter’ to be an incredibly cinematic short story anyway, so I suppose the real challenge was not screwing it up!
SKSM: Fans we can’t see your adaptation anymore. The rights to the story have already been sold. If you had filmed Gray matter, how long would the running time have been?
Mark McFarlane: We would have been looking to make it around 20-25 minutes.
SKSM: As I said before, you are unable to proceed with your Dollar Baby due to Gray matter was made as an episode of Creepshow TV series. Did you watch it? If so, what’s your opinion?
Mark McFarlane: I did watch it, yes. I’m fully aware that my opinion of it is heavily coloured by my disappointment at not getting to shoot my own version, but I was very unimpressed by it. I felt it compromised the original story too much, and reduced it to a bland ‘man turns into monster’ story. I love the characters and the relationships of the short story so much, and to not see those people, in that very distinct setting, left me feeling really low about it. Credit where it’s due though, it was well directed, the final effects of Richie’s transformation were excellent, and I have a lot of love for each member of the cast, especially Adrienne Barbeau. Perhaps some day I’ll be able to look at it with a bit more objectivity!
SKSM: Gray matter was adapted as a Dollar Baby film several times. Have you seen some of these adaptations?
Mark McFarlane: Unfortunately I’ve only been able to see the trailers for these adaptations. I’m a big fan of the Dollar Baby program and love that all these other filmmakers have been able to give their own unique take on such wonderful source material. Sadly I think my time has now passed for making my own Dollar Baby. I would’ve loved to bring my version of ‘Grey Matter’ to the screen, but so much time, effort and love was put into it, only to then see it be snatched away, that I feel it’s time to move on and work on some original projects. That said, I wouldn’t trade the experience of trying to get ‘Grey Matter’ made for anything. I learned a lot, and met some great new people, and I would recommend it to any filmmaker out there.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Mark McFarlane: Right now I’m working on a low budget horror feature with my friend and long-time collaborator Jimmi Johnson, who was the editor on Clive Barker’s Night Breed: The Cabal Cut, and is an incredibly talented writer and filmmaker in his own right. It’s a horror/black-comedy with heavy influences from films such as Evil Dead 2 and Eraserhead, about a woman who becomes trapped in a house being terrorised by otherworldly forces. Plus, I always like to sprinkle a few King and Dark Tower references into whatever I’m working on, so look out for those when the film eventually rolls out. That’s really about as much as I can say for now, but it’s been incredibly fun to write and I’m extremely excited to start shooting. We were actually ready to move into the casting stage, with the shoot itself pencilled in for around June/July, however the current Covid-19 situation has halted the production for now. As it stands I’m working on the storyboards for now, and as soon as it’s safe to do so, the production will be back up and running!
SKSM: Thanks again for your incredible support! Something you’d like to tell our readers?
Mark McFarlane: I think I’d just like to say thank you again to those people who reached out to me with their comiserations when the Creepshow adaptation was announced, particularly Jackie Perez who wrote and directed ‘Beachworld‘, and Shudder themselves who were gracious enough to compliment the teaser trailer I put out. If anyone is interested in seeing that trailer you can find it, and a selection of my other films at https://www.youtube.com/user/markgmcfarlanefilms. You can also follow my misadventures on Instagram @hotfudz, and find a whole bunch of my silly merchandise at www.redbubble.com/people/octoberfifteen/ all proceeds from which are funneled into our upcoming feature film, so any likes, subscribes, comments, and general support is greatly appreciated! Thank you once again for allowing me the opportunity to talk to you, it’s always a great experience, and an absolute pleasure to talk to the Dollar Baby community!