The Mind Behind Malady: An Interview with UK Filmmaker Jack James

Last September, I was fortunate enough to view UK filmmaker Jack James’ debut feature entitled Malady. My review for this artistic film can be found here. More recently, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Jack about his project. Check out our conversation below to learn more about this feature, which has already received quite a bit of critical praise, as well as a brief glimpse into Jack’s latest undertaking.

PopHorror: Hi, Jack! Thank you for taking the time to correspond with me. I would like to say that I really enjoyed Malady. There seems to be a lot of emotional depth and layers. What served as your inspiration for this feature?

Jack James: Firstly, I’m really glad you enjoyed Malady, and thank you for taking the time to watch the film!

I think some of the initial inspiration came from wanting to explore what happened behind close doors, dissect the family unit and explore the idea of the family being a cult. I wanted to look intensely at two people who had a lot in common in terms of the way they feel, but had nothing in common in terms of the type of person they are or how it was they came to be that person…. and I wanted these people, and those two different worlds to collide.

PopHorror: That’s a very interesting concept for sure. Could you explain, in your own words, any deeper intended meaning behind Malady?

Jack James: Nah. I think it would be a shame to explain deeper meanings within a film that’s purposefully explorative and left open. I’d much rather people make their own connections with the characters and with the events and enjoy their own relationship with the film, rather than have one forced upon them by me. I know nothing. It’s there for you, and anybody else who wants it, so it should be yours, and work for you on your terms.

PopHorror: That’s very respectable and I think there’s just enough balance between a great story and interpretation. You’ve received quite the critical praise for your first full-length feature. How has this experience been for you?

Jack James: The experience has been incredible! Every part of it has, really. The real joy was had in making the film and seeing these ideas and moments come to life… that was really amazing. The critical reaction and actually seeing the film play to festival audiences was more of a surreal experience, and it left me feeling very lucky to have had everything come together in the way it has.

PopHorror: The parts of Holly and Matthew were very intimate, to say the least. There also seemed to be a very specific chemistry between the two characters needed for the film to work. Roxy Bugler and Kemal Yildirim are outstanding in their roles portraying exactly what seems to be intended. With all this in mind, were there any difficulties in casting for the roles?

Jack James: I thought casting would prove really difficult, as Malady deals with some fairly challenging subject matter and situations, but also I set out to make the film keeping all of the actors in character on set, to help build chemistry between the characters and create a strong sense of atmosphere.

Thankfully I knew Kemal before shooting Malady, and he was eager to take on the challenge and was someone I trusted with that role, but the making of the film really hinged in the casting of Holly, and the most important thing I needed to make it work was a trust between both me and the person playing her. I wouldn’t have gone forward and made the film if I couldn’t find that trust.

Holly was a character that needed a very delicate portrayal with a sensitive and mature approach, but also a sense of fearlessness to tackle some of the content in the film, so the casting of Holly was the one that was particularly difficult, but Roxy made it easy because of her passion for the project and her clear understanding of the character, alongside an understanding and willingness to take on the challenges that were ahead of all of us. There was an instant spark when we spoke about the role and the nature of the project….so it just worked.

PopHorror: That’s very fortunate that it all worked out the way it did. Do you have any specific influences in your work? If so, who might be the biggest influence in your filmmaking?

Jack James: Characters are probably the biggest influence. Going on a journey with a character and discovering new things about them… working out who they actually are and what it is that leads to them to where they go. It all starts with characters and people.

Malady started with an idea of a girl finding herself alone in the world after losing her mother, not realising that she’s about to meet someone who feels equally alone, and who is going to show her things and take her places she never knew existed. And he listened to Abba. A lot. It mostly started with the idea of him listening to Abba. I wish I could’ve gotten the rights to Abba.

Whatever leads the story and fleshes out the world that’s being created… for Matthew and Lorelai, parts of their world were created through narratives built from old photo albums I had found and collected, and from paintings that ended up littered around Lorelai’s house…. everything in Malady had to mean something, every single thing that you see around a room or that is worn by a character, they were all there for a reason….. so I guess no, aside from Abba, there are no specific influences!

PopHorror: Everything in Malady does seem to have a purpose. Being your first full-length feature film, I’m sure there were some hurdles during production. What were some of the most memorable trying times?

Jack James: Funding was probably the biggest hurdle. Or at least it was the first one. In the beginning, I simply couldn’t get it and I couldn’t really prove why I deserved it. But I had some incredible friends who believed in the project, and helped it get off the ground. Once I shot a few sequences using those finances, the rest started to fall into place as I could present people with proof that I could do it. Once you get over the first big hurdle, I think you get the sense you’ll be able to jump over any others that come your way…..somehow. At some point or another every part of it felt trying, but it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t soul-destroyingly difficult, right?!

PopHorror: Oh, absolutely! It’s never easy to create something worthwhile. In creating an artful piece of substance, it has to be a journey in itself involving growth through struggles. What was your favorite part in making Malady?

Jack James: Working on set with the characters, and taking the actors into unexpected directions. I used to direct everyone involved in scenes separately, and often give one actor directions that would clash with someone elses…. that would take us into unknown territory and because of everyone being in character and the set feeling quite alive, it would be exciting seeing these things play out. Those elements and working with Gareth Haynes (who was the Art Director and Assistant Director on the film) to create their worlds together, that was an amazing feeling!

PopHorror: That is an incredibly tactical and creative on your part as a director! I’m sure seeing something you’ve created take form and come alive while influencing it for unexpected results for raw authenticity would be a great feeling! For old school fans of film that still collect DVDs, such as myself, when might we see a hardcopy release of Malady?

Jack James: In the United States, a DVD release for Malady will be happening at the end of 2017, so just before Christmas (Malady, by the way, is definitely the perfect stocking filler for all the family to enjoy together on Christmas day….).

PopHorror: Haha, I’m sure it would be an interesting experience viewing such a film with family on Christmas Day. Are you currently working on any new projects? If so, what can you tell us?

Jack James: I have a script very nearly finished that I’m now beginning to raise finance for and hoping to look to shoot next year called When Night is Almost Done, which is a film about someone who goes through an unexpected transformation and is left trying to make sense of what it is they actually are.

PopHorror: That sounds very intriguing and I look forward to seeing the finished project! Again, I would like to thank you for your time, Jack. I wish you the best of luck with Malady as it reaches more and more audiences as well as your next project, When Night is Almost Done.

Malady is currently available to rent on Amazon VOD and, I for one, plan to purchase the hardcopy upon its availability. However, I may skip out on viewing it with family on Christmas Day. Check back with PopHorror as we keep a close eye on Jack’s projects to come!

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