Dan Turner interview: making British films, getting them seen

The director of Stormhouse and The Man Inside looks back on releasing a British film into cinemas, and teases his brand new geeky project...

Dan Turner realised a lifelong ambition last year when he got a film he’d written and directed into cinemas. The Man Inside was a film we liked, and we’ve kept in touch with Dan since, not least because he’s got an interesting nerdy project which he’s going to announce shortly, if all goes to plan. We’ve got everything crossed that it’ll come to fruition.

However, in the spirit of our recent retrospective interview with Rise Of The Guardians director Peter Ramsey, we thought it worth looking back on The Man Inside, and the human side of having a movie released into the wild. Here’s what Dan has to say…

Looking back, what are your thoughts on The Man Inside? What did it teach you about launching a British film in British cinemas?

The Man Inside was released on the opening night of the 2012 Olympics! So that was a challenge. It was pretty special seeing it on the same multiplex billing as Spider-Man and Ice Age and Magic Mike and all those other big summer movies.

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At the time I thought “what hope do we have?” But now I just reflect on it with pride. It was an ambition I had as a kid, so it’s pretty incredible when you stop to think about it.

Is the infrastructure of the UK set up to handle smaller British releases? Or is there an acceptance that the theatrical window is a trailer for a DVD release once you go below a certain budget?

It’s in a state of flux right now. Cinema is fracturing into blockbuster or art house with not much room in between. You sometimes get a crossover but its getting harder.

It’s kind if incumbent as a British filmmaker to moan about the state of the industry but I actually think its an exciting time.

DVD sales and rentals are shrinking alarmingly but on the flip side on-demand and download is growing exponentially. The fact is people want to watch movies. Therefore we will find a way to get to them. 

How hard did you find it to get a longform review of the film?

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That was hard yes.

I recently gathered all the reviews together to properly reflect on the overall response. The tabloids etc were not keen but we got great reviews from The Guardian, The Times, Empire and plenty more. But… The reviews were brief compared to the big movies.

Only Sight & Sound and Den Of Geek went into any depth.

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing column inches need to be given over to movies that generate bigger box office, which in turn generate high newspaper sales?

Given that the project was such a personal one to you, what were the highs and lows of the process, and were they more pronounced than anything else you’ve worked on?

That’s a difficult question to answer in-depth.

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The short answer is yes. It’s a very difficult process. Not just for me but the producer and others close to it. It had a profound effect on me and sadly there were some serious consequences.

But… looking back I think it’s important to have made it.

It was largely biographical and although much of it was based on a friend there was a lot more personal elements to myself that were in the film that I never revealed at the time. It was a bit like therapy.

Would I do it again? No. But I’m glad I’ve done it.

Your two directed features couldn’t, tonally, be too much further apart. Are you keen to explore differing genres?

It’s a stock answer to say “it’s all down to the script”. But it really is.

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In truth, I’m never going to touch some genres because they just don’t interest me. But I admire filmmakers like Danny Boyle who just makes the films that excite him. Whether that’s comedy, drama or even sci-fi. That’s how I’d like to work, and certainly that’s the plan. 

You’re working on a new project now, that’s got a very potent geeky angle to it. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Well. For years I’ve wanted to merge my geekness with my filmmaking. Anyone who knows me knows I go to conventions and have a voracious appetite for collectibles.

I have a new film, that’s been co-written that is my love letter to all sci-fi geeks out there like me. It’s like The Big Lebowski meets Galaxy Quest. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make an announcement about that very soon. But I’m very, very excited about making it. I don’t think people are making those kinds of films in the UK.

Is this a project you want to direct yourself? What else do you have on the burner at the moment?

Sure. Ill be directing that one. I also have other films that are either written by me or by others.

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I’m also going to be directing my first theatre play this year, which is another big ambition of mine. That will actually be the next thing I do, and we are about to start workshopping that with some very cool name actors that I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. 

What would your advice be to people trying to break into the industry right now? It seems, paradoxically, that it’s easier than it used to be to get a film in cinemas, but far harder to get it noticed?

I would disagree on the first point to an extent.

I think anyone, with enough money can get a film on a cinema or a handful of cinemas. You just pay for it! But, the six screen short window is not a cinema release, in my opinion. It’s just a promo for the DVD.

Getting a nationwide release and keeping it out there for a week or two is more of an achievement and it takes a lot to compete with the big boys. With recent news about a big UK distributor and the general poor box office of UK films its going to get harder and harder to justify a cinema release.

Similarly the distributors are nervous about spending money to advertise the film, so the chances of the audience even knowing a film exists is equally hard.

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That being said, we are still making films and they are still being released. So, we will always find a way!

Dan Turner, thank you very much. 

The Man Inside is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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