September 16, 2014 by benmblackman
In 2010 I was sitting in a traffic jam in Burnley with Martin Stalker, filmmaker extraordionaire and, luckily for me, keeper of questionable quantities of Percy Pigs in his car.
I asked him what his aims were with his filmmaking and he told me, “By the end of next year I don’t want to make any more wedding videos.” Now, don’t get me wrong this guy knows how to make a wedding video but, that was always a means to an end for him. It’s not all been glamorous traffic jams in Burnley though, since then he’s travelled the world making a number of critically acclaimed Documentaries and Short Films himself, and in association with an impressive catalogue of Producers and TV Companies.
So, I thought it was probably about time I tried to look cool by showing off the fact I know him well enough to eat Percy Pigs in his car by interviewing him for my (as yet uncritically acclaimed) blog…
How did you become a filmmaker then? I didn’t see the job advert for that one.
My first job was in a video shop when I was 17 which really fired up my passion for film. Since then I’ve been a Secondary School Teacher and a Section Commander in the Royal Marines. In 2008, I began my journey into the world of filmmaking and media production.
I was watching a series about the Royal Marine Commando selection course recently. It looked slightly harder than what I do for a living. Did you pass all your tests first go?
Yeah, all of them, thank God. I lost about a stone over the testing phase and developed curvature of the spine – but it was well worth it. I wouldn’t go through it again though – no chance!
Go on then, what was the worst thing they made you do during training?
The bog of eternal stench – that’s is all you need to know.
Yeah I think there’s one of those in my shed.
So, you drank some stench and then spent 8 years serving across the world with the Royal Marines (as you do). How did you go from that to filmmaking?
Well I had begun making films as a hobby during that time and, when I left the Marines I enrolled with an online film school based in New York which took me about 9 months to complete my assessments.
What did it teach you?
A lot about scriptwriting, lighting and editing. The directing part of the job came with experience and was developed later after the course had finished. I love the fact you never stop learning in this job. No shoot or even scene is the same.
When was the last time you filmed a wedding?
Probably 2011 but I’ve kept the memories deep in the darkness of my mind.
If it wasn’t for you I might not have met my wife (he said he’d come to a party I was umm-ing and ah-ring over). What do you remember of that night (if anything)?
Did we do shots?
I believe we did ALL the shots!
What film are you most proud of and why?
My latest short film ‘To Lose Control‘. It took me over two years to make. It’s based on my own life so I took my time with it because I wanted it to communicate well to a wider audience.
What’s it about?
After nearly ten years of military service, including operations in several war zones, a former elite soldier struggles to deal with P.T.S.D. after leaving the armed forces. He decides to find a cure and explores a controversial treatment of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing before he loses control completely.
It’s absolutely amazing by the way. The script, cinematography, acting and, just everything is intense. I was lucky enough to watch a very early cut of this film and, I knew from that moment things would never be the same again for him.
The impact the film has on the viewer is just huge and I presume, as a filmmaker, that’s what you’re hoping for?
Yeah, I love making films as a process and, when people watch them, obviously I want them to like them – but when people tell me how a film has made them think, feel, change or just that they enjoyed it – well, that’s the best job in the world then isn’t it?
All that said – are you secretly more proud of completing ‘the Cheese Burger Challenge’ really though?
It still amazes me when I tell people about that challenge and they instantly think they can smash it. Then I sit and watch them disintegrate with bread and burger hanging out of their gob.
I know you’re dying to tell me your favourite film quote?
I love this line from the revenge film ‘Dead Man’s Shoes‘:
“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.”
Is that a comedy?
How about your favourite film music then?
Really? It’s just I heard it was Dirty Dancing. No?
Everyone calls you Marty in your behind the scenes films. Am I meant to call you Marty now?
Marty was given to me by my Irish friends and sort of stuck. It has a better ring to it even though most people I meet don’t believe that’s my real surname (Stalker) – especially the yanks.
I still prefer Gandalf to be honest.
I’m doing a 12 mile forest HELL Runner thing on 1st November – give me your best motivational lines for running through the pain barrier.
“Remember, pain is weakness leaving the body.”
But my body is so weak Marty.
“Let the hill do the work lofty.”
I still don’t understand what this means!
What’s your favourite memory on a film set so far?
Every single time I’m on set I have to think – am I really doing this? I know the scariest thing I’ve ever done if that helps? I’ve been known to hang off a few car bonnets and roofs in my time but – when I sat on a skip on top of a high rise building in Palestine I must admit even I wondered if I’d bitten off a bit more than I could chew. Especially when the crane driver winched me out from the roof!
We’ve all been there mate.
Ok, I can’t sit here all day talking to you about making videos for a living. So I’ll finish with the question I think everyone wants to know the answer to – is Babe the best film in the world ever, or what?