Every month we showcase a new industry professional spotlight who we tasked with answering 12 questions where they talk about what they love/hate about the industry, give advice to others looking to break in, and who has inspired them.
This months professional spotlight is – Mark Dark
Follow Mark on Twitter: @markdarkstory
1. What is your name?
2. What is your profession (actor, screenwriter, producer, composer, etc)?
I trained professionally as an actor but now I’m a writer of fiction and screenplays.
3. Why did you choose that particular path within the industry?
Writing was always my first love but I have far too much physical energy to just sit and write as a kid, so acting seemed the perfect outlet to shout and scream and run and jump all at the same time. Acting is also similar to writing – you get to express your emotions – anger, loss, heartache, frustration, rage – one is in a ‘physical space’ the other on the ‘white space’ of the page.
4. Who were your inspirations and why?
As a kid, S.E. Hinton. Once I’d read her books and seen Coppola’s movies of Rumble Fish and The Outsiders – which he shot back to back – I was hooked. I knew that was all I wanted to do – write and act. These days I draw inspiration from all kinds of people, artists, films, TV shows and people around me who I connect with in the industry.
5. What is the best part/what do you love most about your job?
The battle to create something good. You’ll notice my blog is all about analyzing movies and TV shows. The learning process. Then applying what I’ve learned to my own work becomes a massive challenge. I know if I can apply what I’ve learned to what I’m trying to create, I’ve a chance that someone will read it and say ‘Fuck yeah, let’s make this shit.’
6. What is the worst part/what do you like the least about your job?
It’s so difficult to get a break. To actually get paid to do something you love is the ultimate dream, right. But the battle to get there, to quote Shakespeare, is a steep and thorny climb. It’s tough. All we can do is keep working, keep learning and keep creating.
7. What has been the most fun/favorite project you’ve worked on?
I’m currently turning a short story into a novel and a screenplay. The short story won some awards, and was optioned by a BAFTA nominated producer in the UK. I’ve been working on the screenplay for about 5 years, and I’m also working on the novel. The screenplay has had a lot of development notes with script consultants and the producer attached, and applying all of the ideas is tough. There comes a point when, after listening to everyone’s ideas and advice, you have to get back to the story you want to write. It’s getting back to basics. I believe in the mantra ‘a simple story well told.’ Take Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – you couldn’t get any simpler. Two men looking to survive. Looking for work. The outward goals are clear. The needs are clear. The story is powerful. So my current projects are my favorite ones.
8. What upcoming projects are you working on we can look forward to?
On my blog screenwrite.org I’ve recently finished a series of posts analyzing the opening ten minutes of Steven Knight’s Peaky Blinders. Next I’ll be exploring Sons of Anarchy – specifically to see how it works regarding the lead characters’ goals, and how lies and betrayals snowball out of control until all that is left is destruction. Interestingly, both Sons of Anarchy and Peaky Blinders are set in criminal underworlds. Both protagonists want their gangs to become legitimate businesses. I suppose they resonate with me as I write in the same genre – the criminal underworld – and are about young men up and coming – what John Truby calls The Rise and Fall of a King. I’ve also got two short films up my sleeve which I’m working on – and hoping to direct, too.
9. Give us a look at what a typical day is like for you?
As well as writing I work as an English teacher. It’s perfect for me as 1. I’m working with words and sharing my love of language and 2. I get personal interaction, which is important for writers. I recommend it to any writer trying to break through in the industry. Plus, you can work anywhere in the world. I’m English, but I’ve been living in Italy for a year and a half and now i live in Cambodia. So, a typical day, I teach my 3 or 4 hours a day and the rest of the time I’m writing, working on my projects, writing my blog, or socializing. The film industry is very up-and-coming here. After the Khmer Rouge decimated everything cinemas are new. I was in a zombie movie recently shot for $10,000 which played at the local multiplexes!
10. What has been your most rewarding experience working as an industry professional?
The most rewarding experience is receiving positive feedback from industry professionals. Or winning a competition. Winning a prize for a short screenplay and having the prize presented by British legend Mike Leigh at the London Screenwriter’s Festival was pretty cool. Whenever I get a compliment I dine out on it through all the dry periods when I’m writing alone. Winning the Writers Forum Short Fiction fiction competition, for example, and then the head judge writes that your dialogue ‘dances off the page.’ Or getting the screenplay optioned. When other people in the industry – especially people of influence – get behind you and encourage you – that’s precious. Those are the most rewarding experiences. A co-worker once, inquiring about my writing, asked me if anyone had ever “thrown me a bone.” I like that idiom. We all need to be thrown a bone occasionally to know we’re on the right track. A word of encouragement to hang on to. A bottle of water in the desert.
11. What advice would you offer to other upcoming professionals looking to make a career doing what you do?
I’ll quote one of my favorite songs from Herbie Hancock’s The Imagine Project, sang by Pink and John Legend: Don’t Give Up.12. What is your favorite movie and why?Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). The film portrays the structure I’ve learned from John Truby regarding moral vision and moral revelation. I love the ambiguous ending. Did Rocky (James Cagney) really turn ‘yellow’ when he went to the chair? Or was his portrayal of cowardice a sacrificial act to save the kids who idolized him from the same tragic fate as his own?