Markham (2020) finding Lovecraft’s’ Innsmouth in Yorkshire

As my feature debut as a director Markham (2020) moves closer to release it’s been really interesting to see the final version slowly come together in the editing room.

Markham was a kind of unique experiment. As a kid I’ve been obsessed with the H.P Lovecraft story ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ the obsession was more to do with the dank seaside setting of Innsmouth, and sequence in the story where the protagonist is stuck in a hotel room, terrified as strange creatures move around just outside his room.

Those two ideas, alongside other vague ideas behind Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos kind of inspired me over the years to write various screenplays featuring the cesspit seaside and characters trapped in rooms like the one Lovecraft described. These scripts were dark, dank and scary, but as a successful scriptwriter for hire, I couldn’t sell other directors on these stories.

 Thanks to my wife, I discovered a fishing village on the north coast of England called Staithes. And finally, I just started shooting Markham. 

The village and surrounding coastline and moors, I felt, was an underused location (it’s since been used in Phantom Thread) so over a few months I just began to film at Staithes, shooting on Super 8mm, taking black and white stills, and then gradually I began to take actors up to the location, with a vague idea or a plot and slowly I began shooting actual scenes – without a script.

Working without a script is a crackers thing to do if your main profession is as a script writer for hire and UK script consultant.  But slowly I did, and we started to build a plot, and characters around some of the footage.

Things really started to come together when I began working with actors Tony Coughlan and Ashe Russell. Tony and Ashe both did the heavy lifting plot wise, and between the three of us, we managed to put the story together, in scenes shot using long takes, and done multiple times, both actors worked very hard to create characters and the situation which became the driving plot of the film – a kind of horror version of The Trueman Story, mixed with Lovecraft and rubber reality.

As well as directing, I took the role of the lead character myself, this helped a great deal because as an actor I would always be available at the same time as the director. Gradually, shooting piecemeal, over a period of 18 months we built up enough footage to put together a feature film – a film which is disturbing, something beautiful to look at, and occasionally amusing in places.

I’m pleased that a scene takes place in a cold dark, dank hotel room, where a character is menaced by creatures, and noises just outside his door, and I’m ecstatic at the location work – Staithes in winter is beautiful, scary and not unlike how I imagined Innsmouth when I first read the story as a kid.

The film will be finished and released very soon, keep checking back for more updates.  

As well as being a freelance film director for hire, Matthew has also enjoyed a long career as a script writer for hire he’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.

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