Critically acclaimed Welsh film made on a £600 budget set for London and New York screenings
The Martin Decker Show is a critically acclaimed comedy feature film made with a £600 budget that has taken Welsh audiences by storm – and it’s now set for screenings in London and New York as part of Wales Week.
The Welsh comedy feature has already won several film festival awards and accolades, and has been screened at several cinemas in Wales such as Chapter, the Riverfront and Y Tabernacl, but the next screenings are set to take things a lot further – with a wider UK and international audience set to experience this remarkable and extremely funny cinematic adventure.
Labour of love
The feature is slightly different to a conventional film in that it has a live performance element in the form of an introduction and Q&A by Martin (Keiron in character) who attends screenings when possible – something that has had audiences in stitches, and might explain why a film made on such a modest budget has been able to punch well above its weight.
The whole project began as a labour of love for friends Keiron Self, actor, and Kevin Jones, Director.
Kevin said: “We’ve been very lucky in that cinemas and art centres in Wales have taken a genuine interest. There have been interesting discussions about men’s mental health after screenings too.
“It’s early days, but we are really excited about potentially developing this with a theatre-based sequel.”
Film Hub Wales says: “YouTube and TikTok may seem like a younger person’s medium, but not for 50-something Martin Decker. He’s embarked on a brand-new career as an internet superstar. For the past year he has been making homemade TV shows in his bathroom.
“But despite his claims to have the full support of his family, his life falls apart. He is now the subject of a film that is part documentary, part surreal tragic comedy.
“With complete access to all his videos, fan and critic interviews, found footage and even animation, Martin’s motivations and creative urges are investigated. He has the need to make a connection but who is his real target audience – his fans or his family?”
Ahead of its screening at The London Welsh Centre on 21 February, we caught up with Kevin and Keiron to find out more about this ever-evolving project, and what we can expect from them next.
Tell us about your inspirations behind the project?
Kevin: Well, there are not many films about middle-aged blokes who make TV shows in their bathroom… hopefully… but lots of things. I was watching a lot of Andy Kauffman videos at the time. He used to appear of Late Night with David Letterman.
Sometimes he’d be on the show and he’s sad and you’re not sure if you should feel sorry for him or laugh. Also, I was working on a “Lockdown” TV drama for S4C. That got me familiar with the technical side – the go-pro cameras and getting the iPhones to film at the right frame rate.
Keiron: My inspiration is Kevin who brought me on board and we’ve expanded Martin together. There are a few touchstones I think we can all agree with as men of a certain age, but yes, he’s a father in denial, struggling to find some sort of sense in his life in the wake of personal issues…and a misguided notion that making a YouTube channel might help!
So yes, worryingly close to home for inspiration at times. I’m also a Star Wars obsessive, original trilogy of course and Harrison Ford is a bit of a hero, but Steve Martin is also an influence on the more silly, slapstick side of Martin.
You managed to create this extraordinarily funny movie on a budget that is unthinkable for large studios, how did you manage to create something that not only looks good but connects with audiences so well?
Kevin: As the concept behind the film is that Martin Decker is the filmmaker, I think it’s easier for the audience to accept the style of the film. They don’t expect Martin to have a film crew and a big budget. We turn a negative into a positive.
Also, it doesn’t matter how big your budget is, the audience has to be interested in your character. Keiron is likeable and brilliant. People know him as a comedy actor from My Family and High Hopes, but he’s also a really good dramatic actor… who’s in 90 percent of the film.
Keiron: And Kevin is deluded. He’s also a brilliant writer and BAFTA Cymru winning editor so you know, that’s how it looks so good and has been shaped so brilliantly. There’s loads of footage we recorded that is on the digital cutting room floor/wastepaper bin on the computer.
Kev and I did what we found funny and interesting, pleasing ourselves first…ooh, that sounds a bit wrong…but other people have recognised some universal truths in it and identified with it from all age groups so we must have our finger on something…again that sounds wrong.
Tell us about the screenings..
Kevin: We’ve had a few screenings in Wales already. We’ve been amazed by how welcoming cinemas and theatres have been. Places like Chapter Art Centre and The Riverfront in Newport.
The film is a hybrid project in that there’s an element of live performance to each screening. It’s probably unusual for the main character of a film to turn up at the cinema, but that’s what happens with this project. Martin, played by Keiron introduces the film and afterwards does a Q&A.
All in character. As an audience you get to see a film and a show as one complete experience. For some reason we had the idea that Martin thinks he looks like Matt Damon, so at every screening he brings a life-size cut out of the Hollywood star. Cardboard Matt has been all over Wales.
Keiron: I was once told many years ago, when Matt Damon was more pudgy for a film role that there was a similarity. But then I’ve also been compared to 80s Dan Aykroyd, 70s William Shatner and early 2000s Jack Black, all of whom are more talented. It’s nice to tour with someone however, even if he is two dimensional.
How can people at home in Wales watch?
Kevin: Well, it’s going be at The London Welsh Centre on 21 February as part of Wales Week. Martin is going to be there to share his film with the London Welsh, answer questions and hopefully get bought a pint. Cardboard Matt Damon will also be there to add some Hollywood glamour and photo opportunities.
The same week, the film will be at the NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival in New York. The intention was always that the film would also work on its own and it’s won awards at several international festivals.
We’ve also got more screenings in Wales in May. They are currently being discussed. Martin Decker has got a Facebook page where screenings are announced.
Keiron: We are hoping to continue with screenings where and when we can. It’s a character we are very fond of.
What’s next for you? Any plans for a sequel?
Kevin: Yes, we plan to make a sequel as a multi-media theatre show. There’s definitely going to be video element. Also, we’d love to make a series of videos with Martin about Climate Change – Martin will make all the special-effects himself, from his recycling bin.
Keiron: Martin feels like he has more room for growth, a lot of room, a hangar full, so as long as we can think of scenarios for him , I think he will continue to be a part of our psyche, Martin is evolving as we evolve creatively. Hopefully we’re developing a faster rate though!
This project has come to life in so many ways since its launch, how has it been seeing the reaction?
Kevin: We’ve been surprised by people, particularly men, who have come up to us after the film and said “I’m like that”, “I was going through that recently.” There’s a mental health aspect that I was probably not conscious of when we started, has become very apparent. So, if we get to do a theatre show in the future, we’ll definitely be addressing it more.
Keiron: Yes, it’s been really interesting how people have seen so much in it. We always wanted it to have some poignancy and be more than just a collection of funny moments and the melancholy of Martin although funny, has really touched audiences. Comedy always has to have some drama underpinning it, for you to feel for a character, otherwise it gets a bit glib, so we’re glad that it’s resonated.
What are your thoughts on the Welsh film industry at the moment, in both languages?
Kevin: I worked as an editor on Gwledd and Y Swn. I think Gwledd in particular does show the potential for Welsh language film to perform internationally. I’d like to see more help for microbudget films to get them out there in the world. Not everyone gets funding for a film, but if they have the stubbornness to make it anyway, it would be great if they could get some help at the other end.
Keiron: I’m available for anything in the Welsh film industry!
Irish actors in particular are currently taking the world by storm – do you feel that Welsh talent, and Welsh voices, are overlooked?
Kevin: I’ve just worked on Pren Ar Y Bryn and everyone’s fantastic in it. Let’s make our own movies. Also, Martin is available for the next Bourne sequel with Matt if asked. He will do all his own stunts or take the Simon Pegg “computer geek” type role.
Keiron: Like I said, I’m available. There are so many phenomenally talented creative people in Wales who are making stuff on every platform it’s just sometimes they might get swallowed up. Welsh dramas are breaking through on to Netflix and Channel 4, the future is bright I hope.
Watch the trailer for The Martin Decker Show here.
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