Mark Gill: The other Brit going to the Oscars – a DIY film-maker who took on god with a little help from Kevin Spacey

A young director who broke all the rules is striking a blow for the North-west

It won’t just be Chiwetel Ejiofor and Judi Dench hoping to secure Oscar glory for Britain in March. Mark Gill, a film graduate from Manchester, will rub shoulders with Hollywood’s A-list after his debut film was nominated for Best Short at the movie industry’s most glamorous night.

With a little help from Kevin Spacey, Gill, who studied the moving image at the University of Central Lancashire, secured Tom Hollander and Sherlock star Martin Freeman as the leads for his film, The Voorman Problem.

Adapted from a section of a David Mitchell novel, number9dream, the 12-minute film, shot in Manchester, follows a psychiatrist (Freeman) who is sent to a prison to examine an inmate (Hollander) with a peculiar affliction – he believes he’s a god.

Entered among 120 contenders for the Short category, the film’s shortlisting prompted celebratory scenes at Gill’s production office. “The Short Film categories aren’t read out during the nominations telecast so I was constantly refreshing my laptop on the Oscars website,” Gill told The Independent. “I was the first to find out. I shouted out. We all went a bit crazy.”

A scene from The Voorman Problem with Tom Hollander, left, and
Martin Freeman A scene from The Voorman Problem with Tom Hollander, left, and Martin Freeman The film has already won a Bafta nomination and been screened among the official selections at more than 40 film festivals. Gill, 32, said: “We’ve signed a deal with Shorts International [a leading distribution company] and the film will go on a pre-Oscar tour of the US. It will be available on iTunes a week before the ceremony and we hope to sell it to TV companies.”

Born in Stretford, Manchester, Gill, whose graduation film won a Royal Television Society award, is now preparing his first feature film, “a biopic”. He hopes his success will strike a blow for the North-west. “We’ve sidestepped the pull of London,” he said. “We’ve proved you can do it outside of the capital.”

 

He added: “We work with [the development body] Creative England. There’s not much funding support for film-makers’ nationwide. You have to get on with it. No-one was going to help us so we did it ourselves. If you work hard then you reap the rewards.”

On this occasion, “doing it for themselves” involved Gill and producer Baldwin Li approaching Spacey. “I wrote to Kevin Spacey because I thought he would be great for one of the roles,” Gill said. “I was surprised when he got back to us and said he’d like to help. Kevin suggested Tom Hollander. We did everything you’re not supposed to do. We bypassed his agent and got the script to him direct. Tom wanted to do it and he helped us get Martin Freeman.”

Gill, whose latest short Full Time stars Chris Langham and was part-financed through crowd-funding website IndieGoGo, is determined to maximise the opportunities offered by the Oscar nomination. “Awards help every film-maker move on with their career and the Oscars are the pinnacle,” he said. “We’ve already been invited to a nominees’ lunch and we’ll have meetings. We’ve got a lot of research to do before for the event, choosing outfits and preparing a speech in case the unthinkable happens.”

Gill is quietly confident the speech might not be wasted. “We’ve been told we have a good chance because ours is the only English language short. We’re told that placing adverts in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety is the way to win – but it’s too expensive. Just to be nominated is great.”

Read more
Comment: Are there too many awards?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas