Death Spray Custom on why he loves things that can kill you
27th November 2019 by Will Stewart
MadeGood – Please give me some background on yourself as a film maker. Is Death Spray Custom a typical example of your work?
Joe Marcantonio – I’ve been directing full time for about 15 years. I went to film school and then did a lot of running and assisting in commercials in the early/mid 00’s before deciding to go out on my own. I started doing music videos for a couple of hundred quid, shooting on Super 8, or Mini DV and learned my craft and worked my way up from there.
I think it’s important to start shooting small stuff for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it gives you a chance to fuck stuff up without too much consequence. It’s important that you do have some sort of client/interested party with this work, as you learn to deal with feedback and interference.
The other reason it’s important is that you learn to develop you own style – you can work out what you do and don’t like, what connects with you. You start making films to be like Chris Cunningham or Michel Gondry and each time you make something with a wildly different genre, you start recognising that there is still a consistency in the work, and then your own style starts to emerge.
My commercial work tends to work in the documentary field, but shooting it in a non-documentary way – very locked off. Not a lot of handheld or camera movement. Observational. Lots of coverage.
The smaller films I’ve done, like this one, I tend to do on my own. I’ll spend a few days, over a few months, observing. Doing different interviews. Shooting, lighting and doing sound myself. I like the freedom and the intimacy that kind of filmmaking brings.
I did five of these ‘little’ projects – all self funded – in an unofficial series. The other documentaries are: Flattrack, Remember those great VW ads and Epileptic… and there was a narrative short called Red Light, starring Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl, Wild Rose, Beast) . Four of the five were Vimeo Staff Picked, and got a bunch of awards at different festivals. It was all a stepping stone to try and get a feature film made.
MadeGood – How did you find out about Death Spray Custom, and what made you want to make a film about him?
Joe Marcantonio – I first met DSC Custom on a film shoot – we have a friend in common, who was making a feature film at the time. I was there doing some EPK/Behind the scenes stuff and he was visiting for the day. We got chatting.
Not long after, he was looking for someone to collaborate with on a film called ’Formula’, and we connected. We’ve worked on a few different projects since then, but I think the best one is probably ’Things that can kill you’. It’s the most personal one. I had to talk him into doing it, as he like to let the work speak for itself – but he doesn’t regret it. We both think it worked out pretty well.
It’s been an honour to work with Death Spray Custom over the years, as I really love his work. He’s a great guy too.
MadeGood – One thing that drew me to the film was the brilliant sound design coupled with detailed shots of the artist at work. Please tell me a bit about the working process with the sound designer. And although there are lots of close ups the artists designs, there aren’t many wide shots of his work. Was this a conscious decision?
Joe Marcantonio – The sound design is all done in collaboration with a friend of mine Tom Joyce. He’s really great. There are some elements that I ask for (such as the shotgun noises, and the kids party noises) which I think of as I’m editing. Tom is great at putting that stuff together, and then getting the tone and drone stuff right, and finding the correct foley for the correct motorbike – which isn’t easy.
My style is about observation, and sometimes that means detail. If it was just a series of wide shots of his work, it turns into an advert and would get boring pretty fast. You need to tease the audience, and intrigue them – don’t reveal everything too quick.
MadeGood – Towards the end of the film, he says something to the effect of, ‘You have to create something that people hate, as well as love. You can’t just create something mediocre.” I really liked this comment. Does it resonate with your own creative work?
Joe Marcantonio – I think so. It’s a really interesting idea. I’m finishing off a big project at the moment, and it’s pretty dark. Some people have found that difficult, but others have really reacted really brilliantly. I think there is a lot to be said about making work that challenges the audience, and makes people think… there is just so much mediocre stuff out there. I’d rather take a risk to make something memorable and fail, than just settle on making something forgettable.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Joe Marcantonio – The big project! It’s a narrative feature film – my first. It’s called Corvidae, and it’s a psychological thriller. It stars Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter, Killing Eve), Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Fighting With My Family, Mary Queen Of Scots) and a fairly new actress called Tamara Lawrance. They’re all amazing. We’re in post-production at the moment, and should be finished early 2020.