Interview: Actor/Director Marc Zammit shines a light on UK homelessness in Homeless Ashes

A remarkable new British independent feature film has been completed after four years of passionate crowdfunding by young actor Marc Zammit, also making his directorial debut with HOMELESS ASHES, which shines a light on homelessness and gives homeless people a voice.

HOMELESS ASHES tells the story of Frankie, a young boy (Hector Bateman- Hardman, soon to be seen in the new TV series Four Weddings and a Funeral) who runs away from an abusive home only to grow up trying to survive on the streets (Grown-up Frankie is played by Marc Zammit). After fleeing from his parents Stuart (Dean Maskell) and Abbie (Angela Dixon), he falls-in with junkies including Viv (Kirsty J. Curtis) and Ryan (Lee Hunter), makes honest friends in Gavin (Jason Flemyng) and Chico (Lew Temple, The Walking Dead), and is reunited with childhood friend Nicole (Jamey May). But living on the streets takes its toll and not everyone survives. Hollyoaks favourite Fabrizio Santino, and US actress and singer Maria Howell (The Vampire Diaries) also star.

Marc lives and grew-up in London and witnessed homelessness on a huge scale in his local area and indeed all over the country, something that touched him deeply, even as a child.  He  has been acting for 15 years and has appeared in high profile UK TV dramas such as Law and Order, and Silent Witness. He took his first leap into movies starring in the award-winning indie feature film Pandorica. Marc fell in love with the idea of making his own feature films to tell stories that really connect, and matter, and started film production company Aptitude Films to build his knowledge and experience in filmmaking.

Francesca Baker spoke to him to find out more.

What are you hoping to achieve with Homeless Ashes?Marc Zammit 2

Well, to begin with I really hope the film will influence people to take action in their own way to help homelessness, and that they will leave the cinema feeling slightly more connected to humanity.  The plan is to release the film worldwide; this film is very important to me, and I will give everything I have to make sure the film gets out there.

Why are these stories important to be told?

Stories need to be told because they amount to education, and education is knowledge. We are living in a world where it easy to be distracted by commercial advertising and social media, and I think we forget sometimes how to connect with each other, and with the world around us.  Films can influence and motivate us, and open up our imagination to new ideas which I think is beautiful.

The film explores not only homelessness, but abuse and drug addiction. Are these stories embedded and entwined?

These are elements that I have added so that we understand there is a reason for everything.  Abuse leads to trauma, and often abusers have an addiction in order to escape their own reality.  It makes the story raw, life can be raw.

How did you do your research and ensure you retained authenticity?

I spent a lot of time meeting real people on the streets.  I talked to them at length, and spent time volunteering at shelters, especially around Christmas time.  It was heart-breaking to hear what had happened to some of them.  Anyone can read newspaper headlines and be shocked at some of the images seen in the press, but when you actually spend time with people and get to know them, the reality hits home that it could so easily happen to you.

You grew up in London, and did most of your research in the city. Is this a London film?

I wouldn’t like to say that this is a London film because homelessness is a global issue.  It was shot in London and in other parts of the UK – but it’s not about location it’s about humanity, and people, everywhere.

You started out as an actor, before moving into film making. Why did you make this switch?

I am still an actor, and always will be an actor at heart, and I will always be on the lookout for new roles. But I wanted to educate myself in filmmaking, and I started to realise how much I enjoyed learning!  I decided that if I really put my heart and mind into it, and believed in myself enough I could do it.  So, I did a lot of research, and just went for it! I will admit it wasn’t easy, in fact probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but wow, it was worth it!

You spent four years crowdfunding for the film, which demonstrates incredible belief and tenacity. Did your faith or confidence ever waver?

I was so lucky.  I had good friends around me, a great family who supported me and an incredibly talented and experienced cast and crew.  But, as important, the community came together as a team to make sure this film got made; they supported and backed the film – without them there would not be a film, and I am forever grateful to those who believed in me and trusted me to deliver the homelessness message. So no, my faith never wavered.

What’s next? 

Right now we are concentrating as hard as we can to sell the film worldwide.  My business partners in Aptitude Films, James Fuller and David Freedman, are currently working on Sitting Under the Chestnut Tree which we are hoping to shoot next year.  I also have something else up my sleeve, but it is too early to reveal that just yet!

Homeless Ashes premieres on 23rd September at Vue Cinema Picadilly Circus as part of the Raindance Film Festival.  Tickets are available here.  An official UK release is planned soon – keep an eye on facebook.com/homelessashes.Themovie for further details.

Interview by Francesca Baker

 

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