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Interview with director Ivan Madeira: early life crisis

Ever had that feeling of being overwhelmed by life, by your plans and hopes, the expectations people have of you and you have of yourself? Typically harsh existential pangs usually kick you in the gut around the mid twenties. Some people never get it, these people are either lucky or stupid, I cannot decide. I certainly got it, I still frequently wonder if I actually am achieving anything, or have a path set out for me – or even if I want a set path at all. Ivan Madeira certainly did too. I’ve known Ivan several years now, though our lives generally cross irregularly, then regularly for a while, then irregularly again, such is the way of the adult male. This early life crisis, if you will, is what drove Ivan to write and shoot three short films, which he is turning into a feature.

Ivan has been a busy boy of late, in the last two years he’s written and directed three short films (Grow Up, Can’t Get Past and Underwear which is being finished as you read). They are about, in his words, “identity, and the pursuit of identity.” Being interested in his plans for it, I went to chat to him about his first feature film, independently funded and produced, which is in production at the moment- The Kick Inside, and also about the route he’s taken as a filmmaker without “any formal film training”. The Kick Inside is a direct descendant of his three short films, the first of which, Grow Up, was selected for The Short Film Corner at the 64th Cannes Film Festival and also the London Independent Film Festival.

The films are all quite personal in nature, and based on Ivan’s own experience, though Ivan admits for storytelling, you “bend some truths”. The story of The Kick Inside concerns a half Filipino half Scottish young man, coming to terms with his life in London and trying to identify with his roots within a multicultural society. Ivan is keen not to labour the multicultural issue, rather than present it as naturally as possible, and while he identifies with “first world problems”, it can, “something feel like a first world problem but in reality because it is so embedded in your culture it can actually be a problem”. Ivan is not talking about, “runny ketchup in gastro pubs, or no WiFi at the beach” but rather the issue of becoming lost within yourself, and some of the ways in which, while growing up, we (particularly in the west) try to overcome this. “You know, left unaddressed these problems can lead to something quite stupid.  Get depressed, find comfort or solace in other things, get locked into a viscous cycle. It’s endless really.”

“I had this urge to go away, and to travel and not do the nine to five, and that’s what I did after University. The character in Grow Up, Charlie, goes away to Colombia like I did and he comes back unbearable, drinking red wine and all ‘blah blah blah anti Capitalism’ and just basically being a travel wanker, you know? But don’t get me wrong, that’s kind of the same thing with me.” Ivan admits he wants to acknowledge and mock his “smugness” that he developed after travelling. However, the main character in The Kick Inside travels to the Philippines and so two thirds of the film will be shot there. Ivan is half Filipino on his mother’s side and half Goan through his father, but he “wanted to focus on the Philippines” because of its meaning to his maternal relationship. It seems the country has been where Ivan himself found some identity and so will be where whatever discovery takes place in The Kick Inside may occur.

Ivan’s creative process closely mirrors his own life experience, which is natural, and the desire for learning more about his mother’s home country has become paramount to him. On his first trip to the nation for almost two decades, in 2010 he felt “like a London boy, and it gave me the impetus to try and reconnect. I had to take more of an active stance, go out there more often, learn the history, the language.” He also believes the Philippines have been “misrepresented” and wants to address that. “All you see is natural disasters and boxing, that’s pretty much it.” Ivan does, however, see the pitfalls writing a very personal story can bring. “I’m working with William Whitfield, a friend I met through another friend, he’s a fantastic writer. The film was very personal so I gave it to him to broaden it, to make it more into a film, give it more scenes… It was more a verbatim journey that I’d lived through and obviously for me to change that is actually quite hard. So I got Will to focus more on rewriting the original draft that we wrote together, and it feels really solid now. It’s a beautiful story.” It certainly will look nice if he manages to capture the beauty of that the Sagada location has in abundance.

Ivan is realistic about a lot of the creative process, which is why he made a few short films before attempting the feature length. The budget doesn’t have to be huge, he argues, because “you can spend two, three or ten million pounds on a film, but do you really need to in order to achieve the right look and to tell the story? Today good looks are pretty achievable and affordable.” The Kick Inside Ivan describes as a coming-of-age film and he doesn’t think of it as an unrealistic size or too ambitious to be affordable. Having seen Grow Up and some of his other works, I’m inclined to agree that unless he’s written in scenes involving computer generated aliens, which, of course, would be a stupid thing to do, he is right. Incidentally, I wrote a script which called for a giant alien a few years ago; it went into production but was never made, so there you are.

“It’s about asking the right questions. I want people to be entertained, and I want to tell a story I don’t think has been done to the way I want it to be done.” The ambitions Ivan has are clear, he says that, “without marginalising this group, I want to give second generation immigrants a voice, and not in a paint by numbers way.” The Kick Inside certainly sounds like it will address issues of no little importance to a twenties age group, not least that of identity. It should do it, too, with the good humour Ivan seems to have of himself and the world, and also his nostalgia for the 80’s, (Grow Up had some fantastic moments of this.) Also Ivan’s love of the world, despite his flippancy for having become a “travel wanker” he is clearly very fond of much of his time abroad, should shine through.

The Kick Inside is due to start filming towards the end of 2012, Ivan is currently looking for Filipino cast members. Contact Ivan at: [email protected]

Ivan Madeira is on twitter as @hentucky

Adam Thorn is on twitter as @TheLadHimself

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