5Q's w/Martin Smith, "Seagulls" Director / by Matthew Nothelfer

Martin Smith "Seagulls" Director

#1: Can you describe your movie and why somebody should see it in less than 140 characters?

A: When a young showman visits a new town he struggles to fit in. Seagulls follows Ryan as he attempts to bond with a group of local boys.

#2: What do you want the Borrego Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title?

A: I grew up in a Scottish seaside town, and the main form of entertainment was the funfair show that was stationed there all year round.The west of Scotland can be pretty wet and windswept, and outside of the summer it could be a strange experience, hanging out at this funfair that in summer is all bright lights and excitement, and in the darker months under brooding skies it took on an altogether different nature. Long after I’d left the town I began to wonder about the family who worked the fair, how I never really knew them.There was some- thing ‘other’ about them - they had an air of excitement and power - and even though we had spent so much time within each other’s company I never really knew anything about them.They were almost mythical. That left a huge question for me, and it obviously resonated with me in recent years I have been developing a feature film with Creative Scotland about a young showman, and when I was asked ‘have you ever thought of making a short film based on the characters from that story’ the idea caught my imagination. So I took a look at the material and dreamt up a story based around the relationship between the boy, his mum and his new friends.


The film was made with a team of young non-actors, and to see them delivering performances in front of our crew up in the mountains was something special. I knew from our casting sessions that they had ability, but to see everything come to life in the film shoot environment is another element, and it was brilliant to see that.

#3: What is your movie making background?  Tell us about yourself.

A: I started as a photographer, working with artists like Ice Cube and Nick Cave, shooting them on tour, but I found this limiting - I wanted to make stories, bigger narratives. My photography lead to making music videos, and then that lead to short films. I now juggle between short films, documentaries, commercials and writing my debut feature film.

"Seagulls" Film Trailer

#4: What was the biggest lesson learned in getting your film made?

A: The shoot was an incredible struggle, really tough. We had horrific weather and at one point I though Mikey (the lead character) had been seriously injured whilst doing the waterfall jump. He was taken to hospital, but returned later that day. The breakthrough was getting though that day with a usable film, and whilst being traumatic, seeing the completed film was a massive relief. You really have to be able to respond to the moment. Although it may seem that my work is improvised it's actually pretty tightly scripted, so the chaos we create on set has a structure, a form, but its one that allows natural accidents to happen. that's an important part of the process, and it happens everywhere. We were chucking teenagers into a scenario where they didn't know each other, they were living in caravans together far from their homes, getting up at ungodly hours, traipsing up mountains, it's a massive challenge - but hopefully one that shows on screen, something that creates strong bonds, natural conflict, character.

#5: What does the future hold for your film and you?

A: It's a huge honour for me to see the work playing Borrego Springs. It's been a dream for me to have my work travel the world, to see how its received in other countries, where its subtitled, where the language is different, where the colloquialisms are maybe not as easily understood. Its so, so exciting. I hope the Borrego audiences enjoy the film as it means a great deal to everyone involved, in a film that has been a massive passion project. I'm getting to develop this project into a feature film, and through that I'm exploring the characters and situations in so much more detail. I'm a very lucky guy.