Store Wars

Wednesday, November 28 2012
Store Wars

With a CV that takes in writing, producing, directing and acting, the latter career boasting such notable appearances in everything ranging from science fiction to sword and sandals sagas, gritty urban drama to feelgood comedy and dramas, right through to arguably the  most  popular family entertainment series on TV, Noel Clarke is not one for resting on his laurels.

After shooting to stardom thanks to his opposing roles in Doctor Who, where he played streetwise Mickey, and his major breakthrough both scripting and starring in Kidulthood, Clarke could have easily gone for the easy route, playing to his streetwise smart strengths and sticking with urban films, but the ambitious multi-hyphenate, is moving swiftly from genre to genre, having a bash at everything.

His latest outing, Storage 24, sees him dabbling in another genre, horror, both penning and starring in a credible slab of genre fare, one that plonks a familiar alien invasion theme down into hugely unfamiliar settings, namely one of those storage facilities dotted around the outskirts of London and other major thoroughfares across the country.

His ambition is matched only be the venom that the likes of Clarke and his contemporaries receive, from both critics and fans alike. We speak after another of his starring and written by offerings, The Knot, has received a critical and, most notably, online drubbing, although you wouldn’t think it. We have every reason to be nervous of speaking to him – after seeing him staving off the alien threat in Storage 24 as well as his other, grittier roles in Kidulthood and other films set in the capital, you’d be entitled to be a bit wary. 

But Clarke is fairly philosophical about the reaction from the British media and public. It’s a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t: Clarke and his ilk are criticized for making films that are too samey, but then also given stick for moving out of their natural comfort zones.

“Why would I stick to one genre?” he asks. “It would be easier for me to do that, but I’m not just going to do the same thing.”

Storage 24 is the latest in an informal working relationship developed between Clarke and his cohorts and Universal and Johnny Fewings, the former studio bigwig turned producer and consultant. Previous projects included 4,3,2,1, Clarke’s polished feature length out. “I’m not just going to make the film I made before, but we’re definitely looking at commercial genres.

“We’re taking commercial films that can sell internationally, we’re trying to make movies.”

The commercial potential is only enhanced by working within genres that are known to perform well, especially at a home entertainment level. “The whole point is making films that can really do well,” Clarke explains.  “[Home entertainment] is where a lot of people make their money. A lot of [consumers] are willing to wait for genre films [to come out on disc-based or home formats].”

Storage 24 follows that successful formula, supplanting a familiar storyline – alien invasion – and supplanting it into unfamiliar territory, in this instance, a storage facility, the kind that have popped up around cities and towns around the UK. “The idea came from me being in one of those places, thinking they were quite weird, they’re dotted all over the North Circular Road [around London] and everywhere.”

Making commercial successful films has an instinctive appeal to Clarke, mainly as performing well, breaking even and then making money, is one of the few indicators that one of his films has been successful. He is never, he notes, given awards or has his films entered into festivals. “You try and do a commercial film, you make a film that does well commercially and you’re the scum of the earth. I never get any accolades [for my films], but people go and watch them. But some people wait for a new film just to have something to snipe about.” Clarke is clearly passionate about this subject – he talks at length about that noble British art of building ‘em up and knocking ‘em down, of refusing to acknowledge successes. “This country’s really strange,” he says, looking at the success of HBO’s Girls, written, directed, produced and starring Lena Dunham. “In America, they let the talent do all these things. Over here, you’re a quadruple threat, they call you vain and egotistical. I don’t understand where it comes from. Other European countries appreciate that.”

His frustration is borne out as much, you sense, out of being a film (and TV) fan, he raves about current favourites Girls and Arrow, as well as classics like Entourage. But as well as watching TV and features, Clarke also has forthcoming projects to think of. He’s got a few on the go, and is lining up projects for the second and final quarter of 2013.

And will any of them be with Universal, we venture at the end of our interview?

II love Johnny and I love Universal,” he concludes. “As long as they keep wanting me to do them, I will. My films will go where the need to go.”

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