Updated: Nov 15, 2019
M W Daniels is a writer, director and composer based in London. He works within the realms of disturbing psychological drama/mental health and paranoia horror, with the films often provoking the audience to consider existential questions due to their complex and surreal qualities. Loneliness, imaginary friends and hauntings are also themes that are very prominent within his films.
We recently spoke with Martin about his work as a film maker, how he began his career and what inspires him as an artist.
For anyone not yet familiar with your work, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?
I’m a writer and filmmaker and composer/musician from London and my film work deals with psychological drama and psychological horror. It brings in subjects like mental health, which is very dear to me and something which is always a challenge to write about, but it’s something that is very essential in my films. I have been making films for the past 8 years. I worked with my great friend DOP/sound editor Nicolai Kornum on all of my films since 2015 and my films so far since then are, Being Without, The Affliction Table, Emily’s Hands, House of Lexi and The Mind of Juliane. Emily’s Hands features one of my all time heroes and great friend, Jenny Runacre who has been in countless films including Jubilee, The Canterbury Tales, The Witches and in the horror genre, The Creeping Flesh with both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
You started out as a musician in various bands. Could you tell us a little about that and how did you make the transition from musician to film maker?
Well Adam Groves who’s a friend of a friend, started the whole film thing off as he was buying some cd’s of a solo project I did and his friend wanted to make a video of a track, so it all went from there really. I’m initially a musician who drummed in various hardcore punk and metal bands from 1987 until 2012. I started playing piano/synth in the mid 1990’s and also began singing around that time too. I was also experimenting with electronics, tape loops, found sounds, treated vinyl esp. 7”s and 78’s and old record players and tape machines. I played lots of gigs as a drummer and did an American tour in 1998 and European tour in 1999 as well as playing on lots of albums and singles and releasing lots of cd’s and DVD’s on my older label Bleakscape. In 2011 I made the transition from music to film, a music video being the first thing and it all developed from there into short films.
With conventions really taking off in the UK, do you attend any and do you have any appearances in the near future?
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a film convention! Maybe one day, possibly, and no I don’t have any appearances at any but it would be great if that happened.
Your roots seem to lie in the horror genre. Who would you say your influences are, if any?
I’m essentially a writer and I’m not just a horror writer as my films range from very different genres, crossing drama and sometimes horror. Of late I’m very inspired by Phoebe Waller-bridge , Joanna Hogg and Lucy Premble. In the horror world it would be writers like Lautreamont, HP Lovecraft and also artists such as Francis Bacon, Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst, Goya, Giorgio de Chirico and a brilliant up to date painter, Roberto Ferri.
Your short films, The House of Lexi and The Affliction Table have been doing the rounds at film festivals. How has that been?
It’s been great so far. Lexi has been at the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in Ireland and it's also showing at the American Horrors Festival, The Misty Moon Film Festival and in Atlanta, at the Heyma Hollow Festival. The Affliction Table along with Lexi and Emily’s Hands was shown at a film evening I headlined at The Horse Hospital in London earlier this year. Lexi continues to go from strength to strength. Emma Dark who plays the lead in Lexi has been a huge help and I thank her dearly. Being Without, which was my first real film, was a finalist at The Gold Movie Awards in London in January 2019. A very prestigious awards ceremony for my first film, which I was absolutely blown away by. Being Without was also in a few other festivals and the opening piano piece I composed for that film was a finalist at the London International Motion Picture Awards.
Do you have any plans for a feature length film?
Not really no. I love doing short films and to be honest I see them all as stand alone episodes of an anthology series, and not short films really. But who knows? One day I may tackle a full length film idea for my new films, but for the foreseeable future it's definitely short films.
Your films tend to deal with themes of psychological disorders. Do you feel that this is a subject that still isn’t touched upon enough or poorly handled in current cinema?
When I did my first very serious film, entitled Being Without, which we filmed in summer 2018, the subject was mental health coupled with a love story. I was slightly apprehensive at first at writing something so delicate, but I took to it well and became extremely inspired to write it. My latest film, The Mind of Juliane is also a love story that deals with mental health but on a bigger scale than Being Without. I think some people handle the subject very well in cinema, especially Ken Loach with I Daniel Blake, which is considered an all time masterpiece of modern cinema. The subject matter of psychological disorders is touched upon quite a lot, especially these days. I’ve yet to see a film that handles the subject very badly, but then again I don’t watch hardly any new films.
You write, direct, act, edit and compose music. Which of these do you find the most enjoyable and which is the most challenging?
The last film of mine I acted in was The Affliction Table and I may act again in another one day, but I much prefer not to to be honest, as others convey my script and words far better! (Even though the affliction table was non dialogue). It's all a challenge really, but it’s a very enjoyable challenge and it's very difficult to pick what I like the best, but it would have to be seeing the finished edit after all the hard work is done. It’s a real joy to see that and hear the music fit perfectly. Nicolai does all the filming and editing and is a genius. Denise who is another great friend of mine, is another genius, and she handles all the recorded sound. Her experience is with huge Hollywood films and directors such as Spielberg and Ridley Scott, so I feel very privileged she’s part of the team.
For anyone wishing to access your filmography, where would be the best place to view them and what would be a good starting point?
I’m on IMDB as M W Daniels and have a facebook and instagram page where I post regular updates. None of my newer films are online as they are still at festivals. Being Without is a good starting point for my newer films, as that film started everything off for me. It has a quality that I built upon on the films that followed it and I learned a lot from doing Being Without, especially about professional sound in film. I think Charleen and Peter [Charleen Meredith & Peter Alberti] who played the leads in that film are the first people to really take my words off of the page and really bring them into the room. Their characters really come alive in an amazing way.
If you could work with anyone in the horror genre who would it be?
I’m not too sure, but I like what Jordan Peele is doing and I enjoyed Get Out, but horror films for me are generally about the Universal classics. 80's classics, especially The Fly, Near Dark and Hellraiser. Some up to date stuff like American Mary, Martyrs, Inside and The Witch. I would say the 1921 film, The Phantom Carriage, is by far the most eerie horror film ever and one of my all time favourites. But, if I could work with anyone in the horror genre it would probably be Jen and Sylvia Soska.
Who would you choose to play you in the movie of your life?
Thanks to Martin Daniels for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him the best of luck with all future projects.
House of Lexi (2019) Starring: Emma Dark, Helen Stephens, Jane Garda. Cinematography By Nicolai Kornum & David Gilbert. Written and Directed By: M W Daniels.
House of Lexi is a Psychological, short, horror film featuring English horror actress, Emma Dark. It follows the story of Lexi Stone who supposedly lost her mother in a car crash and her mother also lost her baby sister at birth. Lexi imagines her sister growing up and wants to be there for her but the emotional bond turns and starts to haunt her and makes her question whats happening to her.
The Affliction Table (2018). Starring: M W Daniels, Sean Francis Mclaughlin, Kimberly Thornhill. Cinematography By: Nicolai Kornum. Written & Directed By: M W Daniels.
An occult artist invokes a woman into this room. They soon explore extreme fetish rites and rituals but the artist has no idea that the woman is more than just a dominatrix.
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