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A chat with Tom Cullern Jury member at The MACAU 2019 Film Festival

By Emmanuem Itier

From a launching career role in ‘Downton Abbey’ to his directorial impressive debut with ‘Pink Wall’, Tom Cullen has established himself as a force to rock with in the Independent movie world. We were lucky enough to seat down with him at the Macau film festival for an informal conversation about his duties as a jury member and his vision about the future of Independent Cinema. Let’s roll it!


Q: Lily James is also at the Macau film festival this year, was it some sort of a reunion?


Tom: In a way, it was so nice seeing her….


Q: Do you feel ‘Downton Abbey’ changed your life?


Tom: I don’t think it changed my life of my career necessarily. But it was a wonderful experience. I think that in terms of my career it was more about working with actors like Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville and Jim Carter. Amazing actors! For me it was more about the learning experience. And of course, at the time, it was the biggest show in the World. So it was great for people to see you in it. But I was a small part in it and therefore it didn’t really change my life in that sense.


Q: Were you expecting to be back for the movie?


Tom: Not at all. My part was definitely done. I’m more of a fan now and I didn’t expect to be back in it for the movie. But really, my passion is about Independent Cinema these days. This is where my career started and this is what I really believe in.


Q: You are here as a jury member but not showing your directorial debut: Pink Wall?


Tom: That’s right. The movie just got released in part of the World, such as Australia. But the Macao team saw it and because of it, I think, they wanted me here to be part of the International jury. As a jury member it’s so interesting watching so many different movies from all around the World with such a high degree of quality in every aspect: directors, actors, etc.


Q: Is it also interesting to be part of the Macau film festival because it can help you build bridges between your independent world and the Asian world of Cinema?


Tom: It’s not necessarily something I’m looking forward to do but it’s always a good thing to meet filmmakers from around the World. It’s great to share ideas and to talk about films. I’m watching film from Indonesia to Argentina. It’s quite simple to realize that the one common aspect about all these films is about the Human experience.


Q: Anything surprised you about Macau and this part of the World?


Tom: It’s my first time in this part of the World so it is a total new and exiting experience for me. People are so nice and it’s a unique environment. It’s a fascinating culture and so different from mine. I’m from Whales, from a very small town, so it’s amazing to be here.


Q: Did you get ready in any way to be part of the jury?


Tom: Not at all. I didn’t read or watch anything about the movies I’m judging. I wanted to be surprised by all of them. The quality is really fantastic and there is such a broad range, even in term of production budgets.


Q: What got you into directing and why Pink Wall?


Tom: I became an actor first because I wanted to understand the psychology of Actors and because I thought this would help me as a director. But in the back of my mind I always have wanted to direct, mainly. But I didn’t actively pursue. Then I got a chance to be asked to direct and I just jump into this. This was a story that interested me. I think there aren’t enough of these stories out there. I’m writing two new films to direct. This is truly my main focus right now.


Q: And you directed your partner, Tatiana Maslany?


Tom: Yes, and this was fantastic. This was the forth time we had worked together, between shorts and a music video. She is such a talented actress and I was lucky to have her as my lead. We had lots of friends who wanted to work with us so it just worked out perfectly.


Q: Are you inspired by other directors?


Tom: For sure! By so many. But the film that had a profound effect on me was ‘Before night falls’ (2000) from Julian Schnabel. This is probably the film that made me want to do this: to direct. I remembered seeing this film with my mother. And I knew this is what I wanted to make with my life. Pink Wall, my film, is also inspired by 1970’s films like the ones of John Cassavetes or by the films of Ken Loach. I like these film because everything in it feels real and authentic. It was before the big studios system with big commercial movies.


Q: Does this means you wouldn’t want to do a Super Hero movie or a movie for a platform?


Tom: Not at all. I think there is room for everything. I just think it’s sad to go to a multiplex cinemas and only 1 or 2 big films play there like The Avengers. But of course I’d love to be in a super hero movie, playing Batman maybe! Haha! As far as for platforms I love them because I grew up in rural Whales and you had to drive hours to get to the near video rental place or the closest cinema. I wish we had access to content like this when I was a kid. I was craving to watch more films but it was quite challenging for me to get to them.  So it’s exciting for me to see so much content available for everyone living anywhere. I just want also to protect independent cinema and to make sure we have a chance to see them in theatres.




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