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Let's Drift: John Maclean's Cinematic Baker's Dozen
Mat Colegate , July 3rd, 2015 06:51

As his debut feature Slow West hits the cinemas, John Maclean - former Beta Band member turned director - takes time out to reveal his 13 favourite films to The Quietus

That John Maclean's debut feature film, Slow West, features at its heart a long, strange journey seems entirely appropriate given the director's singular path. After studying art at Edinburgh and the Royal College, Maclean went on to become one of the founding members of much loved avant-popsters The Beta Band, for whom he put his art school skills to use directing many of their videos. Following a three year tenure in another band, The Aliens, John went back to his first love, cinema, directing two short films - both starring Slow West lead, Michael Fassbender – Man On A Motorcycle and Pitch Black Heist, before finally completing his début feature this year.

“People don't usually make westerns for their first films, so I thought that would be quite a nice challenge...” says the director “...I travelled round America, which I've done since I was a teenager, and got to thinking about the migration of the time - people going over from Scotland and Ireland and all over the world. You're always seeing Westerns that have just got Americans in them. I was thinking there was something that could be addressed.”

Asked about his working relationship with Fassbender, Maclean says: “Michael saw some of these short films I'd made and asked if I fancied doing something. So I got a day with Michael, who I knew liked riding motorcycles, and I wrote Man On A Motorcyle for him. When I was writing Slow West I wrote the part of Silas for Michael. So he was in from the beginning.”

What are the pressures that come from moving from music to film? “I think because I went to art school I always felt more comfortable with the visual elements than in the studio. I don't have the ear that some of my friends have for music. I was always more interested in my record collection and collage and sampling and DJing, which started to link with film editing and montage. So it all felt connected to me. The biggest challenge was writing a script. That was so different from being in a band. When it came to editing then a lot goes back to rhythm. It's also about being able to collaborate with people. If you're just a painter you're on your own in the studio, but as soon as you start working in bands you start collaborating. Not just with your band mates but with producers and live technicians and that helps when it comes to collaboration in film.”

John has kindly taken time to choose his 13 favourite films for a cinematic Baker's Dozen. Click on the photo below to start scrolling through his choices.

Slow West is in cinemas now

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