SXSW Interview: Director Mark Webber for FLESH AND BLOOD

This past weekend, director/writer/actor Mark Webber saw the World Premiere of his latest film FLESH AND BLOOD at the South By Southwest Film Festival.  The film, an intense look into his and his family's life, blurred the lines between documentary style and narrative film.  We had the chance to speak with Mark about his latest film as well as how much of it was real life and what he hoped audiences would take away from seeing such a personal and intimate story.      

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Mark, thanks so much for speaking with us today.  We watched FLESH AND BLOOD the other night and man, oh man, it's intense but beautiful.  For those who aren't familiar with your latest film can you tell us a little bit about it? 

Mark Webber: Thank you!  It's my fourth feature film and kind of the ultimate culmination of what I like to call "reality cinema" where I use real life relationships to create these fictional narratives that feel very real and different than the normal experience you have watching a traditional narrative film.  I made FLESH AND BLOOD about a family, my family, with my real mother and my real brother and other real family members and friends.  I wanted to explore elements of my life, my brother's life, my mother's life, to ultimately, hopefully, tell a universal tale of motherhood and brotherhood.  I wanted to show how experiencing trauma in your life can be passed on and how we deal with it and the responsibilities that come with being a parent and being a brother.  

NC: What inspired you to want to make this film and how much of it was pulled from your actual life events? 

MW: I mean 98.7% is my real  life (laughs), that's what inspired me.  My trajectory, my whole basis for wanting to make films as a director started as a way to explore what was going on in my life at the time and taking a look at my past.  Someone said to me very early on to write about what you know and so I really took that to heart.  I guess I'm just thankful that I've had a pretty interesting life to examine.  My real, kind of super passion, for wanting to make a film like this is my life as a father.  I just had my third son and that's really why I wanted to go back and take a look at my life and make a movie about a family. 

NC: What was it like to revisit that time in your life and go through those experiences with your family again? 

MW: I'm just starting now to talk about this, it's really hard for me to talk about.  It was really hard first and foremost, sometimes incredibly painful, but also super gratifying and beautiful. The movie is really such a gift for me that my family and my friends are willing to go on this exploratory journey with me and to give so much of themselves and to be in the moment to really take a look at what's going on with us.  Sometimes it was really fun - me and my brother had a lot of good laughs, but then it got really intense between me and my mother. The way I look at the movie now, I get something new from it every time I watch it.  It's constantly evolving for me and personally, there's just so much there for me to analyze and think about on so many different levels.  Ultimately, it was incredibly rewarding to make this movie, to make this piece of art with my family. 

NC: There were two scenes that really stuck out to me, the first being the exchange you had with your mother in regards to your brother being able to interact with his father and the scene where you meet your father.  They are very emotional scenes and what I consider to be pivotal moments in the film.  Have you found peace with the issues that were brought up since the filming? 

MW: To a certain extent.  On one level, as an adult and as parent, what I know to be true is that parents are generally always trying to do the best that they can with what they have at the time. My mom was 16 years old when she had me and came from a house full of abuse that she had to escape from. All things considered, my mom did an incredible job raising me. Now as a parent, I have criticisms and I look at my brother and what's going on with him and it's all real, it can still strike a nerve.  My mom is going to show up with my brother at SXSW and we are all going to be in a house together again (laughs).  The film is an ongoing piece. This movie is continuing to make itself outside of the movie, right? (laughs).  

In terms of my father, that's the second time I saw my dad in 30 years. That scene was shot consecutively in real time with no takes.  I showed up at his house and knocked on the door and that's what unfolded.  It's really hard and it's still really painful.  I've forgiven my dad and I'm really happy that he was willing to be a part of this because art and making films, this form of expression, has been incredibly fulfilling and therapeutic.  There's been a shift between the way that I feel about my father, or the story I told myself for 30 years about that, I was basically just numb for my whole childhood and adult life.  I didn't have a dad then but we are now starting to forge a relationship.  

NC: Lastly, what do you hope audiences will take away from this film? 

MW: The whole reason that I make movies like this that are so reality based is that I want people to relate and feel on some level.  I want audiences to connect emotionally to this and I want them to reflect on their own lives and find similarities so that we ultimately feel that much more connected to each other in the world.  It's why I love telling stores and why I love making movies.  I want to bring people closer together, I want people to be reminded that no matter where you've been brought up or what you've experience in your life we are all essentially one. I want people to see this incredibly personal tale and see that "oh yeah, my dad wasn't a part of my life" or "I had a single mom" or "I struggled with addiction" and feel a little bit closer to the world and to people. 

For more information on FLESH AND BLOOD or to follow along on Mark's journey, you can follow both on Instagram and Twitter at @fleshbloodfilm and @likemark.