Mad gods and creativity: an interview with Ian Armer

Opportunity, inspiration and the writing process author, screenwriter and director Ian Armer shares all...

By: Suzie,   4 minutes

Amanda Webster copyright 2014

Ian Armer is a published author, optioned screenwriter, film producer and director, He’s a regular contributor of short stories and poetry to cult magazine The Illustrated Ape

I first met Ian when I played a small role in one of his short films back in the halcyon days of 2005: he struck me as focused, dedicated to his art and sure of his approach. Not long after that I moved down to Cornwall but we stayed in touch and, via the wonders of social media, I’ve been inspired by watching the twists and turns of a star that is definitely on the rise.

I’ve watched (and read) as his fantasy novel, Mad Gods and Englishmen was published in the States by Roundfire books — in January 2013 it entered the top 10 best-selling Sci-Fi stories on Amazon. I’ve looked on as he secured funding and support for not one but two films – a thriller called The Dark Return of Time and his first feature film, The Other Side of Love, which will be shooting in the North West later this year.

Mad Gods and Englishmen cover

Oh yes, a lot has happened since that short film. And it was high time for a catch up: a chat about creative inspirations and collaborations. And a chance to glean some tips on staying strong — and realising your creative goals.

On grabbing opportunities. Ian’s very matter-of-fact on this one. He firmly believes that getting where you want to be is about two things — talent… and luck.

“If you have talent, and you persevere, the luck will strike,” he says. “It very rarely strikes twice, however, so grab what opportunity you can. Don’t be a snob. If you’re offered anything that can get you a step closer to your dream, accept it. Immediately. And be grateful. If you have any contacts, use them and don’t give up.”

If you have talent, and you persevere, the luck will strike.

And while you’re not giving up, he highly recommends getting a job, because: “You need to eat and pay bills.” Can’t argue with that.

Ian says he always went for jobs that he could walk out of and nobody would give a damn, however, he confesses, “I’m lousy at ‘normal’ work. I’m a creative through and through. I hate the 9 to 5 in the office, factory or store. I’ve done so many jobs and hated them all – cleaner, waiter, security, stock taker, bar work, school caretaker, department store and hotel work. Yet, these jobs pay and a lot of jobs I’ve done in the past on the creative side have not.”

On his inspirations. “Movies that inspire me are hard to come by. I don’t see films as art. They have artistic elements, but a film is not really subjective. It’s not in the eye of the beholder, really. You are told and shown what to think and feel. Not like a painting where you can interpret.”

He does admit to a love of Italian cinema, though – citing Fellini, De Sica and Antonioni as his obvious choices. “Fellini plays with the medium of cinema. De Sica was a master of directing and, in many ways, was much better than Fellini. He could shift between comedy, tragedy, pathos and horror in one scene and it would feel completely natural and organic. Antonioni is the ideas man. His movies are the quiet study of the interior world.

As for writers that inspire him? “Nikos Kazantzakis, William Peter Blatty, Richard Matheson, William Blake, Christopher Marlowe, Goethe… the list goes on.”

On the writing process. When he writes a book, short story or poem Ian tells me he just goes for it, trusting his ‘inner god’ or subconscious. He wrote Mad Gods and Englishmen in two weeks flat. Zero planning. “I just write and then revisit and adapt, alter and – if necessary – restructure,” he shrugs.

With film scripts things are different and obsessive planning muscles in to map out acts, character motivations, plots and sub-plots. ”I have to know what’s going to happen at any given time in the film so as to hit those beats and ensure the audience is entertained and the story progresses. There should be no limitations with a film project other than self-indulgence. Kill your babies all down the line. If it doesn’t serve the story, lose it.”

On finding kindred spirits and good partners. Collaboration, finding like-minded souls to share with, argue with, laugh with and provide support when things look bleak, is high on Ian’s ‘must have’ list. “The Other Side of Love is not exclusively my script. I work with a co-writer, Amanda Webster, and the screenplay has a lot of ‘fingerprints’ (i.e. suggestions) all over it from other people involved in the making of the movie, people we trust.”

Collaboration, finding like-minded souls to share with, argue with, laugh with and provide support when things look bleak, is high on Ian’s ‘must have’ list.

He also believes in finding colleagues and coworkers with a good business head, “Especially when working in movies – without it, you’re screwed.”

On writing novels v screenplays. Not every writer takes on both forms and I’m curious to find out what Ian finds are the pleasures and limitations of each – and which, if any, he prefers. Typically, he launches straight in, “Screenplays are more immediate. Writing a book is a pain because you feel obliged to use flowery descriptive passages or just staccato style writing. Then you’re accused of being too verbose or copying Charles Bukowski.”

He admits that writing a novel often feels like a competition to him. With every preceding paragraph demanding fresh word choices to describe each element. And so… “It’s not my favourite anymore, but I’m at the start of another book so I’m a glutton for punishment.”

On writer’s block. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. It’s just crap. If you can’t write, your idea isn’t any good or not ready yet. Go do something else. Go for a walk, go to the pub, listen to music, clean the house, see friends, go to work and face the public or clean toilets – anything. Just don’t believe this writer’s block rubbish.”

That’s that then. Pretty clear. A refreshingly honest take on what it takes to make it. Success does not come from giving up, but from driving forwards with purpose towards your creative goals. Cheers Ian.

Photograph of Ian in pub — copyright Amanda Webster 2014

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