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Cinema for a Pound: Marcus Markou brings feature to UK cinemas

By Elise Czyzowska

02 March 2023

Across March and April, former Short Course student Marcus Markou is hosting daily £1 screenings of his new film, The Wife and Her House Husband, at three cinemas across the UK. Starting at London’s Prince Charles Cinema on Friday 10th, the film will show until the end of March – before moving first to Birmingham’s Mocking Bird Cinema, and then Bristol’s Orpheus Cinema, all as part of his Cinema for a Pound initiative.

Marcus studied on our former Part-Time Filmmaking course, and in 2014, was nominated by the London Critics Circle Awards for Breakthrough British Filmmaker. For his debut feature, Papadopoulos & Sons, Marcus staged his own cinema release, and from this, achieved the second highest screen average of any film in its opening weekend (beaten only by Tom Cruise’s Oblivion) – all from a budget of just £40,000.

The Wife and Her House Husband follows Cassie and Matthew through the final stages of their divorce. When they find a letter from their past selves suggesting guidance in the event of separation, they agree to do the first thing on the list – and so the film plays on.

In today’s blog, we spoke to Marcus about Cinema for a Pound, his time at the Prince Charles Cinema, and his experience with low and micro-budget filmmaking…

Micro-Budget Filmmaking

‘The challenge with low-budget indie filmmaking,’ says Marcus, ‘is being able to make something intrinsically cinematic and engaging on a micro budget.’ This is an often repeated sentiment – that your film should embrace what you might first consider to be ‘restrictions’, pushing you to use these ‘challenges’ to your advantage.

For The Wife and Her House Husband, the entire budget (including pre- and post-production, shooting, and festival submissions) was £280,000 – especially impressive when you consider that the film industry sees anything under £5 million as ‘low budget’.

To ensure that the film could achieve his goals – to be ‘an engaging story with powerful reveals, and just two characters’, while still sticking to both time and budget, Marcus chose a team that shared his vision. Shot in nine days (and always finishing, if not on time, then even earlier), Marcus and his Director of Photography, Chris Fergusson, chose to shoot off the shoulder, using a handheld single lens – all of which would save them time.

For the shooting itself, Marcus told Chris to operate the camera as though he were an actor. ‘Move intuitively,’ he instructed, ‘get as close as you like’.

My instruction to the actors was the same. I told them, “Chris and his camera are a third actor, so work with him. Allow for silences. He will move around you, but you need to feel those moves, and react accordingly”.

Marcus MarkouFormer Short Course Student

A still from ‘The Wife and Her House Husband’

Small budget, big response

The Wife and Her House Husband‘s £280,000 budget included the marketing of the film – and from his previous feature, as well as short films, Marcus is no stranger to grassroot and guerrilla tactics. For Papadopoulos & Sons, which follows a Greek family who lose everything – but an abandoned fish and chip shop, he cold-called every Greek Orthodox Priest he could find to announce the movie’s release during Sunday Service. It clearly worked, with the feature going on to be bought by Netflix, ARTE, BBC, and more.

In 2018, Marcus also teamed up with Hollywood Producer Cassian Elwes (The Dallas Buyers ClubMudbound), to launch Movie Collective, an initiative which ‘invites fans to invest in a slate of upcoming film projects’, helping to support independent cinema through mass support.

Marcus Markou with Laurence Spellman, who plays Matthew in the film

In both of Marcus’s feature films, his characters are either pushed or forced to revisit their past in order to find answers to their present day situations – on this topic, we asked him to share past advice that helps him to continue to grow and thrive as an independent filmmaker. His answer? To ‘find the story that you personally resonate with’.

When you do that, you bring the story into your own bones, and every decision you make becomes instinctual, in a way. You ‘just know’ who will be a good fit during the casting, and you can feel which locations will add the right tone or texture to your story.

Think of ‘The Godfather’: Michael Corleone isn’t the nicest of people by the end. But I suspect Francis Ford Coppola could feel that character in his bones – and it’s the same for all of us. Find those stories that make you go the extra mile, the ones that exist in your bones.

Marcus MarkouFormer Short Course Student

Marcus Markou behind the scenes of ‘The Wife and Her House Husband’

Cinema for a Pound

Marcus Markou’s Cinema for a Pound was created to make the experience of going to the cinema more accessible, and as a piece of marketing for The Wife and Her House Husband, it also benefits the film by ensuring that as many people – from as wide an audience as possible – can see the feature.

‘We’ve sold 100s of tickets so far’, he mentioned, ‘and for a low budget movie, with no star names, in an actual cinema – and in the same week that Cineworld is shutting its doors – that’s an achievement in itself’.

L: Marcus Markou with the poster for his latest feature | R: Cinema for a Pound

While the film is competing with a number of bigger-budget new releases, including many with big names attached, Marcus is confident that, once people have seen the film, they will ‘jump from the “intrigued” side of the fence into the loving arms of independent cinema’. After all, he added, ‘the Hellenic spirit in me strives for independence in everything I do’.

Alongside the feature, Marcus will also show his viral short film, Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times, which went from 20,000 to two million YouTube views in the course of just a few months in 2021, and has recently hit 3.2 million views in total. Marcus will be at every single screening of the film – and you can see it at the Prince Charles Cinema from Friday 10th March, so be sure to get your £1 ticket below.

Watch the trailer for The Wife and Her House Husband here!