Metaphorical imagery, emotional depth and strong purpose are just a few terms that define Mark Bone's films. As a documentary director with a background in cinematography, Mark has developed a profound instinct for conveying subtle messages with abstract imagery. During our conversation with Mark he shared his vision on both personal and commercial projects and gave us some of his secrets to create emotional depth in a story.
You have a background as a director of photography and now you are working as a director. How do you use the knowledge you have as a DOP to your advantage when you are directing?
It's been a journey to have this DOP background but now as a director I'm also able to not only know how to craft visuals but also create the idea itself for a film. Back in school, I had a niche skill for 3D stereography which also got me inspired to continue with it. I later supervised 3D on set but also during post-production. To start my own work as a director now, made me realize how precise I am about operating a camera and the framing that comes along. I trust my DOP's but it also happened before that I grabbed the camera off the DOP and filmed myself. I always tell them in advance to not take offensive if I ask for the camera though (laughs).
Looking at one of your recent projects The Journey, the viewer is following a girl who is seeking for a better life in a new country. Also other people’s journeys and feelings get described. Did you base this film on an issue you have seen or characters you have met before?
Yes, it was based on a story of a girl who came from a country with political prosecution and found a new home at the Matthew House refugee organization. The first video we did for them didn't get published because her family was still in the country and it maybe would have put them in danger. All the circumstances you see in the new video are based either on her story or on stories of people connected to the Matthew House. The project was shot pro-bono. People donated gear, we got music written by one of the biggest bands in Canada and the crew donated their time. When we wrote the script, I was excited to make the film without saying people’s names but still represent their journey.
How do you find these unique people for your projects?
Some of my stories come from me travelling to new countries but also by asking journalists. Because they usually don’t have the time to sit on one specific story for a long time, I reach out to them to see if they have a fitting story which would make a powerful movie.
Both the Mercedes and Nikon commercial you directed look like they were shot on one location. How do you manage to tell a story that is emotional in only one location?
I like metaphorical imagery. For example, if someone is feeling ashamed to share their story, we would cut off the eyes cinematographically. It has the effect that as a viewer you feel like the person has something to hide. As for both commercials, I like the challenge of being in one place and telling one story. Every time we frame up the camera, me and the DP think of what this frame means. This helps me to be hyper focused on my message with each shot or image. Traveling and having amazing locations can sometimes be distracting to the narrative in the film. The image can be beautiful but as a director you have to consider if it still tells your story and if it's in line with the narrative.
All your commercial work has an emotional depth to it. Why do you like directing commercials and which elements do you tend to implement into your personal work?
The freedom of collaboration is very powerful during commercial work. You can collaborate with many people in different countries in a short amount of time - I'm going to Germany to film a comedy piece and go back to Canada to shoot a documentary series in the same month, the variety is fun. I always wanted my work to help people gain new perspectives and have a positive influence. In the past, I also didn’t want to do art for the sake of it but I wanted it to have a purpose. With every project I do, I hope that a person could take something from it and put it in a new perspective on their own.
Your latest film Rescate follows a group of volunteer paramedics from the Dominican Republic, working on the most dangerous roads in the world. Why do you feel it's important to bring the message of Reynaldo, who is part of the Rescate organization, out to an audience?
My best friend actually passed away in a plane crash in the Dominican Republic about two years ago. I went to the place where the plane accident happened and this is how I got first introduced to the paramedic rescue team. Back then, the Dominican Republic didn’t have the service of 911 or any publicly funded emergency service. I found out that Reynaldo's team was looking for survivors for a whole week already which personally touched me because they volunteered as paramedics and founded their own organization. As soon as I spoke to them, I wanted their story to be told. The Dominican Republic is a country that's visited by millions of tourists, but these people don't know that 50 yards off the hotel there is this extremely dangerous road that's crazy. During production we were also on national news which made the government see that not only their own people know the situation isn’t good, but also that there are international movies about this issue now. I personally feel moved by people who give their lives for others which comes with the duty to tell their story.
You captured moments of raw emotions, drama and heartbreaking stories in Rescate. How do you handle these personal interactions as a director?
Reynaldo in the graveyard was certainly the most powerful scene to witness as a director. I thought it would be beautiful to see the contrast of a paramedic going through a graveyard with people who passed away from car accidents - and then there is Reynaldo, someone who saves lives. It was a special moment. What made it also a strong scene not only cinematically but also emotionally, is that he showed us the gravestone of his uncle and told us the story of his uncle's car accident, which in turn moved him to become a paramedic. As a filmmaker, it's a precious moment when you earn someone’s trust. He was the one who allowed me in and I didn't want to break that trust. I just want to do justice to people's stories.
Mark BoneI just want to do justice to people's stories.
Rescate is based on following the rescue team, how different is directing a spontaneous crowd from a staged one? What challenges and opportunities brings each?
With actors you can create anything. It is endless. The difficulty here, is that you have to create authenticity. This is what you get with documentary filmmaking when you approach it properly. The beautiful aspect of commercial filming is when you have a good team around you, you can create anything. A documentary, on the other hand, starts with authenticity. When you care for it, you are able to make a moving piece. I feel very lucky to be able to shoot for both worlds. I love being by myself with just a camera but then I also love being on set with 50 people. Seeing my Nikon piece, I had a giant team and a real person in the middle. I would love to combine both worlds more because this experience was amazing.