AN INTERVIEW WITH MAK MCCOY, DIRECTOR & WRITER OF "BUT WE ARE"
Winner: Best Narrative Short Film, Best Young Filmmaker - August 2021 Edition
DIRECTOR & WRITER
Mak McCoy is an 17 year old screenwriter and director. She was fortunate enough to grow up on a set watching her dad direct. She was difficult to find when visiting set because she was off learning about each department. Mak has gotten to mix sound, act, and do stunts professionally all starting at age 6.
One day she decided to sit down and write an episode of "Blue Bloods". It got rave reviews from producers and excellent coverage. She then went on an interview to write a feature film and got the job that same day. She was 16 when she wrote the movie. The response the script has received is all thanks to her unique perspective on the world. Mak is able to empathize with characters of all ages and backgrounds.
Mak’s motto is, “I don’t make up stories, I tell them. If I don’t believe in the stories I tell, how can I expect the audience to?”
Hi Mak, thank you for a lovely film. How did you become a filmmaker?
I grew up on sets. My dad is a director and he would always encourage me to go off and learn how the set ran. I started out acting and then got into writing. It was a super fun experience to direct something for the first time.
As a young author and director, you have a pretty mature take on older adults' inner struggles. What, or who, inspired the story for this your debut film?
Thank you! Everyone goes through hard times. Maybe adults are more likely to be able to articulate their struggles but people of all ages and backgrounds have the same core feelings. I believe we as humans just want to be heard and on the flip side that means we have to listen to others. You know, reach out to that friend who hasn’t called in a while, make an effort.
You had a pretty tight budget at your disposal. How did you make it all work out?
Well, we shot it all in one day, so that helped. I also had so many people who came out and helped for free or a discounted rate. I think this story effected them and it was really awesome to have a group of people who were in it to have fun and tell a story that meant a lot to them.
I made some friends for life on that set. I am so grateful for everyone who was a part of this project.
What is your take on Short Film? Is it "just" the only way to get started as a professional filmmaker? Can we make short, medium length or full feature indifferently, because it's really about telling a story in the format that suits it?
Yes. I believe it is very important what medium the story is told through. I wrote this in my room after I got in a stupid fight with my mom. I think the best art just comes out of you.
I am actually working on a TV show treatment loosely based on “But We Are”. To answer your other question, no, short films are not only to get started. When I write I try really hard to have no expectations of it actually being produced. I usually fail but, I try really hard.
For this one, I genuinely wrote it just because that’s how I was feeling and look at that, it’s the one that got produced. Funny how that works.
What did you learn about filmmaking, and about yourself, in the process of making "But We Are"?
I learned so much. As for what I learned about myself, I discovered my love of working with actors. That’s definitely my favorite part, tied with writing. I could go on and on about the technical things I learned. From getting permits, insurance, casting websites, equipment rentals, crew hiring, cameras, editing, and film festivals.
It was a lot but I would say the most important thing I learned is that the director is so dependent on the crew. You literally can’t do anything without every single person on set. So for me, I learned that finding a great crew that you trust is the most important part.
Who are your favorite Directors, and what are your favorite films? Any "role models" or "perfect film" in your personal gallery?
Yes definitely, I love Shawn Levy, Christopher Nolan, Taika Waititi, and Greta Gerwig.
As for my favorite movies, I don’t think I can ever pick a favorite but here is my top 8, know them off the top of my head since I love them so much. "Room", "Martain Child", "Jojo Rabbit", "Honey Boy", "Karate Kid", "Joker, Short Term 12", and "Five Feet Apart". If you haven’t seen "Room" or "Honey Boy" I highly recommend.
What is your next project, which stage are you at with it?
Well, I am always writing something. As of right now, I am working on the TV version of this short. Then I will write the script of a movie idea I have. I am spending most of my time teaching acting and managing my clients. I am the actors biggest advocate so to be involved in the day to day is really fun for me. Seeing my actors book roles and break through emotional walls is so incredibly rewarding for the both of us.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes?
I think the COVID-19 pandemic has created a very unique opportunity for filmmakers.
The sheer amount of media being consumed has increased insurmountably. This gives us creatives more opportunity to have our work seen and produced.
I also have hopes that it will open more doors for extremely talented, maybe unlikely, filmmakers who haven’t seen the light of day and give a chance for their work to shine.