Exclusive Interview with Mark Clauburg -Filmmaker
Award-winning filmmaker Mark Clauburg is gearing up for the festival run of his latest short film The Time in Between the Seconds. Mark began his career as an educator, teaching high school and college video production in the early 2000s. He later transitioned to leadership positions in higher education where he remains today. He is also a principal member of Grey Machine Films, a collective of filmmakers and musicians from New Jersey who have been working together on various film and music projects since 2005. Most recently, the group has produced several award-winning films, including The Last Visit, My Dad and Bob Todd, and The Girl Next Door.
NY Glam: How long have you been making films and videos?
I started taking it seriously in college with a sketch TV show I co-wrote and edited called “How Good Is That?!” We used to really push buttons and were awarded “Most Controversial” at the school’s annual awards show. One of our episodes featured Ron Jeremy and a digitally imposed black box to appease the administration.
After college I met my good friend and current musical composer Peter Lisowsky and began shooting music videos for his band. I ended up expanding those videos into an immersive visual experience that was projected on stage during live shows. We were lucky enough to tour a bit and even played a show out in Chicago. And now Pete does the music for most of my films, including this latest one that’s about to hit the festival circuit.
NY Glam: What film was your directorial debut?
I co-produced and co-directed a feature length documentary in 2008 called Savior. Our barebones crew traveled across the country, from Topeka to Indianapolis to Buffalo, and even up through Canada. We interviewed various subjects on both sides of the religious spectrum and documented some uplifting and intensely tragic stories. One of the most memorable experiences from that production was spending the weekend with the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, which is prominently featured in the film.
In 2014, I co-wrote and co-directed the feature drama Before the Snow, which was my first official project in the realm of narrative storytelling. The story centers around a man trying to come to grips with his tattered past after he’s diagnosed with a terminal disease. The film is told through the main character’s memories, dreams, and hallucinations and stars Ryan Wesen, Natalya Rudakova (Transporter 3), and Hays Wellford (Cop Car).
NY Glam: What is your recent film about?
The Time in Between the Seconds is about tragedy, healing, friendship, and love. The story is told in a reverse chronology with our main character getting shot during a convenience store robbery in the opening minutes. As each preceding scene unfolds, the motivations for her actions are slowly revealed and the audience eventually learns of the tragic event that has defined her new life. There are only a few people in my life that I would take a bullet for, and I wanted to explore that idea of loving someone else more than yourself.
NY Glam: How did you go about casting for the film?
I wrote the film with an actress in mind after being inspired by a clip in her reel. It was someone I had worked with twice before, but that collaboration never came to fruition. Two other actresses were attached at various stages, but neither ended up working out. After taking a short hiatus from the project, I finally decided to hold auditions. Helen Laser was the first self-tape invited in for a callback. She crushed the audition so hard that I offered her the role on the spot. With Helen on board, the rest of the casting process went rather smoothly.
At the end of the day, I just want to work with the best actors I can. A great young actress named Palmyra Mattner auditioned for two other roles in the film and didn’t fit my preconceived ideas for those characters. Helen and I loved her callback so much that I changed the gender of another character and added a new scene that featured Palmyra with more lines. It’s a blowout argument at a funeral and my favorite scene in the finished film.
NY Glam: What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
Preparation is essential. Our main character is presented in various stages of physical and emotional turmoil. With the story taking place out of sequence, we developed a detailed timeline that documents wardrobe, props, makeup, and current emotional state. In some scenes, Wendy is borderline catatonic, wearing a sling on her broken arm and a band-aid to cover the gash on her chin. In others, she’s finally overcoming her social anxiety and wears an arm brace with a subtle scar. I’m incredibly proud of Rose Ripley’s makeup work throughout these various stages and grateful to our script supervisor Jaclyn Lehrer for keeping us faithful to the timeline.
Location scouting was equally important. Having the opportunity to visit sets beforehand with my DP Dustin Ward let us make smarter decisions in regard to lighting, shot lists, and production schedules. My executive producer Alexandru Aldea was an incredible asset when it came to securing some of our more difficult locations, including the convenience store, funeral home, and a private road where we could stage a car wreck. Spoiler alert!
NY Glam: Tell us a bit about the other films you’ve made and your other projects.
Just before The Time in Between the Seconds, I directed a short horror-comedy from writer Tom Bragg called Crazy for the Blonde. It’s a batshit crazy story about two serial killers competing for the same blonde-haired victim and has been making its rounds on the festival circuit for some time. I’m a huge fan of Tom’s writing and was incredibly honored when he asked me to come on board to take the reins.
Before that, I made a short documentary with my sister about the heroin epidemic in Ocean County, NJ called The Girl Next Door. Her best friend died from an overdose of fentanyl a few years ago, and the film tells that story from my sister’s perspective. We’ve been invited to screen at various hospitals and recovery centers, and it’s been fulfilling to help get more people talking about solutions instead of stigmatizing drug addiction.
NY Glam: What role have film festivals played in your life so far?
I make movies with the big screen in mind. Too much work goes into all phases of the filmmaking process for that final product to be relegated to a phone or computer screen. Cast and crew are always asking for links, but it’s a personal policy not to share them. Nothing beats that communal experience in a theater. Festivals are everything.
NY Glam: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
It’s definitely harder to get started and reach a point to where you feel like you belong or should be doing this. Of course, imposter syndrome never goes away, but it can help keep you hungry and put your ego in check. It’s incredibly nerve-racking to release a new film you’ve worked on for several years. I don’t like to make “safe” films, so audience reaction is always unpredictable. With that said, the local film community has been incredibly supportive so far.
NY Glam: How has your style evolved?
My earlier work was amateurish and dialogue heavy, and I’ve been learning on the job. Over the years, I’ve worked with so many talented people who’ve helped me find a more focused visual language to tell stories. The Time in Between the Seconds was by far the biggest, most difficult, and most inspired project I’ve worked on to date, but it’s also incredibly self-indulgent and long-winded. Maybe I haven’t evolved yet, but I’m trying.
NY Glam: What has been your personal key to success?
Casting is everything. I have immense respect for actors.
NY Glam: What are you thinking about doing next?
I wrote what I feel is my best script a few years back. It’s a road movie called Orick and follows a homeless man who’s forced to hitchhike from Texas to California when he receives the news that his sister’s been brutally murdered in the small, northern California town where he grew up. Once in California, he’s tasked with arranging his sister’s funeral and taking custody of her teenage son. The story heads in an unexpected direction, and the ending is rather shocking. I’m currently looking for the financing to make it.
My next project will probably shoot later this year or in 2021. It’s another short drama called There’s Something Wrong with Paul and centers around a man recently released from prison. It takes place over one night at a family dinner where Paul is reunited with his siblings. Paul was convicted and served time for a heinous crime, and most of the family is not ready to forgive just yet. I wrote the script with actors in mind and hope they’re game to make it with me. I just haven’t told them yet.
NY Glam: Where does your studio want to go from here?
My production company is Grey Machine Films, and you can find us at our website, Facebook, and Instagram. For now, we just want to get as many festival eyes on The Time in Between the Seconds as possible. As I mentioned, there are some other projects on the horizon that I’m hoping will eventually get made, but finding the money is always a challenge. I’d also like to collaborate with my friend and writer Tom Bragg once again. He’s written a script called Layers that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Fingers crossed!