An interview with Alexander Williams of mcphoney.com

In my opening post for this blog (which you can read here) I mentioned my good friend Alexander Williams and his website mcphoney.com which showcases numerous excellent short films and series produced by Alex himself.  Myself and Alex have been friends for many years and I have proudly witnessed the evolution of Alex’s various projects, some of which I have been fortunate to be involved in (with some further collaborations planned).

So amongst my usual blogging I decided to put together this interview with Alex about mcphoney.com, past projects and plans for the future…

Chris:  So, Alex, cast your mind back to that summer of 2004 and the holiday in Suffolk which a group of us went on.  You had brought your Dad’s camcorder with you and I remember you approached me about making a short film for fun, specifically with the title of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” as a starting point (no relation to the Hitchcock films of course).  What were your thoughts at the time?

Alex:  Basically, I’ve always thought that if you have a camera, you should be productive with it.  Of course many people film weddings, birthdays etc. but I believe there should be more to it than that.  I remember reading about James Cameron (director of all-time classics such as “The Terminator” and “Aliens” – Chris) and his quote “just pick up a camera and do it!”.  With that in mind and being on holiday in the middle of nowhere with the extra bonus of having my good friend and fellow film enthusiast at my side, production was able to commence!  Ok yes it was just a bit of fun, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it and look how far we have come now.  It’s even better picking up a camera and having a go when you have someone just as enthusiastic about film and film making by your side!

Chris:  Exactly, most things are worth a try and you never know until you do.  So, how did mcphoney.com come about?  I remember you launching the site but can’t recall any prior discussion…

Alex:  I think it was almost by accident.  I remember thinking about the name “mcphoney” in Art class back in Secondary School when I was about 15.  It was more of a random thought: “imagine your name was mcphoney” but then it kind of just stuck and whilst trying to think of a name/place to publish my short films, it seemed the perfect choice.  Unique/bizarre and original!

When I first put the website up I think it was just a single page showing what you could watch…somehow because this was before the days of YouTube, and me not knowing much about the web in those days, all I could really do was promote the films verbally, not publish them!  As soon as video sharing sites came along however, it became the ideal opportunity to get the videos out there and released on the unsuspecting world!!!  Obviously now it has a bit of a cult following and with website design becoming easier every day I’ve been able to create an easy to navigate website as well as a store with some branded merchandise too (get buying)!

Chris:  Haha, nice plug sir!  Anyway, I enjoyed being part of what we’ve always referred to as The Men Who Knew Too Much trilogy and had fun with the retrospective mockumentary we put together but tell me about Two Many which you made during college…

Alex:  The funny thing about Two Many was that the idea actually came about whilst I was listening to the soundtrack for Alien 3 (an excellent atmospheric score by Elliot Goldenthal – Chris).  The music gave me this vision of a security camera showing someone’s true identity or secret.  So then I thought, how could I create a short story that ends with this twist?  This is how Two Many was born.  I myself however was not actually meant to be in the film.  On the day of filming unfortunately one of the cast had to drop out (they had good reasons too) and so I jumped in at the last minute (I’m actually reading the script off the floor!).  To be honest the original score for the Two Many was the entire soundtrack from Alien 3 but due to copyright this had to be changed to the music you hear in the finished production (I actually preferred the original version though).

Chris:  You re-launched mcphoney.com back in January.  What prompted you to re-launch the site?

Alex:  That’s right, mcphoney.com always seems to be changing but don’t worry, I’m sticking with this new look.  Having created the original ‘Earth’ logo (using Adobe After Effects) I thought it looked a bit cold, not very inviting so I scrapped it and began again and hence the new ‘clapperboard’ logo was created which I am very happy with.  The hard part was just learning everything because I had no idea how to build a site let alone create a logo and host videos etc. but after a LOT of researching I was slowly able to create the website I had envisioned after all these years, and that’s the site you see today!

Chris:  It’s a great looking site with an easy to follow layout and professional looking design.   Featuring heavily as part of the re-launch was the opening episode of your hit YouTube series What Happens Next?  You’ve made seven parts so far and the plan is to finish the series with the tenth.  Looking back at Part 1, did you always have an overall plan for the series or has each part shaped the course of it all?

Alex:  The first one was actually meant to be a one off, maybe with a comedy ending revealed in the second episode or even just leaving it at that.  However, since it was such a simple thing to film I thought…why not continue?  This could lead to something good, thus the series was born!  It was only after the second episode that I started putting “some” thought into it, the hits on YouTube really started to gather and of course I didn’t want to disappoint!  The big finale (Parts 8-10) will hopefully rap up all the loose ends and I’m hoping for an end of 2013 release – be prepared as everything will not be as it seems!

Chris:  I like the way that each part cranks up the tension leading to a killer cliff-hanger which really does leave you wanting more.  Parts 6 and 7 kicked things up a notch with a more urgent and action-orientated pace.  Will this carry through to the grand finale?

Alex:  Hopefully yes…but at this point it’s hard to say.  I liked the tension/suspense of the earlier parts but everyone loves a good action scene!  I know what will happen in my head but it will depend on whether it’ll work or not, watch this space!

Chris:  I know you can’t divulge much about Parts 8-10 but could you perhaps give me a word or two as a hint at what to expect?

Alex:  Erm…I suppose…there will be a lot more to take in than just myself on screen…again it all depends on what works and what doesn’t – I’m positive however that you will all be satisfied!

Chris:  Moving on to your other YouTube hit, Cooking with Uncle Joe – how do you feel that’s progressed and are there further instalments in the works?

Alex:  The trouble with Cooking with Uncle Jo is that it takes such a long time to film.  Even the “Pancake Special” took over 6 hours and then there’s the editing on top of that as well.  The reason why there has been a shortage of them recently is that I’m trying to revamp the series, give it more of a niche.  The other problem is that I’m also currently very busy with other productions that are due to go ahead.  Don’t worry though, Uncle Jo is not dead – all in all I’m planning to keep it going as I have the material to do so!

Chris:  Well we’ve both recently developed something together (under our ‘C+A Productions’ banner via mcphoney.com), a short titled A Fateful End” which we’ll be filming soon…shall we give a little teaser?

Alex:  Why not, basically it’s a kind of short thriller…or is it? [Laughs]

Chris:  Indeed, we obviously don’t want to give too much away as it will rely heavily on suspense!

Many thanks to Alex for agreeing to this interview.  Be sure to check out his website at www.mcphoney.com where you will find all of the short films mentioned in this piece together with links to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Alexander Williams: short film-maker and web master of 'mcphoney.com'.

Alexander Williams: short film-maker and web master of ‘mcphoney.com’.

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