Telling the Next Cool Story With Mark Gould

by | May 18, 2018 | Closeup

Santa Clarita resident and CalArts alumnus, Mark Gould, has butcher paper spread out along a Jason Pollock inspired wall in his office. Timelines and ideas are scribbled on them, like an oversized brainstorming session for someone who prefers the visual organization of mind mapping over the use of an iPad. There’s nothing written on the wall about million dollar budgets or big name actors. Instead there are plot lines and characterizations scrawled out in marker. It’s simply the birthplace of a story that may or may not ever make it to the big screen. Either way, Mark is the enthusiastic storyteller exploring his sophomore project after the successful release of his first feature film, Gone Are The Days.
True to its title, Gone Are The Days is reminiscent of Golden Age westerns, before cowboys seemed neutered by Bon Jovi soundtracks. The anti-hero, played by the incredible Lance Henricksen, is an old outlaw approaching the end of his trail, staying alive on heroin cough serum and a mission to reconcile with his estranged daughter. “It’s not an action packed, shoot ‘em up film. It’s a character driven piece that really takes its time.” Mark directed such Hollywood vets as Tom Berenger and Danny Trejo in the film, drawing from his own theatrical training from New Mexico State University and CalArts. “I started off acting. Directors who study acting just make better directors. They know how to manipulate situations and pull out the performance they want from other actors,” said Mark. “You’re able to say, ‘OK, if I was in their shoes what would I be thinking?’ And then you can really get in there and speak their language.”
Mark grew up in New Mexico and admits that becoming a filmmaker wasn’t always on his radar. “My dad was a welding inspector and he was a hard worker. He tried to steer me towards what he knew, because he got consistent work,” he explained. “But one day he came and watched a play I wrote, and it was one of the nicest moments. He said, ‘You know what? You should go to film school, and you can go to where Robert Redford is.’” Mark’s father was diagnosed with cancer during the production of Gone Are The Days , but he was able to see the completed film before he passed away last September. “He loved westerns like Lonesome Dove and I think it really influenced me.”
Mark is pleased with the recognition the film has received, especially having worked on a comparatively small budget with only fifteen days to film. It was picked up by Lionsgate Entertainment, making it available on demand through Amazon, Netflix and Redbox. After 20 years in the entertainment industry, Mark recognizes he needs to strike while the iron’s hot and capitalize on the film’s exposure. He’s taking it all in stride though, acknowledging the importance of a director’s sophomore film and holding out for the right project that could very well define his career. But he isn’t using award nominations or box office numbers as motivation, or as a means to measure his success. “I’ve always known I can direct. It just felt natural, and it felt like it was where I needed to be. Whether or not I ‘make it’ isn’t important,” Mark said. “What I do care about is, what’s the next cool story I can tell?”

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