A conversation with Mark Renshaw
I recently watched Saga Flight International’s film Surrender, a disturbing glimpse into an addict’s life spiralling out of control. The film’s protagonist is Dave. The film’s website states, “Dave is trapped in a surreal and frightening world where his inner demons appear real and he is haunted by his worst fears. He struggles to keep his sanity and live a normal life but must overcome his greatest adversary first – himself.” I spoke with Mark Renshaw, the film’s writer and executive producer.
addict2016: My first question is always the same, are you currently using?
MR: I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m pleased to say I’ve been sober for 3 years and 10 months now but, for me, this involves going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and working a recovery program on a daily basis. Surrender is partially based on my own experiences but a lot of it comes from the many stories I’ve heard in the AA rooms from other alcoholics.
addict2016: Everybody in recovery has a story to tell. Through my blog I have connected with storytellers worldwide.
MR: I checked out your blog and enjoyed it. I identified a lot with the answers you wrote for the How I Got Sober magazine article. I once had a go at writing a blog, I gave up after 5 days when it hadn’t gone viral. This was back when I was drinking and expecting the world to operate based on my expectations.
addict2016: Surrender attempts to look at alcohol addiction from a different angle. What motivated you to write the film in this way?
MR: When I wrote the script, I didn’t just want to show a guy drinking all the time and living rough on the streets. I wanted to show an earlier stage of the addiction. I wanted to show a functioning alcoholic (which I was) who has a lovely family, decent job and an OK life, yet everything is falling apart due to his increasing dependence on alcohol.
addict2016: The film depicts the protagonist’s struggle with reality as nightmarish hallucinations follow his day. Was this nod to the horror genre a conscious decision?
MR: I wanted to show the terror of facing the normal world while recovering from the last binge. All the anxiety, fear, guilt and pain. The director and I decided we would use symbolic visual elements to do this, giving the film some horror elements.
addict2016: Without wanting to spoil the ending, the film has a positive climax.
MR: In the end I wanted to also show that there’s hope. I wanted to leave the impression that no matter how far down the ladder one might have fallen, there’s still a chance to crawl back up, if you are willing. The question is, as Dave says in the end, how? I’ve also entered the film into a bunch of film festivals around the world. So far it has been showcased at two festivals. The first was the Depth of Field International Film Festival where it won four awards. This was an online festival but still, it was nice to get some exposure and recognition. The second was the Awareness Festival which is run by a charity called Heal One World. This was in an actual cinema over in Los Angeles. The film was only released in September and I’ve submitted it to quite a few festivals spread out over the next 12 months.
addict2016: Surrender is dedicated to suffering alcoholics and their families. Did you have any further ambitions for Surrender, other than making a beautiful film?
MR: My hope for Surrender is that it reaches out to people affected by addiction and touches them in some way.
addict2016: Thank you.
MR: Thanks. I’m really glad you love Surrender.
Surrender was an official selection for the Depth of Field International Film Festival 2016 and it deserved to be. The film itself won an Exceptional Merit Award. Awards also went to, Best Lead Actor: Aram Hekinian, Excellence: Original Score: Zaalen Tallis, Excellence: Script/Writer: Mark Renshaw.
Directed by Christopher Carson Emmons, Surrender is a visually stunning film, aided by powerful performances from the lead actors Aram Hekinian, Jade Elysan and Marisa Roper. Special mention must also go to Director of Photography, Nathaniel Haban. A truly eerie quality of disconnection haunts the film. Dave is as detached from the film’s narrative as his character is from reality. Many addicts will relate to the main character’s experience but, as a friend who watched the film with me remarked, “If you relate to this film as a drinker, you may need to get help!”
Here’s the link to watch Surrender. I will be very interested in your comments.
By day, Mark is a mild-mannered business software tester who is married with two children. By night, or whenever he has a spare bit of time, he unleashes his imagination by writing scripts and stories. This is his hobby, his passion.
Sometimes he pops on a producer’s hat and breathes cinematic life into his creations. The first film he ever made, called I Am Peter Cushing, won an award at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England. This also starred Mark in the leading role as a man who believes vampires are real and that he was the legendary vampire hunter, Peter Cushing.
Now Mark writes short scripts and stories, which he options to other producers via his website at www.mark-renshaw.com. Some of these have been produced and have gone onto win awards in film festivals and competitions. His dream is to one day quit the day job and work full-time as a writer.