In a previous Story, Marcus Fair described his 25-year addiction to heroin and crack cocaine, which included periods of homelessness and incarceration. It seems a miracle that Marcus survived living with these problems for so long, but I suspect his survival depended on a lot his ‘smarts’. In another Story, we heard how he moved on from a life in addiction to becoming a filmmaker, via being a playwright.
In the film below, Marcus talks about how he came to make the film ‘Flipped It!’ for North Wales Police. It’s an enthralling story!
Marcus describes how Tony Ormond arranged for him and some others in recovery to make a presentation about their lives to senior officers of North Wales Police, including the Chief Constable Simon Shaw. As the stories were told, the prickly mood in the room changed in a positive way, and officers started to ask questions. Simon Shaw was a champion of the recovery cause, believing that people could change with the right help. He was a humanitarian, but also knew that a lot of police money could be saved if the highest level offenders could be helped to find long-term recovery.
Simon asked Marcus if he wanted to do the life story session again to others. Marcus said, ‘Why don’t you just make a film?’ Simon wasn’t confident about the police film team, and asked Marcus if he could do a better job. Marcus said he could. Simon asked him what he needed, not knowing that Marcus was straight out of rehab and had no filmmaking gear at all. Marcus asked whether he could be given the police film crew to work with, and he would teach them during the making of the film so they could go on and do more films in the future. Simon agreed.
Marcus had to make a film about addiction and how people turn it around and find recovery, using both the police and people who had been in trouble with the police. He knew that he had to avoid addicts who watched the film later saying to him that they were in a much worse state than that shown. So he had to find as actors, the worst of the worst who had turned their lives around. ‘Luckily, I had friends in low places.’
Marcus knew that the film, Flipped It!, would be his shop window, and maybe his ‘comeback’. Simon hired Colwyn Bay Theatre and invited various dignitaries to the first showing. The place was half-full of addicts and half-full of the great and the good. Even Prince Charles wrote a letter to wish them good luck. The place erupted at the end of the film. ‘We were all just sat there, you know, cops and robbers on the front row.’
Marcus describes one of the most poignant occasions during filming when they had people in recovery dressed as police during a chase scene being filmed by the police crew. One of Marcus’s friends, who was in early recovery and had led one hell of a life, was dressed as a police officer. During a break in filming, an old lady came over and asked him the time. The friend just melted—he had never felt that level of respect.
Along the way, Peter Norrey, a BAFTA-winning filmmaker from London, heard about the film being made and when he learnt that Marcus had nothing to edit the film on, he sent an editing suite which Marcus installed in his NACRO flat. Simon Shaw got more and more worried, as Marcus only got to check the film in a cinema the day before the first public screening.
The film was really well-received. ‘Simon thought he was getting a police training film, he gets a Ridley Scott opening.’ The stage was packed with all the team doing a curtain call after the screening. Simon, Peter and Marcus looked at each other and agreed, ‘This cannot finish here.’
Why not check out a scene from Flipped It!? PS. I have to confess that I get emotional when I read this and then watch the film clip.