A tribute to friend & Visual F/X Supervisor Alan Marques
ALAN MARQUES 1959 - 2021 - This is going to be a long and difficult post, but if anyone deserves more than a kind word said about them, it is this man. Although my memory of some things is a little hazy, ever since we became friends, Alan and I never lost touch, and I also kept a Warlords diary, which I have referenced to recall some of the details here. I will do my best to inject some moments of levity, as there are many good memories to look back on. I am sad to tell those of my friends that knew Alan or met him during those early movie quiz years, or when he shared the flat with me for a year at 27 Milton Avenue, that he passed away this morning, after bravely fighting off a rare form of blood cancer for the last two years. Alan was not on any type of Social Media but we always stayed in touch, using this amazing technology called a phone, where you can talk to people and call them in real-time. (Try it, it's Amazing!!) Alan and I first met in April of 1988, at the games show of the South London Warlords. Salute. Alan was running a participation game with his best friend Tim Akinson (also a lovely fella) and so
me other club members. The game was called Power Armour, was based on some Japanese manga thing or other, which I will not pretend to recollect, and had these really cool models which had been erected on car radio aerials to enable them to fly across the board. The only reason I can remember this encounter is because I took photos of the game which prompted some other memories that I thought my brain injury had wiped out forever. The game was especially memorable because Alan had brought some magnesium sulfate (or something similar) along that he would pour into this water feature on the board, which would then create this mist that would drift across the landscape of the battlefield. That was Alan, he was always about creating cool things. My friends and I decided we would join The South London Warlords, there were a few cliques within the club, not to say they were unfriendly, far from it but they were just distinct. Alan was part of the group known as 'The Beardies' (It's possible I coined that phrase) the members of the club, mostly with beards, who preferred playing Sci-Fi / Fantasy games and were in their mid to late 30s. Key members were John Treadaway (King Beardy) Kevin Dallimore (Van Gough Beardy) Peter Merrit (Vampire No beard Beardy) Mad Jock Ramage (Scottish Beardy) Paul Sharville (token spotty beardie) Graham Greene (SS Beardy) Tim Atkinson (Ginger Beardy and Alan's best mate) and of course, there was Alan (Sci-Fi Whiz Kid Beardy) I remembered Alan from the Power Armour game and we literally became friends that night and subsequently, I found out that he worked in the film industry, was friends with Gerry Anderson and was all about learning new visual effects technology, which would become the focus of his career by the early 1990s - The next time I met Alan, it would be in some dark woods, somewhere out of Southeast London, at the Clubs first LARP outing with Lazer Tag. It was a Vietnam scenario game and quite hilarious with us Spotty's all lumped in to play the Viet Cong. The younger members of the club, were known as 'The Spotty's' of which myself, Luke Dent, Dan 'Spaniel' Alexander, Darren 'The Glasses' Greally, Charlie 'King Spotty' Holmes, Graham Payne were the core group. (Sadly Graham tragically also passed away two weeks ago, but I won't get into that now) We were later joined by Richard 'Robin of Sherwood' Caller, other Richard and David 'what is it?' Harvey - we were an eclectic bunch and needless to say, these were lean years in the dating department for us all . On the Lazer Tag games that the clubs organised, it always seemed to be the Spotty's Vs the Beardy's and they had all these cool souped-up guns, so we were often the underdogs. Alan was one person who moved freely between both groups and was the first of the Beardy's that I was to befriend, followed by JT. I soon learned Alan was part of the committee that run the club, in the role of the Games Displays Officer, whose job was to come up with a cool game and then take it to other gaming shows all over the UK.
Alan made this amazing Star Wars trench attack game, (see pics above of the game) the last year he was in that post, so when I took the role over, the game was already good to go to shows. I struggled with the role a bit, not knowing the full lay of the land so to speak, but Alan, always one to fight a friends corner, noted how despite being crap at Admin, stated 'I worked my butt off' at every game show I went to with the display team, in a letter in the club magazine. I became more involved in various club activities and started running LARP games of my own (including Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens and Aliens V Predator) and Alan (along with many others) was involved in every single one of those, often helping me out behind the scenes with all sorts of things. We bonded over our mutual love for films and all things Gerry Anderson. And for me creating these games was the closest I could get to making a film at the time and the players were the cast and audience all rolled into one. Alan invited me over to his house in Peckham sometime in 1990 and I gazed in awe at these cool model spaceships that sat on the shelves. 'Wow, where did you get that?' I asked. "I built that one.' he said, very modestly. He was also an exceptional storyboard artist and of course excelled in the field of visual effects. Back then, I always did big cinema trips to the opening night of a film in Leicester Square for my birthday party and in 1990, Alan and his wife Linda, were among the 20 people who came with me to see The Abyss. (I am told this by others, but sadly cannot remember it myself) When I moved to Nottingham in 1993, I lost touch with almost everyone from the SLW apart from Alan and JT. Alan and I always seemed to have something to talk about and when I came back to London to visit my parents, I would go often pop down to Shepperton Film Studios whereby now he was a senior VFX supervisor at The Magic Camera Company. Alan had worked on some pretty big productions by then, which would go on to include Golden Eye, Muppet Treasure Island, among others. He gave me a personal tour round the VFX stages for Space Police, so I got to see all the models right up close. It was amazing. He also blagged me onto the Judge Dredd set, which I then blagged being an extra for the day, just so I could watch them filming. (I neglected to tell Alan this...) By the time I moved back to London in 1997, Alan had branched out on his own and was running a little VFX company out of Soho. I would pop in to see him frequently. When film finally went digital and I shot my second feature, Alan let me use his edit suite in Peckham, entirely for free. So during the 4-week edit. I slept on the floor of that tiny office the entire time, trying to remember not to step in the dog shit which was very frequent at the end of the street. (This was a running joke with people about one of the many perils of getting to Alan's house.) Linda and he treated me like family during my stay and they were always smiling, in fact, I cannot recall them ever even raising their voices to each other. Two people could not have been more in love. Alan and I would often meet up socially, normally to go for a drink with his buddy Steve Begg who would go on to be an FX Supervisor on many a Bond movie. I would listen in awe to their nightmarish production war stories. By the time I moved back to London, I was so serious about my directing career, that I gave up all the gaming stuff, but Alan and I were in the same industry and he made it very clear, I could always come to him for advice, which I did, frequently. Whenever I met any budding student who told me they wanted to get into VFX for a career, I always said 'You have to talk to Alan Marques' - because Alan would, as was his nature, give them time, listen and give them advice, he was just lovely like that. He even gave some of my friends work experience placements at his company and got another of them a job somewhere else. During my really nasty spell in hospital in 2004, Alan came in on numerous occasions to visit me. When he found out we had to pay to watch the TV in hospital, he brought in an old laptop for me, ram packed with loads of Movies and Sci-Fi shows. Alan and Linda sold the London house and moved back to the Isle of White, but Alan would still frequently need to come back to London. At some stage, I cannot recall why or how, he ended up paying for my internet bill for two years. He told me he was 'investing in me, because he believed I was talented and he knew one day I would be giving him a job...' Later, when he needed to stay in London for 6 months, it timed nicely with someone moving out of the rooms in my old flat in Highgate. Alan needed somewhere to stay, he offered me money, but I said 'lets call it even, just give me some dosh for the electricity' - He lived with me for the best part of a year, and it was a really good time. Every weekend we would do a movie night, wine, and beers and Alan got so funny when he was drunk. That was the year the annual Christmas movie quiz was born and him and Linda were at the very first one. They were also at the third one (I think 2010?) when everyone had the flu and two teams were basically Linda and Alan and Assant and Sharon Sorrentino. Both Linda and Alan could seen how disappointed I was that so many people had to cancel, they were determined to play anyway and do all the rounds, we had a blast. Alan had a very dry and often sarcastic sense of humour which made him very endearing. Again, although this period of my life is a little hard to remember, I can recall many good times. Alan came and saw almost every creative work I did, be it film, or play, he was super supportive and he always brought me in as a writer on his own projects, as he saw my abilities gain in confidence. The reason they did so was because of the support of people like Alan. As my career gained momentum, I knew there would be a time where I could employ Alan as my own VFX supervisor and I was really looking forward to that day and being able to return the kindness and friendship he had given me over the years. In the 18 month period where I lost many friends and also my parents, Alan would come and stay the odd weekend, fairly regularly. He would tell me he was in London for a work thing, but I think sometimes he just came up to see if I was okay, knowing I was going through some tough times. If you asked Alan for help, he would never say no and thus when we realised we needed several visual FX shots for my third feature THE JOURNEY - I asked Alan if he would consider doing them, even though by then we had completely run out of money. 'no problem' He replied. They were great. Alan and Linda also helped me do some photos for early poster designs for the film and we went to stay with them on the Isle of White for a week. It was great just to hang out for a change. When the project that to become a bane for us all, Pegasus Bridge was being prepped, Alan was my only choice for VFX Supervisor and he did a huge amount of work to prepare and budget the project. It was deeply disappointing the project failed to materialise due to the actions of some awful people. Alans role on the production would have easily paid him upwards of 50K if it had come about. I would have been so thrilled to be able to give back to this man, a great job, with a nice payday, something which I knew he would really benefit from, (not to mention assist with his medical issues that were to come) as Alan too, had seen several of his own projects come undone by unscrupulous bottom feeders in recent times. Alan did the VFX shots for the Pegasus investors trailer, so I was at least able to get him on that and really fab they were too. When Pegasus didn't happen, I focused on my novel series but decided I wanted to make two shorts to promote the books. I knew the shorts would have to show the Alien Ships looking just right, but I had no money, who could create them for me? Once again Alan Marques stepped in to help me and it would be the last time we would work together. Alan got diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer back in 2019. I got the phone call telling me this news, exactly 20 minutes after Dickon Tolson had called to tell me our mutual friend and mentor, Graham Fletcher Cooke, had passed away from Cancer. I grilled Alan about his illness and he explained to me that there were drugs in America that were known to add five years of life to someone with this condition, but you had to either be in private healthcare or have lots of dough to get them. Feeling responsible for not being able to get him that job, I told him 'I'm going to find a way to get you those drugs, do I have your permission to write to people on your behalf?' 'Erm, yes, okay then...' I had just lost one friend to cancer, I didn't want to lose another equally brilliant human being. (I then got completely wankered, phoned John Treadway at 10am to tell him my plan, at which point John pointed out the time and informed me he was not an early riser on Sundays - this made Alan laugh out loud when I told him) Anyone who knew Alan in the industry, knew he was a giving and caring person, extremely diligent and professional and passionate about his job. He was a giver, never a taker, and I just figured maybe one of his previous employers might step in to help him. I wrote to everyone from Jim Henson productions to Barbara Broccoli herself at EON productions. Pleading for someone to help him out. I don't know if any of them contacted him, I just hoped someone might, because I wasn't prepared to lose this wonderful man just yet. Then covid happened of course. In 2020 Alan and I spoke about once a month. I would try and cheer him up with one tale or another and he still had his dry laugh and I think his sense of humour got him through the last 24 months. We talked again about two weeks ago. I don't know what made me say it but I suddenly said to him 'My biggest regret where our friendship is concerned is that I wasn't able to get you that big job, just to say thank you, for oh, so many things.' I was trying not to get emotional when I said it. 'Don't worry Lance, that was not on you. Everyone knows that.' That was the last time we ever spoke. He fought a good fight, but he passed away this morning. As we get older, it's a fact of life, that we will of course find ourselves feeling bereft when those we care about have gone before us. And of course we all so much more closely connected now, but Alan and I were close because we were friends and he didn't even have social media. I've got loads of photos of Alan, of him or both of us working on this game or that project, but they're actual prints, in a box, in a shed somewhere, one day I will dig them out and post them. All that remains for me to say is that he was one of the kindest, most generous people I ever met and I will really, really, miss him. Rest in peace beardy.