Cut to the chase
Eddie Harrison investigates the low fi, low budget revolution going on in Scottish filmmaking.
Jean-Luc Godard said all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun. But anyone who has ever picked up a camera knows that cash in the bank helps too. The sheer expense of filmmaking ‐ the stock, the cast, the crew, the catering and other costs ‐ have stymied aspiring film-makers over the thirty years since Scotland’s first lo-fi feature, Bill Forsyth’s account of a Glasgow sink robbery That Sinking Feeling.
Making a short or a low budget feature through state-sponsored film projects such as Tartan Shorts or Newfoundland scheme provided one solution. But digital cinema offers lower production costs, while the advent distribution via popular video streaming sites has meant that filmmakers no longer have to go cap in hand to government financed schemes.
In 2008, the result is a new wave of DIY Scottish filmmakers, skipping the queue for public finance and making their own lo-fi movies. Local actor/writer /director Carter Ferguson created a 30 minute short called The Rage (pictured) set ‘in the universe’ of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Sweet Sixteen’s William Ruane is amongst the actors featured and The Rage has attracted plenty of positive feedback for the ingenious use of Glasgow locations to suggest a bleak, zombie-infested future.
‘The Rage was specifically made for showing on YouTube ‐ having watched a number of videos on the net, I deliberately kept away from wide shots where we’d lose detail on the small screen, and put a lot of thinking into the design. Our biggest expense was probably the costumes’ says Ferguson. ‘We managed to blag an ambulance from someone and used Langside College to stand in for a plague-hit hospital. And we copied the internet strategies used by the Glasgow music scene to promote the film. That said, I still had to sell the camera I used for The Rage to finance my second film.’
Elsewhere Charles Henri-Belleville shot his promising debut feature, The Inheritance for around £6,000, while producers Arabella Page Croft and Keiran Parker remortgaged their house to shoot Nazi-zombie adventure Outpost, and were rewarded with £100,000 from Scottish Screen towards their next feature project.
Another local filmmaker with one eye on the commercial action genre is Ryan Hendrick, who has posted an entire feature online. Wilderness, a violent adventure story, may be rough around the edges, but it shows, as does The Rage, a director who can organise a small crew, get a visual style on -screen, and most importantly, demonstrate a strong commitment and passion for making genre films.
It could be suggested that the derivative nature of these films works against a successful crossover to bigger budgets, but that’s a logic that never bothered industry giants like Peter Jackson, Francis Ford Coppola or Peter Bogdanovich, all of who made a name for themselves making ultra-low budget horror films and thrillers. Scotland’s DIY filmmakers may be focussing their output on guns and gore for the moment, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.