Glasgow Film Festival: Richard Jobson and Jim Hickey interview
Doug Johnstone meets directors Richard Jobson and Jim Hickey to discuss their work, the trials of low-budget film-making and the pair’s place in the wider industry
Film directors Richard Jobson and Jim Hickey both have low-budget genre films appearing as part of Glasgow Film Festival’s Great Scots strand. Jobson’s New Town Killers sees Dougray Scott’s hedge fund manager hunting a teenage boy in a white-knuckle Edinburgh chase movie, while Hickey’s The Dungeon Moor Killings is a comedy-horror romp set in the wilderness of south-west Scotland.
Your new films were deliberately made on small budgets. Why?
Richard Jobson ‘Over the past four movies I’ve been working on how to do things on a miniscule budget and I’m happy working in that territory. The whole punk rock ethos still works for me.’
Jim Hickey ‘Richard has really stuck his neck out and tried to make films one after another, which is the secret to keeping working. The big problem for producers and directors is that you can spend years trying to get a film made and it falls at the last hurdle.’
RJ ‘You’ve got to design the project to be done for the budget. Once you do, that allows you to be more experimental. Working at these budgets, you have creative freedom, there’s no doubt about it.’
JH ‘With The Dungeon Moor Killings we decided just to make the film no matter what. Rather than spend years trying to get money from funds or private investors, we decided to raise the money ourselves and make it for as little as possible. Within a year we had the film made, as opposed to going to meetings that go nowhere for a year.’
Wouldn’t you like to make big budget films?
RJ ‘Making a big Hollywood film has no interest for me. A lot of people make a film for £200,000 and use it as a calling card to make a bigger film. Why would you want to make a Faustian pact like that? Would you be in a punk band to become friends with Genesis? I don’t make movies to hang out with Sam Mendes or Steven Spielberg, I have absolutely no interest in those people or the movies they make.’
JH ‘I’m not going to be working with Kate Winslet on the first, second or twentieth film I direct; you have to be realistic. It’s much more important to work with people you want to work with.’
With developments in digital technology, we were all supposed to be budget filmmakers by now. What happened?
JH ‘In the nineties when I started producing I thought teenagers were going to take over the film world but it hasn’t happened. Maybe they get ground down by the way the industry still works.’
RJ ‘Cinema is still the preserve of the upper-middle classes, in terms of the people who actually control things, which is unfortunate. The revolution in terms of digital technology is definitely happening, but the people who control the industry still define the cinema that gets made.’
JH ‘There ought to be more films made the way we’ve made them. I’m surprised more young people aren’t getting together and making fantastic low budget films.’
With little marketing budget, how hard is it to get a film to its target audience?
JH ‘It’s getting more difficult for independent films to find a cinema screen. You have to think of that as not being essential anymore. The old theory was you needed a cinema release to get DVD sales and recoup money, but these days the internet helps with getting the word out. But visibility is still a real problem, you have to use any devise you can to get noticed.’
RJ ‘There’s not really a distributor who understands how to make projects for young people, that’s the missing link. There’s also a patronising attitude towards genre movies, no doubt about it. People think genre is idiotic whereas I think it’s the most exciting territory.’
And presumably, with the country in recession, things are not getting any easier?
RJ ‘There are difficult times ahead but my experience, even from the days of The Skids, is that if you want to do it, you’ll do it. There are a lot of people in the industry who should beat it, it’s a nice hobby for posh people, and I wish they would get lost because they’re just a waste of space. But if you really believe in a project, there’s no such thing as no. There are loads of filmmakers in development hell who should just be getting on with it.’
JH ‘We have to accept we’re a small country with a small pool of talent, even though there is great talent here, and there’s a small pot of money which is only going to get smaller. These days, it actually makes more sense to make films the way we’re doing it.’
Finally, what would you consider as success for your movies?
RJ ‘New Town Killers would be a success if it gets a chance to get to the audience I made it for. It’s really a film for a multiplex audience; it has no pretensions. If it gets shown to the right people, that would make me happy.’
JH ‘Getting to the end of making a film is a major achievement. The Dungeon Moor Killings is enjoyable, it’s not serious or arty, so hopefully it will find an audience, but who knows? You’ve got to be optimistic in this game, otherwise you’d just give up.’
The Dungeon Moor Killings, GFT, Fri 13 Feb; New Town Killers, GFT, Mon 16 Feb. Both are part of the Great Scots season.