One Minute Wonder
The long and short of It
Paul Dale visits the set of the first film to be made following The List and Metro Ecosse's One Minute Wonder competition
It's a squally summer's day in the Scottish capital. Not that the inclement weather is bothering film director Adrian Mead, who is standing in the courtyard of the Edinburgh Academy in Stockbridge with a crew of five people filming his latest opus, a one minute film. Mead, a Scouser who's a mountain of a man with a penchant for positivism, replies to my question of 'how it is all going?' with a breezy: 'It's going great. We were getting cocky and God decided to teach us a lesson. But it's nothing we can't fix, we just need to watch the continuity, be careful not to shoot the ground and look out for things like speckles on clothes.'
On this working Sunday, the great Greek Doric frontage of the capital's second most famous public school (after Blair's Fettes College) is doubling up as an army barracks for Emily Munro's very short film Training, the first shoot to come out of The List and production house Metro Ecosse's One Minute Wonder film competition.
We received over 100 entries, which a jury of film experts, including Mead, actress/director Alison Peebles and EIFF short film programmer Matt Lloyd, whittled down to five winning entries. Over the next month the winning scripts are to be made by acclaimed filmmakers Mead, Peebles, Ranald Neilson (brother of Anthony), Barry Paton and Brian Ross.
Training, a perplexing and opaque vision of barrack brutality, is the first out of the stands and it's no amateur shoot. Project coordinator Metro Ecosse has brought a veritable mini city of hardware and crew for the occasion. Tracks, cranes, canopies and a retired black labrador guide dog fill the schoolyard at the back of the complex. Indoors, the school's old wood panelled canteen has taken on the appearance of a mess hall. Military costumes hang on costume rails. Young actors in squaddie gear sit gabbing at tables with other crew members.
It is here that I catch up with Emily Munro, the articulate young writer of the film. The process from being selected as a winner to being present at this, her first professional film shoot, has been a long but fascinating one for her. She explains: 'It has been interesting to see how the opaqueness of my original script has been interpreted by other people. I've had meetings with Adrian and the Metro Ecosse team and we talked about making things more cyclical and clearer, so today we are working from a second script, which is a happy compromise.'
So what, in her own words, is her film about? 'I wanted to explore a type of military training that has implications that far outreach anything you can imagine. The film was inspired by a documentary I saw about Iraq that reminded me that the war is not just something that happens out there but it is also something that has reverberations here.'
She continues: 'I went on holiday the other week and there were hundreds of soldiers milling around at Prestwick airport, some of them US military. Were they going to war or coming back? All I know is that they all looked tired. Sometimes you just need reminding of what is going on out there.'
Veteran Scottish stage and TV actor Sean Hay, who plays the pivotal role of Sergeant Lewis in the film, has a different but no less passionate reading of the film. He says: 'Lewis is helping recruit a young soldier to prepare him for conflict but it transpires that Lewis has experiences from previous war zones and now he is back home recreating a stop and search that reminds of what he has seen before and the memories are too much for him.'
Hay continues: 'One minute's an awful short time to fit so much in. I haven't worked this hard in a long time. But I've worked with Adrian before and I totally trust him.'
The sun has come out but Mead, whose excellent Edinburgh-set feature Night People will soon be released on DVD, is unfazed by the changeable climate. He says: 'The great thing about all these one minute film scripts is that they are more than just one gag wonders. They've all got something deeper going on.'
The crew is about to move indoors for another set up. Standing beside them is Iain Campbell, a teenage actor who plays Trainee Squaddie No1. Campbell, like his co-star Niko Dafereras (who plays the civilian boy who is the victim of a military stop and search), was discovered by Mead at the Lyceum Youth Theatre. Excited to be at his first film shoot, Campbell explains that just a year ago he was at school here and did cadet training in the grounds of Edinburgh Academy, which is giving today's shoot a surreal edge for him.
The man charged with overseeing the shoot is producer Barry Paton, who has organised everything from props and location to the day's timetable. Sniffing from hayfever, Paton says cheerfully: 'This has been easier than most shoots. Everyone, from the BBC props department to the school, has been so helpful, in some cases giving us stuff for free. I think it's just that everyone believes in this project and are so enthusiastic to get involved.'
One Minute Winners, a showcase of all five films, will be shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 21 Aug. See www.edfilmfest.org.uk for details. After this date the films will be available to view on www.list.co.uk