Brek Taylor and Elizabeth Mitchell discuss their adaptation of Jane Rogers' Island
Island, based on a novel by Jane Rogers, stars Colin Morgan and Natalie Press in a dark tale of abandonment and murder.
Give us a brief synopsis of the film in your own words.
Island is about a woman who seeks revenge for a childhood spent unloved in care. She tracks down the mother who abandoned her and rents a room, incognito, in her house on a remote Scottish island. On her first day there, she discovers a half-brother, Calum, the sheltered islander son her mother kept. She becomes conflicted as her murderous intentions toward her mother are upset by her increasing affection for her sibling, who shares her love of storytelling. We call it a ‘fairytale thriller’.
What made you choose Jane Rogers’ novel as the source material for your first film?
EM: It immediately ‘spoke’ to me when I first picked it up in a bookshop in the States. What drove this young woman, my own age, to such matricidal rage, and what would save her? The simplicity of the story, told with only three characters against just one isolated setting, was boldly, inherently cinematic.
BT: I was struck by the darkness of the story and the bleak outlook of our eventual heroine. I am generally drawn to stories with more light and humour to them, yet was intrigued by Island. Hidden amongst the twisted plot and complex themes were small glints of beauty and innocence: Calum’s naivity, the birthday cake, their passion for telling stories … I was curious how to recreate that balance of dark and light on screen.
Was Jane involved in translating the book to screen?
Jane has been incredibly supportive throughout the process, particularly at around draft two of the script when she went through it with a fine toothed comb making both detailed and ‘broad brush stroke’ suggestions. She’s also helped with fundraising. Yet she’s also let us just get on with it as filmmakers so in many respects she’s been the perfect collaborator.
We’ve been amazed and delighted by Colin’s fans and their support for Island. We’re not surprised by their affection for him, as he could not be a more charming man and intelligent, thoughtful actor. As for the fans’ reaction to the film, we hope it will give them a chance to see just how diverse an actor he is. He was drawn to the part of Calum for that very reason.
Did filming in remote areas pose any particular problems?
Oh absolutely! Filming on an island in the middle of winter posed a huge number of challenges, namely: lack of mobile phone signal, sub zero temperatures, two (maximum) ferries per day to the mainland, four hours (maximum) of daylight and limited accommodation options. On the bright side, at least there were no midgies!
Do you have your eye on any other film projects for the near future?
BT: Yes, we are busy developing My Soviet Kitchen, a brilliant post Soviet rom-com from the book by Amy Spurling.
EM: I’ve just finished writing an original WW2 epic about the Bismarcks, and we’re co-producing The French Concession, a Shanghai-based expat drama.
Are there any other films at the festival you’re desperate to see?
Island, Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow, Sun 20 Feb, 1.30pm, and Mon 21 Feb, 8.45pm.