Eddie Harrison goes down to the woods today and meets the talents behind a new Scottish fantasy film
‘The elevator pitch for Gamerz is that’s it’s a bittersweet love-triangle set in Glasgow University’s Dungeons and Dragons society,’ says one-time role-playing geek and now film actor, writer and director Robbie Fraser. His low-budget Scottish feature is finally getting a cinema release, a year after being shown on television – an unusual situation that owes its roots to the film’s conception.
‘Scottish Screen were running this scheme with STV called New Found Films, and making Gamerz for them offered me a low mental-overhead way to get started on a new project,’ says Fraser. ‘It was meant to be a competition, but it didn’t feel like a cut-throat competition to us, maybe because we weren’t being horribly rejected.’
With a paltry £300,000 budget at his disposal, Fraser admits, ‘There was no way to get a cast who would put bums on seats.’ He decided to call on his local talent pool to portray the weird and wonderful world of gaming.
‘My character, Lenny Mitchell, is a lovable rogue,’ says actor James Young. ‘He wants to get involved in the game because he saw the triple bill of Lord Of The Rings after taking acid. There’s also a love spark between him and another character, Marlyn, which drives him a bit mad.’
Co-star Johnny Austin describes his character Davey as a ‘hardcore geek, who, together with Hank [Ross Sutherland] makes up half of a comedy duo, the film’s C3PO and Chewbacca.’
Apart from the constant use of certain profane terms, there’s not much specifically Scottish about Gamerz, but Fraser believes that his film taps into the same vein of naturalistic comedy as Gregory’s Girl.
‘I would definitely place it in the [Bill] Forsythian tradition. While it’s a teen movie it’s not a piss-take but a humanistic, character driven comedy.
I used to play Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager, and I knew that world would be perfect for an offbeat, quirky little film,’ laughs Fraser.
‘We’re developing a sequel set in North America with a Scottish protagonist, and a potential spin-off called I’m a Gamer Too! Or maybe the sequel could be called Gamerz: Elf and Safety with a spin-off TV show called Goblinoid.’
Since Gamerz and Adrian Mead’s Night People were made in 2005, the New Found scheme has been abandoned by Scottish Media Group and Scottish Screen, the latter also dismantling the Tartan Shorts initiative which had been intended as a springboard for Scottish filmmakers. But Fraser sees plenty of positives as he prepares for the film’s release in Scotland.
‘The whole thing has a really optimistic vibe: the characters are moving on and up, and at the end of the film, educational establishments are seen as the way forward and even a character like Lennie is brought round to the benefits of learning,’ he says. ‘The whole experience reminds me of a favourite expression of the producers which we’ve learned over a couple of years of hanging out in Cannes, begging people to buy our film. They refer to us not as bottom-feeders, which is often how we feel, but as “ankle-biters”. It’s all about your orientation, it’s about finding out which way you’re biting.’
Gamerz, Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow and Cineworld Fountainpark, Edinburgh from Fri 22 Feb. Gamerz will be released on DVD in July.