Flirting with filmmaking
I am primarily a writer. That is how I define myself first and foremost. But I am also a filmmaker. It's like an itch that needs to be scratched every few years, so here is a brief update of some of the projects I've been quietly working on in the filmmaking arena.
Saviour of our Streets
Saviour came about as a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that I ran for my last live-action short film, Water Rats. We had raised more than we needed for that film, and I wanted to use the funds to create a new short film that continued the theme and message of the previous one, which was about animal cruelty and animal rights. I put out a script call and offered free script coverage to those who applied.
One of the scripts was called Saviour of our Streets by a writer called Callum Brown. I thought it was a solid short with a wholesome, upbeat message, which immediately separated it from the dark ending of Water Rats. Callum took my notes and came back with a much stronger draft, and I think it was at that point that I wanted to make it.
CUT TO: Four years later, and we're close to completion. It has been a long journey as I tried and failed to film it as a live-action short. Unfortunately, with one of the main characters being a dog, we simply did not have the budget. We came very close at one point, with a cast and crew assembled, but the Scottish weather and Covid thwarted it.
However, I did not want the project to simply die, and I had always wanted to do animation (as an aside, I have a feature film script I desperately want to make as an animated feature in a futuristic, Studio Ghibli style). After a couple of false starts, I met Graeme and Drew at Landing Light Studios in Stirling. I was attracted to their work not only because of their talent or the fact that they were Scottish, but after a conversation with Graeme, it became obvious that these guys are as hard-working and passionate about filmmaking as I am.
Work started on the animated version of Saviour of our Streets earlier this year and has been progressing steadily since. This week, I was fortunate enough to watch a very early cut, and it has been worth the effort. We hope to have a finished version by the end of the year, so you will hopefully see it at a film festival near you in 2024.
Dead Man Talking
At the start of the year, I started working on a few screenplay ideas with an eye to directing them myself. The creative challenge with these stories was to come up with something that could be made over a short period of time on a microscopic budget, which means very few locations and characters. Out of those ideas, I took two and developed them into a treatment. The first, called Ghosts of Schiehallion, didn't quite work as I'd hoped.
The second was Dead Man Walking, which is a revenge thriller that takes place over the course of one night in Glasgow. It was a lot of fun to write, with a lot of twists and turns and really up the tension as the characters navigate the Glasgow underworld.
I'm hoping to have an extended treatment (40-50 pages) completed by Christmas, and then develop that into a screenplay. I've seen other filmmakers who have managed to produce features for £10,000 and that seems like a realistic goal for this script, through a mix of my own funds and crowdfunding.
I think it may be useful, for both screenwriters and filmmakers, for me to document the entire process, which I hope to do in future blog posts. For now, I'll leave you with a mock poster I created to try and capture the theme and tone of the film.