Scotland the brave
Scotland’s Jacobite past is I
brought to the screen in Chasing The Deer. Alan Morrison lines up for battle.
it might not have Mel Gibson or Liam Neeson slipping into period costume and an unfamiliar accent. and it certainly doesn‘t have a budget in excess of $40 million (divide that by a hundred and you'll come closer). but Chasing The Deer does have passion and commitment on its side. An ambitious retelling of the final. tragic days ofthe Jacobite uprising in the early l8th century. its path from initial conception to general release in mainstream cinemas is itself a brave tale of fighting powerful forces against the odds.
Producer and co-writer Bob Carruthers of Cromwell Productions. unable to secure backing from conventional sources of film financing or major studios. turned to small investors. placing adverts in various publications and going round the country to explain the project first hand. Chasing The Deer pic was formed. and over 200 investors who owned individual shares of £l000 were able to appear in the film as extras.
» .. . .\
j attend a gala premiere and hope that.
, sometime in the future. the fun they had i would be balanced by a nice little
; profit. Highlands and Islands Enterprise also threw in a lump sum. while Kodak
contributed film stock. The film itselfshows many of the
flaws ofthe first-time filmmaker —
. limited camerawork. a script that may 3 have looked good on the page but is
awkward in the actors‘ mouths.
" performances by a cast not yet
accustomed to big-screen acting. And
despite its honourable intentions. it will
have a hard time getting a grip on the
; box office now that it's ready to J compete in the commercial market.
()pening directly against the new
i Harrison Ford movie is enough to make
anyone weak at the knees (the film‘s UK-wide release will come in
It may also suffer from a key audience that knows little about the historical
Chasing the Deer: ‘fuIl-blooded battles'
background of the action and who are pushed away from the central. more
human love story contained within by
dialogue that at times is more sugary
than a tartanised shortbread tin
‘ ‘Mary.~ says young hero I'iuan. ‘I think you're the bonnicst wee thing in Scotland'. In the film‘s favour. however. is the fact that. although it never becomes truly engaging. it does build towards a moving climax and a full-blooded battle on Culloden Moor
that is rendered in painstaking detail.
One of ('lrusrng 'l'lre Deer's assets has
been the fervent support of Brian Blessed. who plays the English Major
lilliot. a surrogate father to drummer boy Iiuan. Blessed has just returned from Germany and a mini-series about Catherine the Great in which he plays ‘across between Rasputin and llelmut Kohl‘. So satisfying has he found his experience on ('lmsrng The Deer. that he is due to star as lidward l in
Cromwell Productions' second project. The Bruce. due to start shooting in November; he also plans to make his directorial debut with an intense version of the Scottish Play titled A Drum. A Drum. Mitchel/r Dot/r (‘mne in association with the company.
‘I think Bob Carruthers is a miracle man.‘ he enthuses. ‘lt‘s great that youth speaks so loudly. I look upon Bob as the Kenneth Branagh ofScotland. because he believes in the principle of “neglect the arts at your peril". Art. in its purest form. can be very commercial. but we need new vision and Bob has that vision. From the top of Scotland. right down to Land‘s End. this is a ﬂoating museum -- not antiquated. but full of mysteries. full of very talented people. and young people crying out to do their own film projects.
‘At the end of the day. this may be the
best film on (‘ulloden in the fact that it
i just shows ordinary people with no
“great acting" going on. ()rdinary people casually being drawn into an army. lighting Scot against Scot. the banality of it all. Scotland has a
f fantastic history. it's full of the most
amazing. colourful stories of kings and queens and characters who make Billy Connolly look grey. The film can intellectualise about Jacobites. about Papists. about religion or politics or warfare — but in the final analysis. it's about those clansrnen who stand on a hill and fight against the odds and die. They could have run and run until they hit the bloody Shetlands. but they stood and they fought. That is raw courage. and you have to tip your hat to courage.‘
Chasing The Deer opens in Sen/land on l’rrtltrv /().
I Screenworks: Up to fifteen new short film and video productions by Scottish filmmakers will receive support from Glasgow Film and Video Workshop's Sereenrvm'ks awards this year. Now in its third year. the Glasgow Distn’ct Council-funded scheme encourages participants to take part in an intensive two-day induction programme. including practical workshops and ‘surgeries‘ with experienced filmmakers. GFVW will provide the selected projects with free stock. equipment hire. facilities. production expenses. promotion and distribution. In past years. more than half the participants have gone on to gain employment in the film and TV industry. win artists' placements or attend film school. Application forms are available from GFVW. 35 Avenuepark Street. Glasgow G20 8T8 (041 946 3008). and the closing date is 30 September.
I Warner Bros Studio Shop: Sylvester‘s up on the catwalk and the
other Looney Tunes characters are parading in all their fashion glory when
Scotland‘s first Warner Bros Studio Store opens in Glasgow on Wednesday I4 September. ()pposite Princes Square
Shopping Centre at 57~~59 Buchanan
Street. the store will stock rncrcbandisc — T—shirts. towels. watches. jackets.
I right up to limited edition sequined
‘ evening wear — featuring cartoon
favourites such as Bugs Bunny. Daffy Duck and Roadrunner. as well as l)(‘ Comics‘ Batman and Superman. To
keep younger shoppers occupied. a
huge video wall will continually run cartoons and movie clips. while
displays include Bugs. Ta]. and Wile E. Coyote taking part in their own Highland Games. Fans can admire exhibitions of original hand-painted animation ccls. while wannabe animators can colour in their favourite
7 characters at the Paint Station.
I Stepping Down: After more than 25
years with the Scottish Film Council. latterly as director. David Bruce is
i retiring this October. A former director of the Edinburgh Film Festival. Bruce
, joined SFC as Assistant Director in
I969 and was a key figure when the
Council became an independent agency following a Scottish ()ffice review in
the 1980s. Also moving on is current Film Festival Director. Penny Thomson. who wishes to return to her first love of film production after three years in the post. Successors to both will be announced in the near future.
All tied up
One of several new Scottish films that deserve wider exposure following their first screenings at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival was director Steven Simpson’s feature debut Ties,
which manages to transcend its low- budget limitations and deliver an intriguing film with surprisingly classy production values. The film tells of a young man’s search for his biological parents after his adoptive mother and father die in a car crash, and the dark and disturbing path he has to follow when he discovers that he was
conceived by rape.
Simpson started Ties in 1993, having just spent two years working for Roger
Corman’s Concorde Pictures in the States. His film retains some
; Cormanesque elements, such as the
rapid shooting time, and features four
Corman crew members from LA on the
f technical credits of a film that was
i actually shot in Aberdeen. However,
Simpson denies that it is the kind of film his mentor would make, pointing
' out that his material isn’t exploitative and his camera doesn’t move in the
; What he did pick up working at
Concorde Pictures was how to make
films that aren’t confined by their
budgets. ‘If you spend more time
sponsored by BACARDI BLACK
Steven Simpson developing better scripts,’ he says, ‘that script will turn into a better film. You can make it for little money and still get a quality film at the end.’ In this vein, Simpson has already completed another six feature film scripts and has a number of others at various stages of production.
Back in his native Scotland, but imbued with a bizarre combination of West-Coast drawl and Aberdonian intonation, Simpson professes no strong desire to stay home. His is a
l debut feature that suffers
occasionally from self-defeating over- ; ambition, but it is gripping and
f thought-provoking, and should
establish him as a director to watch
. out for. (Mark Hadice)
The List 9—22 September 109417