SHALLOW GRAVE FEATURE
meant that the ﬁlm was given the green light early in 1993. Fifteen per cent of its £1 million budget came from the newly established Glasgow Film Fund, with the result that, after a week of location shooting in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh, the bulk of the ﬁlm was shot in a purpose-built set in a warehouse in Anniesland Industrial Estate.
‘To me the whole experience of Cannes was a big trip. I spent three days in a beautiful town being bought lunch and being told I was wonderiul which, as a life experience, is extremely agreeable.’
‘There was no single moment when anyone stood up and said, ‘Right, let’s make a major motion picture”,’ Hodge admits. ‘It was more a gradual process. Andrew and I used to say that a lot of people in the industry treated us like twelve-year-olds — not because we were particularly young. but because we were new. People didn’t think that the script could be made or wouldn’t accept that the ﬁlm would ever sell.’
But sell it did, ﬁrst of all to PolyGram for distribution in Britain, the US and a handful of European territories. This was just the boost the ﬁlm needed before its all-important unveiling at a private market screening at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. ‘1 was a bit disappointed we didn’t get into the Ofﬁcial Festival,’ Hodge says, ‘but it worked to our favour eventually because people thought they were discovering the ﬁlm rather than having it thrust upon them as a British entry in the main competition. We also got a really good review in Variety [the ﬁlm trade bible called it ‘a tar-black comedy that zings along on a wave of visual and scripting inventiveness . . . pure moviemaking’] so to me the whole experience of Cannes was a big trip. I spent three days in a beautiful town being bought lunch and being told I was wonderful which, as a life experience, is extremely agreeable.
‘The screening at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival was much more real because it was an opportunity for me to show the film to people I’d worked with. family and friends. And in January, we’re taking it to Sundance, which is the hippest festival in North America. If there’s such a thing as a Sundance type of ﬁlm, that’s what I wanted — an independent, crossover movie, narrative-driven, with a bit of excitement, non-Hollywood dialogue, the use of violence in a dramatic context, and humour. There are quite a lot of people practising this mix today, in varying degrees — Hal Hartley. Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers.’
If Tarantino was a conscious role model, Hodge never thought he’d take the connection one step further by appearing in his own ﬁlm, but Danny Boyle reckoned a small cameo was a good way to keep his writer occupied during the shooting period. Cast as the pedantically efﬁcient Detective Constable Mitchell, Hodge is basically the straight man to a lugubrious Ken Stott. Conceding that he may not have mastered the art of acting, Hodge is content to forget his debut as a quirky, one-off footnote. After all, it’s enough of a challenge to juggle two careers, without adding a third.
‘ln 1992, I did about nine months of locums,’ he explains, ‘then last year it was six months and this year just three months. i didn’t do very much writing at all while I was working as a doctor; it was more during the time I took off. But I still don’t see myself winding down permanently. l’m not in love with the whole life of writing, although it’s been an opportunity to see a different world. 1 don’t like meetings with a lot of, basically, insincere Soho ﬁlmmaker wanker types. I used to think that people in medicine were prone to talking a lot of shit, but that was before 1 met people in the ﬁlm business.’
There are other writing projects on the go, however. A short, called The Last Ten Minutes, was made in conjunction with MacDonald’s Figment Films production company and
David ( Christopher Eccleston), Juliet (Kerry Fox) and Alex (Ewan McGregor)
Glasgow-based Rain Dog Theatre Company. Hodge has also completed a few drafts of a new original script, a ‘romantic comedy thriller’, and along with MacDonald and Boyle, he’s collaborating on an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting. ‘Trainspotting is a brilliant book,’ he reckons, ‘and the closer you get to it, the better it is. Once you get beyond the language, there’s a lot of emotion. It doesn’t have a narrative, and that’s attractive in a book, where you’re compelled to read because of the characters and the language and the individual incidents; but cinema audiences tend to want something more. A ﬁlm like Slacker would be a good model for Trainspotting. but I’d like to structure it around some loose chronological format.’
‘l’m not in love with the whole life of writing . . . I used to think that people in medicine were prone to talking a lot of shit, but that was before I met people in the film business.’
When Shallow Grave rolls across the country’s cinemas early next year, it would no doubt be possible for Hodge, if he wanted, to put medicine behind him and ﬁnd permanent work as a scriptwriter. Jokingly, I suggest that Casualty might be one option, and this unearths a surprise admission. ‘1 once wrote a treatment for an episode of Dr Finlay when they were planning the ﬁrst series, but they turned it down. It had quite a good story, and opened with a shot of the inside of someone’s mouth as their tonsils were ripped out and the screen ﬁlled with blood. The ﬁnal scene was Finlay drilling a hole in someone’s head to get a blood clot out. All in all, there was maybe a bit too much gore for 9pm viewing.’ Cl Shallow Grave opens in Scotland and London on Friday 6 January, before going wide across the UK three weeks later.
The List 16 December 1994—12 January 1995 13