FEATURE GILLIES MACKINNON
ome ﬁlmmakers return time and time again to the formulas that have worked for them in the past. Others square up to the challenges demanded by new material and techniques. Outside of a full retrospective, it’s rare to be able to compare diverse projects within days of each other, but at this year's Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival, audiences will be able to see how. in the past year, director Gillies Mackinnon has moved from one extreme to the other. First comes the International Premiere ofA Simple Twist Of Fate, starring Steve Martin and backed by Touchstone Pictures (a subsidiary of Disney); two days later it’s the W o r l d
'l‘herc's a world of difference between modern Hollywood and the Glasgow housing estates of the l960S, and yet Scottish director Gillies Mackinnon has strode between
the two. He talks to Alan Morrison as his two features — A Simple Twist Of Fate and Small Faces — premiere at the Drambuic lidinbttrgh Film Festival
‘20 The List 18-24 Aug 1995
Premiere of Small Faces. featuring a cast of young Scottish unknowns and shot on a very low budget for BBC Films.
The post-production work on Small Faces will go right up to the eleventh hour. and when the work is unveiled. not even cast and crew are likely to have seen it in its finished form. When I met Mackinnon in Glasgow. he was working on the voice track. recording odd words of dialogue and matching them to a rough cut of the film. Up on the wall of the sound studio, a monitor shows teenage actor lain Robertson being dangled by the ankles over the edge of a Glasgow high-rise; in the booth next door, Robertson is shouting ‘No, no!‘ and making grunting noises when the gang finally show mercy and haul him back onto the terrace.
Small Faces is an e x t r e m c l y p e r s o n a l project for Mackinnon. He wrote it over a
years with h i s brother, Billy. and it delves back into his youth. to a time in the late 605 when G l a s g o w w a s infamous as a city overrun by razor gangs. Perhaps because of this, a few misconceptions have already made their way into print. The film is not called Easter-house, it’s not even set in Easterhouse. and it‘s most certainly not autobiographical. ‘The story is an invented story,‘ the director insists. ‘Howevcr, having said that, it’s all drawn from us growing up at that time, with some things literally taken from what we remember. Billy and I started talking about making this film about four years ago, talking about how much of an effect
it had on you. growing up in that environment of
From wee iaddies (David Walker, Ian Robertson and Joseph McFadden in Small Faces)... to big names (Steve Martin on the set of A Simple Twist Di Fate).
Glasgow and the city in the mid-to-late 603. what it was like being a kid at that time. So that process began. and there were quite a lot of drafts made. and at that point Easter/rouse was the title. relating to an idea of resurrection in the story that‘s not so obviously there any more. In fact. the three brothers in the ﬁlm grow up in a place like Govanhill.’
Unlike other screen depictions of gang violence in Glasgow. notably from the pen of Peter McDougall, Small Faces filters its story through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy - Lex. the youngest of the Mclean brothers. There’s also a brighter side to the dark shadow hanging over the city. brought to the screen literally and metaphorically through two of the boys' interest in drawing and painting. While big brother Bobby is the one whose contacts with the gangs causes problems for the entire family, middle brother Alan is fired up with the desire to go to art school. Young Lex, however, could be pulled either way: he’s wild, but he’s also happy sketching alone in his room. Often, when characters show a passion for art, writing or music in a film. it’s used as a means of escape from the pressures of life around them. Not in this case, however: Mackinnon. who himself went to Glasgow School of Art from 1969—70, reckons that the city’s working-class communities have always had respect for creativity.
‘At that time. the secondary schools were very efficient at channelling those interested in art to art school,‘ he says. ‘When I was there, most of