Director of Broken English
To hear him say it makes it seem all the more cliched, but New Zealand director Gregor Nicholas really did pluck his latest leading lady from obscurity to appear in his debut movie. Broken English.
Menty-two-year-old Aleksandra Vujcic,was studying philosophy and Russian at Zagreb University when she decided to flee the war in her homeland. Eighteen months later, working in a bar in the centre of Auckland. little did she know that she was about to be catapulted to stardom on screen beside Rade Serbedzija. one of former Yugoslavia's biggest stars and an actor whose movies she had grown up watching in Croatia.
A rough. tough, romantic and funny story of love against the odds. Broken English shares the poignancy. and stresses the importance of cultural pride and observance as Once Were Warriors did a couple of years ago. Where it differs is in telling a traditional love story between a handsome Maori chef and a Croatian refugee working as a waitress in the same restaurant. Nina's love for Eddie (Warriors veteran Julian Arahanga) knows no bounds, but the situation is met angrily by her domineering father Ivan (Serbedzija).
’T he casting director convinced me that this girl was a very exciting possibility.’ says Nicholas of his female lead. ’so we got her in to improvise a situation for us, and within a few seconds it was unmistakable that she had this
incredible charisma. She also had a disarming emotional honesty to her, even at that stage. But I was still anxious that she might not be able to withstand the rigours of an intense seven-week shoot, so we did a scene from the movie, where she's confronted by her
'I got Rade to do the same scene in London,’ Nicholas continues, 'then I got the two tapes and cut them together. and the result was just electric. There's Rade in
In at the deep end: Aleksandra Vujcic stars in Broken English
this studio in London and here’s Aleksandra in Auckland, and when you saw them together it broke all the rules of continuity and screen direction - every time there was a cut between them the colour in the background changed - but you didn’t notice because
there was this unmistakable connection between them.
At that stage I knew we’d found our Nina.’ (Anwar Brett I Broken English opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Fri 25 Jul. See review on page 35.
Man of action: Michael Scott-Law
34 THE US? 25 Jul—7 Aug 1997
When Michael Scott-Law gets out the photo-album, it won't be to show you his family portraits, but pictures of him in daring-do Situations. And, more likely than not, you won’t be able to make out which IS him — for Scott-Law is Scotland's only resident stuntman, Until a few years ago, you had to be based near London to get any work, but the increasing regionalisation of TV production and the resurgence of the Scottish film industry have created more consistent opportunities up here.
For Scott-Law, it’s not all stunts however. He has iusr finished working with Alan Rickman as an Action Sequence Consultant on The Winter Guest, shot in Fife. 'It's not an action film,’ he explains, 'but there is that nebulous area where something is not a stunt, but it is not normal action either. One chap falls off a bicycle, and there is a scene where Emma Thompson has to run along a sea wall, which was very high and slippy. It was essential for that scene that she took the right precautions.’
Actual stunt work needs more than bravado: it takes Equity membership
and a good three years' training. Nor, contrary to popular rumour, do the big stars do their own stunts. As Scott-Law points out, 'Your average actor does not know how to fall', and no producer is Willing to risk running over budget because of a broken wrist.
To see Scott-Law in full action mode, you’ll have to wait until the release of the next Bond mowe, Tomorrow Never Dies. In one of the major action sequences, set in Hamburg (but shot in Brent Cross Shopping Centre carpark>. he gets blown up in a car after a chase involvrng much trick driVing and deployment of large weapons.
'It's a very big, magnesium explosion,’ says the stuntman. 'We spent a couple of days setting it up with a specual cage of clear perspex inSide the car. We had two-tier ear plugs, special fire-proof gel and fire-proof underwear. We were in the car for a few seconds afterwards as it came to a natural stop. It was completely engulfed in flames and there was a strange feeling when all the oxygen around about the car burned up and it shrunk.’
Simon Dennis Director of Fake
What do Luc Besson, Nigel Hawthorne and Jonathan Pryce have to do with a student film shot in Edinburgh? Several goodwill donations helped Fake, by Simon Dennis, to come into being, including some 35mm film stock left over from Besson’s The Fifth Element and cash donations from actors Hawthorne and Pryce, to whom the 25-year-old director sent a trailer on video.
Back in May of last year, The List reported on a short thriller called The Big Dip, for which Dennis had outlined dialogue-free sequences on video as preparation for a proper shoot when finance fell into place. Fourteen months on, those rough images seem little more than a pencil sketch against the finished work — now retitled Fake and part of the reason why Dennis has just graduated with a first class degree from Napier University.
'I knew I had to develop it a bit further, broaden_out the palette to make it fit the Quality and scope of the 35mm format,’ he says. 'When you open up to a much bigger location, there's so much more to play with.’
Fake is a tightly constructed thriller about a restaurateur who gets one step ahead of his wife's murder plans by faking his own death, only to face the traditional film noir genre double- Cross. The story's dark mood is perfectly reflected in the locations (a seafront warehouse, a deserted restaurant) and Scott Ward's gorge0usly shadowy photography.
Dennis Will spend the immediate future editing an American documentary series on the Vietnam War and writing new projects, including a short film With Fake actor Niall Fulton He's also trying to secure money to make a 35mm print of Fake to increase its chances of playing foreign film festivals and receiving Cinema screenings.
’The humour of this piece generated the mood and ultimate style,’ Dennis concludes. 'Nothing is taken too seriously, and when we reach the final stages of the film, which takes a dramatic and serious turn, I want the audience to see that nothing is what it seems. Which I suppose is my perception of the dark side of human behaviour.’ (Alan Morrison)
I Fake screens alongside House Of America at the Scottish Screen Edinburgh International Film Festival on Fri 75 and Sun 1 7 Aug. Simon Dennis can be contacted at Small World Films on 0731 228 8646.
DAVID N MCINIYRE