Monday, 13 March 2017

interview: Grant McPhee

After I reviewed arty Scottish vampire chiller Night Kaleidoscope, director/producer Grant McPhee very kindly answered a few questions by email.

In what way do you consider Night Kaleidoscope to be ‘punk rock cinema’?
"It's more an attitude. We took the  'don't need permission' and DIY approach from punk, rather than the spikey haired three-chord version. And I think that's an attitude that every indie filmmaker should take. Just get out there and do it.

"Additionally, it was a pretty rocky production. I had fantastic production support. I like controlled chaos, so there is always a strong semblance of structure - just with an ability to improvise within that. Unfortunately everything that could go wrong went wrong and it became very much an adapt-to-survive approach. All very seat of your pants. There was no script as such. I was shooting a feature for a friend that finished on the Saturday, we filmed on the Monday and I went onto another feature the following Monday. Just picking up a camera and making it up - which you can tell in a fair few places! It's more an attitude of production - as the film is really a bit prog rock! You can achieve special things working this way, but it does not always work out and what you gain in places you lose in others."

Why has it taken three years to be released?
“Due to the shear amount of other work I had on, the film just sat on the shelf. I just had no time to look at it, or even think about it until I could squeeze in one day in 2015 for a pickup. My day job was taking about 15 hours a day and I had a documentary to finish - we had a TV and large festival slot for that but had not actually finished the film, so every second was taken up. A few days without sleep.

"Without knowing what we had in the can we managed another pickup at the end of 2016, for what we assumed was needed. It was edited fairly sporadically from mid 2016 as our editor had to work on it in between jobs. This was the first time we really saw it, and realised we needed an extra couple of scenes. Again it went a bit 'fly by the seat of your pants' and I ended up covering my hotel room in tinfoil, getting Patrick, Jason and Kitty around and throwing blood all over the place. Not sure what the other guests made of that, but we had no complaints. So, although it was started a long time ago it was only put together very quickly towards the end.

"There was actually very little post production work done. Nearly all the images were made in camera. I just held a couple of pieces of glass at angles in front of the camera. One with food dye on it and the other to reflect or project images onto it. The only real bit of post was a shot of eyes turning white."

How satisfied are you with the way that the film turned out?
“In some respects it's amazing there is a film there. But really nobody outside of your friends or other filmmakers care how little time a film took to make, or how small the budget was. Films only stand on how good they are.

"The film is what I wanted to make; in that respect I'm happy. Overall I just wanted to try something different whether it was a failure or not. Some of it worked and some, well not as much. Mainly not having a story! I think you're certainly right about the repetition, though I was very keen on a visual art film with poetic flourishes. I just maybe put a bit too many in! But I'd rather have a film that got one star where we'd tried something that was different than three stars for something that's like every other film.

"I just have no interest to try and copy anyone, a style or a current genre. And if that means some people hate a film, I'm fine with that! I can see where the flaws are, but that's also something I'm happy with. it's a bit more human. People these days are not allowed to make mistakes and learn. Things are too neat and shiny. Rough edges can be good. I'm most satisfied with what I've learned. That's the way to progress. I'm not afraid of failure, what you learn from it is important to your next movie."

What exactly is a ‘Digital Imaging Technician’?
"Ha, a Digital Imaging Technician - also known as a DIT is a geeky guy who sits next to a DoP at a monitor and manipulates the image to suit the DP's intended look."

What is Tartan Features?
"Tartan Features is part of Year Zero Filmmaking. It's a bit like an indie record label where a collective of film-makers make micro budget feature films that share a certain vision. We've made about 13 so far - it's open to anyone in the world. It just happens to have started in Scotland but you don't have to be from there. We've had a few good successes. One film allowed the director to go on to have a well-funded next feature. At its heart it's just people who get up from their seats and make a film, help grow an industry and learn. Here's a link (click on the pictures for more info on each film) -"

What’s next for you?
"I'm a week away from shooting a new feature. This time something very different  It has a story for starters. People do and say things without 15 minutes of trippy visuals (only five). We're taking two weeks to make it, the budget is more, we're paying everyone. We've got a great cast, script and crew, and I'm very excited. It's a little like Blood on Satan's Claw, Picnic at Hanging Rock and less Night Kaleidoscope. You'll definitely know it's one of my films though. I'll tell you all about it soon!"

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