Run – Interview with Scott Graham

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Run is set in Fraserburgh, young men dream of escapism through late-night drag races. Finnie used to be one, but now he works at the fish factory and it’s his son’s turn to race. Until one night he steals the boy’s car for one last joyride.

The film is written and directed by Scott Graham (Shell, Iona) and Flickfeast spoke to Scott at the Glasgow Film Festival about the film’s inspirations, Bruce Springsteen, learning Doric and the importance of film festivals for independent filmmakers.

Flickfeast – What was the driving force behind the idea for Run?

Scott – I’d wanted to make a documentary about the racing culture up in the North East and I was speaking to young people, mostly teenagers, about that and the music they listen to. The young people were all into rap, hip-hop, Eminem. Then I heard about one of their dads shutting himself away in his garage, listening to his Springsteen records and I made the connection that generations of men and women look to America for a hero or a voice about how they’re feeling. It made me revisit Springsteen. I was obviously aware of him but I’m not sure I knew his songwriting that well. It’s not hard to see why the people of Fraserburgh connect with songs about growing up in a small town, racing cars, falling in love young, getting pregnant young, trying to not end up like your parents but ending up like them anyway. I began to see the project more as a drama rather than a documentary. I never made the documentary, but I did make it as my first short film about 15 years ago now. At that stage it was all local people. The idea of finding actors who could take on that dialect just seemed impossible. It just scratched at what I was trying to do so I was lucky to be able to revisit it now.

Flickfeast – There is a universal appeal to Springsteen’s music that anyone can find themselves in. Recently we had Blinded By The Light and now Run. Coupled with the driving element, your film evokes a real sense of Americana. Like in the Fifties, American Graffiti-esque, when teenagers would just drive around and listen to music. Aberdeen, where you grew up, had the same with boy racers going “Bouley Bashing” (local term for racing down one of Aberdeen’s main Boulevard). Was that a conscious influence?

Scott – The Americana thing started to become obvious to me, not just through Springsteen’s music but through certain films that I was watching. I started to get into classic films from the Seventies like Badlands, Five Easy Pieces, Vanishing Point and then I could recognise certain characters, landscapes and themes in where I was from. The nighttime driving stuff, we heightened some of the lighting and pushed some of the neon but there is quite a dramatic shift in how the town looks in the daytime compared to the night. It’s quite squat and grey in the day and dark with these pops of neon at night. It is authentic and takes on an American Graffiti feel at night. When you are in that bubble in the car, driving around listening to music, I wonder if there is a consciousness in the people doing it that there is an escapism, that you feel like you are in a film… probably an American film. I could understand the appeal of feeling like you are going somewhere but actually you’re just going in circles.

Flickfeast – It features similar themes to your other films Shell and Iona. Where there is that sense of feeling trapped by a place or family and the desire to escape. Mark Stanley perfectly encapsulates that sense of frustration and conflict. How did you cast him in the role?

Scott – A friend of mine saw him in Clio Barnard’s Dark River at LFF and we were casting at the time and I couldn’t go and there was no way to see the film but just on that recommendation I took note. She said when you are watching him it’s like he’s not in control of his anger and emotions and it doesn’t seem like acting and that was definitely a side of Finnie. When he came in, he just genuinely seemed to be that guy… you weren’t shaping or building the character, you were just having a conversation with that person. I immediately liked him for it and went on faith he could learn the more technical aspects of the role. He went up two weeks early, worked in the factory filleting fish, learned the driving route and picked up the dialect. I really got lucky with him.

Flickfeast – Being from Aberdeen and the North East, I know how specific and tricky the Doric dialect can be. Jude Law famously tried and failed in Black Sea to the point where he said he probably was welcome back anytime soon…

Scott – Ha Ha, yeah, that was a bad one.

Flickfeast – Well Mark nailed it and so did the rest of the cast including the women in his life played by Amy Manson and Marli Siu. How did you cast them, did they read opposite Mark to ensure the right chemistry?

Scott – We were looking at people in tandem. Casting Finnie first and then build the family around him. Marli came in and spoke about how nice it was to go on dates in cars because you don’t have to look at each other, you can just drive and look ahead. I wanted her to be perfect because she completely understood the character and as soon as she started to read it was obvious that it was her. Her character sort of turns Finnie’s night upside down. He wants to go racing and the last thing he wants is his son’s pregnant girlfriend in the car but she’s got her own motivations for staying in the car and she provides a lot of life and someone to provoke Finnie emotionally… Having Kelly there allows him to relive his youth. With Amy she’s from Aberdeen and came in spoke about the character like she’d known her her whole life. She read with Mark and did the scene in the garage and ended up collapsing through the boxes and Mark ended up with a bloody elbow! It was really nice because I knew I had my film there and then. And I must mention Anders, he probably had the furthest to come in terms of the dialect and he did great. It was his first film.

Flickfeast – Was the town of Fraserburgh welcoming for the shoot?

Scott – There was a lot of goodwill towards us after the short film. We screened the short for everyone in the local town hall after we finished it. We were welcomed back. I think it must have been a bit disruptive because we were there filming the whole of night so once everyone had gone to bed it was fine. You would start filming at coming home time (5pm/6pm) and people had to be a bit patient with us. We definitely had a lot of local support. Local people are in the film. Locations and stuff. We couldn’t have made the film without that support there.

Flickfeast – Have they seen the finished film yet? What has the reception been like?

Scott – A couple of people came down to Glasgow. They had been through this right of passage themselves and were impressed by the authenticity and the dialect. That was something that they hadn’t expected and told us we were now honorary Brochers (name for people from Fraserburgh). Thanks to the guys at Indy Cinema it has two screenings on the 14th March in the local town hall.

Flickfeast – “The Broch” is having a wee moment just now between this film and BBC documentary recently called Fish Toon about the trawlermen working out of the fishing port. For many people, their view of Scotland in TV and Film can end at Glasgow and Edinburgh so how important is it for the North East and filmmakers to shine a spotlight on these areas and what support do they need?

Scott – I honestly think you need to go back to the first hour of The Deer Hunter to find something comparable in cinema to the North East of Scotland. These harbour towns and communities are incredibly cinematic in terms of characters and locations. The period stuff done up there like Sunset Song that’s fine but there is a lot more to offer in terms of contemporary stories. Integration has really worked up there, the reality is that most people working in the fish factories are from Europe and they stay there, contribute to the economy, etc. I think there are may different stories to be told about that area, that would resonate across the UK and wider. Mark (Stanley) told me a phrase that I like, “The universal is in the specific”. The more specific the setting is, the more accessible and universal your story can be. In terms of support, I found a lot of support. Creative Scotland were good. BFI were good, BBC. I would say it is more about the writers wanting to tell stories about that area.

FlickfeastShell premiered at the London Film Festival. Iona closed Edinburgh and Run has screened at Tribeca, London and Glasgow. How important is the role of film festivals for a filmmaker and film such as Run?

Scott – I can’t imagine what it would be like without them. Each of my features have had UK distribution so they would have gone to cinemas and would have found an audience but at the festivals I have connected and interacted with audiences and that is an essential part and it is why you do it. It is why you make a film, you make it for an audience.

Run is released on DVD and Video on Demand from May 25th by Verve Pictures.

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