Dodging the rush hour queues, my pulse races faster than the traffic. I’m on my way to Cineworld, Renfrew Street, said to boast the largest attendance figures of any European cinema. The ground on which it stands is, in my mind, more vivid as the site of Green’s Playhouse and the Apollo Centre, a famed music venue that earned its keep by screening the occasional film.
Here I once went on a doomed double date with my sister and two neds she acquired at Clouds, the rooftop disco that once graced the top floor of the old Playhouse – a deathtrap if there ever was one – where in my early teens I danced to Northern Soul. Unsurprisingly the date that night was a disaster – the film on show was Herbie Rides Again, a below-par follow-up to The Love Bug. Apart from sitting in a vast, empty auditorium all I can recall of that night was watching pigeons swoop in front of the screen, having entered through a broken skylight.
Compared with my memories of Glasgow’s grand picture palaces, entering Cineworld is a banal experience on a dreich Tuesday morning. The understated entrance leads to a low-ceilinged ticketing area, not a box office, to the left of which is a tower of blue-lit escalators that climb the full height of the building. From the lobby I’m instructed to go to the first-floor bar to attend a press launch. It’s a low-key affair. From there, the small gathering makes its way to Screen 1 where after a short presentation I learn that The Devil’s Plantation has been nominated by the membership of BAFTA Scotland for the Cineworld Audience Award.
To say this is a surprise is an understatement because since its completion in February the film has screened three times: at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, at Maryhill Burgh Halls and at a private BAFTA screening at Cineworld in September. Naturally I can’t vouch for my fellow nominees, most of whose films have had numerous public outings. Still, I take a small pride in the fact the audience have appreciated seeing the film, a film written, directed, shot, edited, sound-designed and composed by yours truly for the grand sum of £750. Kudos goes to the film’s narrators, Gary Lewis and Kate Dickie, for providing their time and considerable talent because they believed in the project. My thanks also go to the membership of BAFTA Scotland for watching the film and for their votes – they know who they are, even if I don’t.
At a time when Scottish film is said by some quarters of the media to be enjoying a renaissance, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe indigenous film, for years, decades even, has been poorly served while other sectors – theatre, dance, opera – enjoy national company status and larger subsidies compared to those given to film. I also believe that film is a vital expression of a nation’s culture as well as a potential driver of Scotland’s creative industries both at home and internationally. While I – and my peers – wait in limbo for the outcome of the ongoing Creative Scotland Film Sector Review – postponed until 2014, we’re told – CS has attempted to stem the dissent among Scottish producers by announcing a soon-to-be-appointed Director of Film and TV.
As I write this I’m deep in my next screenplay, a passion project I plan to make next year. As the great filmmaker Robert Bresson once said,
I’ll take this as my mantra over the coming months while I find a way to make the film, however limited my resources. The few films I’ve made over the years have all been blessed with acclaim and awards but none has been easy to bring to the screen. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a great believer in making your own luck. This latest BAFTA nomination is my sixth. With five previous wins to my name, it’s something to be proud of, even if I can’t take it to the bank. It’s enough to know that those who’ve seen The Devil’s Plantation have been captured by it in ways I didn’t anticipate.
If you want to watch the film, now’s your chance – for a short time. Contact me for a promo code to get a free rental from Vimeo On Demand. Alternatively, be generous and stump up the official price of $5.99.
Lastly, I should add that The Devil’s Plantation is due to screen as part of the Cineworld Audience Award at various venues in Scotland over the coming weeks. I’ll let you know more as soon as I hear from BAFTA Scotland.