Anyone following the fortunes of The Devil’s Plantation – film and app – may be glad to know of the positive responses so far. Foremost is the news this week (March 8) that the app was selected by Stuart Dredge at The Guardian as a top pick, who commented astutely on the rise of interactive storytelling. It also received a five-star rating from Apps Magazine so kudos to my indomitable partner, Owen, for all his hard work.
It’s also worth mentioning that the film, fresh from its outing at the Glasgow Film Festival, has been temporarily removed from this site, so apologies to anyone trying to download it. The original aim was to launch it through the DIY distribution website, Distrify, to coincide with the screening, but due to some behind-the-scenes wisdom I’ve been advised to withdraw the film to help its chance of future festival selection. This is a surprise, since I never imagined a cinematic life for TDP beyond its recent one-off screening, which only happened because of a passing remark made by the festival’s co-director, Allan Hunter, a couple of years ago. “If you ever have anything you want to show…”
At the time I paid little attention. Back then I was preoccupied with two things – one, trying to find a life for a screenplay I wrote while living in Edinburgh, a passion project optioned but unanimously hated by the readers at Scottish Screen, prompting my swift withdrawal and much wound-licking. Two – and something I still find surreal – was attempting to write a vehicle for TV comedian and actor, Ford Kiernan, but which proved a dead-end when he got distracted when cast in a BBC drama, Field of Blood. Sadly I never heard from him again.
After the TDP screening, some said they thought I had made something worthwhile. Others positively loved it. Encouraged, I rushed a copy to one of the most respected producers in the UK and beyond, the legendary Keith Griffiths, a man involved with – in my opinion – some of the most important films made in Britain. I already knew about Radio On, the Patrick Keiller films and Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital. By pure coincidence, recently I watched a DVD of his Palme d’Or winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. If anyone could understand what I’ve made, surely he would. So it’s hugely gratifying to know not only did he get it, but has since offered me invaluable advice regarding future festival screenings.
The life of a film is a mystery. Once made, it can last forever. On the festival circuit however, its lifespan is finite, usually no more than two years. With no distributor or sales agent, it’s almost impossible to gain any visibility, with a premium placed on conventionally-financed, conventionally-produced works made by bankable talent. Yet there’s always a chance of a film made outside the system of being selected. Indeed, some festival directors and programmers relish discovering a hidden gem in the morass of movies doing the rounds, thus creating enough of a gap between certainty and improbability for an obscure film to slip through.
With more festivals hosting artist and experimental films, the odds of securing a slot ought to get shorter, though I was interested in a piece on the BFI website about the politics surrounding premieres, with London and Edinburgh insisting on a UK premiere as a condition of entry. This effectively rules out TDP for any future domestic outing, not that I had planned on submitting in the UK when more adventurous festivals exist in mainland Europe and the US. In the meantime the emails will get sent and the phone calls will get made in the hope – however unlikely – that someone, somewhere will choose it. The trick is to travel hopefully.