1980s Glasgow: As his family disintegrates around him, the only thing on eight-year-old Jonjo’s mind is getting his prized He Man figure for Christmas.
Hi Russell, thanks for talking to TNC, how is your 2020 going?
All good thanks. Winter is a good time to get some writing done.
Congratulations on having Lucky Star selected to British Shorts, what does it mean to you to be part of such a great showcase for British Films?
Thanks, it's cool to screen Lucky Star at British Shorts and be among so many great shorts. Shout out in particular to MJ by Jamie Delaney and Boys' Night by James Price.
Lucky Star was produced as part of the Scottish Film Talent Network Scottish Shorts 2018 scheme, what was this experience like for you?
It was cool to get the commission because it's so competitive. We'd applied with a project the previous year and didn't get commissioned although we went on and made that short independently (Starting Over).
I think having executive producers and commissioners giving feedback on your short script and then later your film in the edit really sharpens your concentration. Everyone wants to make the best film they can although you have to balance sometimes competing opinions with your own take on the material.
How important are opportunities like this for independent filmmakers?
I think it's important because it’s extremely hard to get a budget to shoot anything. I think it’s good to engage with commissioners and get feedback on your work. Also, if you don't get a commission first time round it’s worth another shot. Equally it’s important to go out and make films independently.
Can you talk about Lucky Star, how did the film come about?
The producer David Neilson and me had made a short called Inside Out about a young girl in the care system at Christmas so we knew we wanted to do period short set at Christmas. We also wanted make a film about a family going through economic hardship in 1980s Glasgow during the Thatcher years because there's a lot of parallels between then and now.
" ...filmmakers about sound during the labs which was inspiring and influenced some of our thinking about the sound design."
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Lucky Star is about the moment of crisis where a young mother decides she has to go it alone with her family; and, we also see the moment a father realises he’s lost his family through alcoholism. It’s also about a young boy’s perspective of seeing his family disintegrate and be put back together. Because it’s Christmas he really wants a He-Man figure from Santa which is the sweet part of the story.
Do any of your own experiences make it into your film projects?
Yeh for sure, this one is based on personal memories and reflections of growing up in Glasgow.
What would you say have been some of the biggest lessons you've learned during and after making Lucky Star?
I learned to be a bit more ruthless in the edit on this film and cut stuff that was detracting from the story. Although we loved certain scenes they were comical and sort of out of synch with the tone.
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
On the sound design, working with pure silence can be scary: Keith Duncan, the sound designer, and me are still a bit freaked out when we hear the sections of the film with pure silence.
SFTN arranged for Stuart Wilson to come and talk to the filmmakers about sound during the labs which was inspiring and influenced some of our thinking about the sound design.
"Once that’s done, I think there is a positive take on single motherhood in there underneath the drama."
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yeh I’ve always loved writing, reading and films. I taught myself how to write scripts then started to direct. Later I realised I love working with actors, that’s why Lucky Star was a buzz because the cast were great to work with.
How much has your approach to your films changed since you started out?
I spending more time getting organised and preparing now than I used to. I also re-write a lot more now than I used to and I’m a bit more ruthless in the edit now.
What are you currently working on?
We are developing a few Scottish features and planning to shoot another short in the spring when the daylight finally comes back to Scotland.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Lucky Star?
We wanted to put the audience right among the drama as it unfolds both from the parents and the son’s experience. Once that’s done, I think there is a positive take on single motherhood in there underneath the drama.