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netribution > features > interview with alison peebles > page two

How did you as director, influence the script for Nan?
Hmm, in discussion with Colin, we changed the ending and made some cuts. The essence of the story remained the same but we shaped some of it differently. Some things needed heightening.

I am not one of these directors who wants to put "A Film By" in the credits. I don’t want to take the writer’s story away from them. How can a film be "By" anyone? It doesn’t make sense to me: there are so many people contributing. But the director (and often the producer) is the one person who’s there from the beginning with the script, until the film is done and dusted and you can do no more with it.

The budget for the Newfoundland films is tight. Did you shoot on film?

No way: The budget was £45,000, so we shot on DV. We begged, borrowed and stole to get that film made. Colin and I worked Nan for a year. We didn’t manage to pay ourselves and no one really made much money out of it. But if you have a good script you find that you can get a good team willing to sign up to make the film. I had a fantastic team and being behind the camera was a great experience.

Your Tartan Short "Tangerine" has just premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It’s a story based around the Forth Railway bridge.
We shot in the first week of May and we had fantastic weather. In the film, the bridge looks just beautiful! The way the sun hits it at a certain time of the day, it just glows tangerine. In some scenes of the film it looks so incredible you’d think it was a backdrop. We were so lucky as the next week the haar rolled in and the bridge vanished for days on end.

Everybody in Scotland loves that bridge.
We used a house in North Queensferry belonging to a lovely man called Bob Cubin, who’s a local historian. He was a fount of stories about the bridge. From his garden, you look right down the length of the bridge over to South Queensferry. We used his bedroom, his living room and his garden. His whole house was covered with pictures of the bridge

And "Tangerine" is about a man who’s spent his life painting it.
Yes – up there in all weather’s with his bucket of orange paint. For forty years. And then he has to retire, and he doesn’t want to, because the bridge has been his life – almost his mistress. But here he is, sitting at home with his wife, no hobbies, no friends outside work, and he doesn’t know what do do with himself and she doesn’t know what to do with him either. Forty years of parallel lives.

This sounds like my Dad.
I think retirement is a big, big thing for Scottish men of that age. And for the women married to them too. And people don’t know how to talk about the ordinary deep things in life.

In Scotland?
Maybe everywhere outside of America! Jerry Springer – my God!
Relationships after retirement – there’s a bigger story there.

How did you find the move to directing film?
Well, Obviously I’m interested in different things than some 22-year old guy fresh out of film school. But people crave different stories.

How does your theatre background help?
People can be a bit "sniffy" about a theatrical background.
I don’t mean to be dismissive, but if you’re 22 and straight our of film school – what do you know about character and stories?
After 25 years in the theatre that’s what I do know about – character and story. And I’ve always had a very visual way of directing and seeing a story.

You said you like to work collaboratively – how does that work in the making of a film?
I work with the writer. Although Colin was upset with "Nan" and "Tangerine" where we had to cut things, I absolutely wanted to fulfil his idea of the script. I didn’t want to take it away from him. So the story comes from the writer.
Character very much depends on casting and that’s my job as director.
The look of the film and the design of the scenes is also my job – in conjunction with my team – the director of photography, Production Designer, assistant director and so on. They have skills I don’t have.

What are your hopes for "Tangerine"?
A production of a play only lives in your mind. When I did "Burning Bright" at the Tramway – it was a huge effort - months of work and a great triumph. The reviews were spectacular, the audience said they’d never forget it: but after the ‘curtain falls’ that’s it – it’s over and gone.
I hope "Tangerine" will have a life after it is shown on television. I’d like to see it play at Festivals around the world.

I talked to Nigel Smith, producer of the Tartan Short "Cry for Bobo" and he stressed the importance of making sure a film gets seen, not just made.
That’s the key thing – getting the film distributed.
The producer is so important. There are loads of films in development, fewer get made and even fewer get seen. A good producer will make sure the film gets seen. If a small film doesn’t take off it doesn’t get the chance to build. The costs of prints, marketing, posters are huge.

What are your plans for the future?
I’ll shortly be playing Juno in "Juno and the Paycock" and I’m appearing in "Playboy o the Western World".
I am very, very keen to get more experience behind the camera. Colin and I have other ideas for films and are working on an idea for a feature. I’d love to do some directing for television as well as move up to directing a feature.

How was Tangerine received at the festival?

There was a great reponse to ‘tangerine’- people found it very moving, very human and funny. – I think all ages can relate to it – either through their own personal experience or because of someone they know

Where can Netribution readers see "Tangerine"?
It will be broadcast on BBC Scotland later in year – but I don’t know the date yet – either October or November. I hope it may get distributed with a feature – that’d be excellent and of course go to festivals.

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