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netribution > features > interview with david paul baker > page one
"Go West Young Man!" was the traditional advice to the entrepreneur in search of fame and fortune and for Scots, that meant a trip across the pond. Two years ago, David Paul Baker decided he was going to make a movie. He took the Go West advice, quite literally and headed West to shoot it. It is a feature, a caper comedy, high values shot, with the help of an old bus, between LA and Vegas. When the credit cards ran out, he started again. This time he got other people to pay for it.
Now his baby is in the can and he has a UK distributor. Pasty Faces hits the circuits in the Spring. Netribution’s Northern Editor James MacGregor meets the actor who created his own screen role and then directed himself in his own movie…….

| by james macgregor |
| photos from the film|
| in scotland |
Writer, director and lead actor…that’s quite a calling card for a filmmaker David, but there’s more….a low budget caper, guerrilla style, but shot across the pond. What’s your personal history in film? What does your filmmakers CV actually say?
Gisa job!!….My background was in acting for years. I lived in London for eight years in a Withnail and I kind of existence for most of it like a lot of us out there. Bit roles in TV and a lot of experimental shorts, no budget features where you got paid in Mars Bars!I was very self destructive like a lot of people in this industry.If I got offered a sitcom, a soap, or a silly role in a silly film, I would walk! I was an artist! I only wanted to do dark, important, preaching work. I was an artist that had to wait for the giro coming through the door.I got sick of eating super noodles!! I came back to Scotland after hitting my lowest and changed my attitude.

And your screen heroes are who? and why? Front of camera first, then behind the camera.
James Dean, Spencer Tracy, Monroe, De Niro, Duvall, Brando, Pacino, Gary Oldman, Sean Penn, Hopkins. Norman Wisdom!! Norman is there because it is not good to be intense all the time, gotta have a laugh. As for in front of the camera, Taxi Driver was my top film, Scorsese, Coppola, Kubrick, Speilberg, Woody Allen. I think what Steven Soderbergh is doing is great, his diversity. I also loved Duvall’s passion in the Apostle. That may be a bit of a surprise from someone who has just shot a pure popcorn multiplex entertaining film…..but I have a bigger plan for the future.

Now we can see where David Paul Baker is coming from and I don’t mean Paisley. Nothing wrong with Paisley of course!So, what is the story of Pasty Faces?We are all filmmakers here, but why should we shell out to see yours?Make your pitch…..!
I wanted to do a pure popcorn, fun movie, for multiplex audiences. I think the comedy works well because the heart of real comedy is tragedy. Nobody on screen in Pasty Faces is trying to be funny. They get into all these desperate sets of circumstances because of their situation, and that is funny. It’s like seeing someone suddenly falling in the street and you laugh, but you know you are not supposed too.Pasty Faces is basically a very funny characters-out-of-their-territory comedy about two out-of-work actors who land in L.A. This is the land they have always dreamed about, but things are not quite as they imagined. Their actor friends they came to see have contracts at a studio alright, but as cleaners, not actors. And that pad in the Hollywood Hills turns out to be a battered old bus. We find out they can’t get work in Scottish themed films because they just don’t look like stereo-typical Scots with orange hair. They happen to look more Italian than Scottish, as if they had walked off the set of the Sopranos.Since they don’t look Scottish enough, they stick orange wigs on as they audition for Braveheart 2. They end up heading for Vegas and get mistaken for Poles and Russians along the way. They then get caught up in a scam that requires them to rob a huge casino on the Vegas strip. They have a Method actor among them, who thinks he’s Pacino in Scarface so it looks like he might lose it during the heist. They fit in, in Vegas, because people in the casinos there also have Pasty Faces. It’s a lot of fun!

Your first germ of an idea for Pasty Faces was tested out on stage.Where did you stage it and how was it received?
At my local arts centre in Paisley. I think I annoyed a lot of people because I was not bringing art into the theatre. I was bringing in a bunch of nutters with guns! Kind of ironic, I guess. It was basically to test if I could write funny material. I always wrote angst before that. Again, comedy comes from tragedy, so I just turned it on its head like they did with The Full Monty. The audience laughed a lot and I kept some scenes in the movie. It was basically a glorified acting showcase because all the characters were fun. I never looked at one review, because I never wrote it to change the world.

How did that live performance influence the final film?
Some scenes made it to the film. It was all set in Scotland in the play version. The movie storyline developed by accident. I was checking out locations in Scotland to shoot it cheaply and I got turned down by a big casino. I said "To hell with it, we’ll shoot it in Vegas!" Very silly. Then I wondered what would they be doing in L.A. I thought, because of the success of films like Trainspotting, there were Scots out there, but they didn’t look like stereotypical Hollywood movie Scots with orange locks. And these Scots would look out of place in Scotland, because they are into Italian-American movies. I thought there were opportunities for humour in that. Also, I wanted a US-style high-production-value look on a low budget, so America it had to be.

Is the idea of testing out on stage an actorly thing? Could you recommend it to filmmakers who are not actors? Workshopping maybe?
It is not that kind of film. We stuck quite strictly to the script because there are a lot of funny one-liners. Not that I’m funnier than any actor’s input, but I had weeks to think them up in the writing. In comedy, you rarely get funny lines coming up on the spot. In another type of film, more gritty, yeah, I am into that kind of way of working, impro and stuff. But this script was very strongly structured. The stage version was really to test if I could write comedy. It was a surprise to me.

You wanted to shoot a promo in the States, but transatlantic fares are still not that cheap -despite Mr Branson’s best efforts- how did you raise cash for that?
My sister came on board, but still worked in her retail job. We worked out a very tight budget. We went on the net and worked out the cost of a mobile home in the states, food, right down to phone cards. It came to about seven thousand pounds. It was going to be a 3-minute promo to present with the script, basically, the vision for the project. My sister lived in Hartlepool with her boyfriend and basically we hyped it over the space of a week to friends and family that we were trying to get a movie made, reminding them all the time that Ridley and Tony Scott came from around that area, when they said, "Ehhhhh lad, bit far fetched!"

Realists to a man they are in Scott country! Come on David, how did you get them to shell out!
Really, it came down to just a few factors. Our passion for it infected people. We believed we would make it, so they believed. They also liked the sound of it. They said it was something they would go and see. We were also honest with them. We told them this would be a flutter, don’t give us your life savings as it’s a long haul just getting a movie off the ground. Over that week we got around fifteen cheques that amounted to seven thousand. We were in Vegas two weeks later with another two actors and four of a crew.

One of them was my sister’s boyfriend.A whip round to cover fares is one thing, but financing movies, even low-low budget comedy capers is another, especially when you are half a world away from your support. Did you really believe you could achieve your goal using credit cards?
I don’t care what anybody says, you can’t make and complete a movie on credit cards, you get floored in post for a start. Music costs, especially. Our objective really, was just to get it shot. I found a private investor who said if we got the Glasgow side shot, he would finance the shoot in the States. We shot on digital betacam for three weeks, faking some US-style interiors where we could. I believed I had a really good script and I could have hawked it round companies, but we all believed we had to keep moving with it.So, if the money fell through, at least I would have some terrific scenes for trailer material. The money did fall through, at least on the States side, because the guy was basically a bullshitter.

You actually ran out of plastic on this promo exercise eventually, did you not? Was that just poor budgeting? Had you worked out a full budget in advance?
It basically ran out because we melted all the plastic we could get! And what we got for that should have cost six times that amount! We had about twenty-six people on set for three weeks. My Mother even made meals for them all, every day. Looking back, we had bad lighting. It was an omen the finance fell through, as the film deserved better. It was not really presentable for a multiplex cinema screen, but it had a raw energy there and you could definitely see the potential, so we are glad it never went any further from there.

So, you went after proper backing at that point then. You say you want to make movies that are commercial and, presumably, so do your backers, if they want a return on their investment. What are the elements giving Pasty Faces commercial appeal? What was it that appealed to your industry backers… made them decide they wanted a piece of this particular action?
There a few factors that are essential, that excite backers. A filmmaker’s passion, vision for a project. My dedication to it after the play was total. I could tell you what colours the heist corridors should be. Tell you how the characters walked or talked. Nobody will part with money if you go "eehhhhh" and you think about it. If they ask a question about the project, you have to KNOW what they will ask, before they know.I got that vision across in the trailers, and they all loved the script. Probably the script is the most important factor. You can have a hundred million budget, but if the script is crap, all your Panavision cameras and lines of trucks and honeywagons will not rescue you at the box office. Don’t get me wrong. My script is not Shakespeare but then Shakespeare doesn’t produce mass-appeal movies like I want to make.

Who did you go to see? Was it hard to get them interested? Did you have to kick doors down, or did they open fairly easily?
My sister and I went to Cannes in May 99 with our trailer and footage from the collapsed digital shoot. It was a 24-hour overnight train trip, with no room booked at the other end, in the middle of the festival. Fun, it was not! In Cannes, people are buying completed films. You can just as easily see them in London, any time, so it was not a very productive trip. Julie went back to work and a week after we got back I did what they do in the movies. I got situated around Soho in a 20-quid-a-night stinky bedsit, and captured a yellow pages with film company addresses.I pounded the streets, occasionally walking into soft porn production companies by accident. It was July 99. My Mother tried to get me fixed up with company meetings over the phone, and got me into film screenings, me. They were all into their own projects. On my last day, I almost gave up. I then got a meeting with Victor Films. They gave me twenty minutes but most of the time it was hard to get people just to sit down and listen so I pitched it as if I was making Citizen Kane!

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