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netribution > features > interview with irvine allen > page one

With the media's ill-infomed frenzy of ante-hype concerning British films at Cannes this year, there was always going to be ample opportunity for oversight and an unlikely coup. A short film called Daddy's Girl was the centre of that coup because it ambled past the press on the Croisette unnoticed and went on to win Best Short Film at the world's most prestigious festival. The man responsible for the epidemic of egg-faced journo's is a humble, good natured Scot called Irvine Allen, but he felt that going to Cannes would be grossly hypocritical. You see, his film concerns a young girl abandoned by her father - and Irvine's wife was expecting to give birth to their first little girl whilst Cannes was hotting up.

| by nic wistreich |
| photos courtesy of irvine allen |
| in edinburgh |

Now of course, Irvine has his own daddy's girl in Eve Francis, he has the nation's press on his door step and they all want comments from him, photos of him and a look at the film that they all ignored until it had won. Netribution included.
One could easily understand his need to fulfill more pressing responsibilities but he's become the talk of the industry overnight - what would you do?

Did you feel any pressure being the only British contender for a Palme D'Or?
No, not really 'cos no one seemed to notice apart form those concerned with the film and there were articles in the papers saying there was nothing from the UK in competition at all. Even your own illustrious rag didn't have a listing 'til I pointed it out to you. However, it was an honour just to be selected. It felt good. The pressure I did feel concerned whether I should go or not. My partner Annie was expecting our first child that week so I decided to stay but it wasn't an easy decision. At first I kidded myself that it was too important for my future not to go, but I soon realised that I was fooling myself for the sake of an ego massage. To do a film about a neglected child, and not be there for my own family at such an important time would have been an absolute hypocrisy.

Was this the first time you've had a film in Cannes?
Yes, first time I've had a film in competition. Still never been there though.

How many shorts have you made?
Daddy's Girl is my fifth, the second on film. I started out on community videos with an educational emphasis, involving probationers and community groups. An emphasis on process rather than end product.

What was your background before that?
The theatre.

Have you had any formal training?
Yes I trained, but in theatre not in film. I attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and specialised in directing.

Do you think training or film school is a prerequisite for filmmaking?
Peter Mullan didn't train in film, neither did I. Lynne Ramsay did. Training is not a prerequisite; but I suppose Lynne would have skills we don't have, and vice-versa. I had 15 years of working in theatre and community arts and nine of those years as a professional theatre director. I knew how to work actors. I learned film by working with professional crews and through practical experience.

When did you realise you wanted to direct?
Early on. I've always wanted to be independent and in control of my own work. I acted for a while, but I never wanted to sit and wait for the phone call. So I formed a theatre company with a group of fellow students and started producing and directing small to mid-scale touring theatre with Annie George. It was good stuff, if I say so myself. We had edge and poetry and politics, great actors and great scripts by John Maley - who also wrote Daddy's Girl. Sublime music by Gerry Clark. We had and still have a great team because we've stuck together. We supplemented our existing set up with DoP Mark Raeburn. He had been number one focus puller in Scotland for a long time. He had shot a couple of shorts and we got on well together. Then I met Bert Eeles, who's a brilliant editor. That's the team.

What's your earliest memory of the cinema?
Chaplin walking off into the distance, dejected at first, then shaking himself down clicking his heels and getting on with it. I could always identify with the little tramp. Our local, Green's La Scala, in Dunoon, used to play reruns of the silent classics on a Saturday. I never missed a matinee. I found out recently that Charlie Chaplin's bogeyman, the actor Eric Campbell, is from my hometown. It's the one documentary idea I'd love to do. A look at the relationship between Campbell and Chaplin on and off camera.

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