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netribution > features > interview with nigel smith > page one
Cry for Bobo is a frantic knockabout tragedy as Bobo is sent to clown prison for a daring but silly crime and must escape to try and prevent his family from bringing shame upon all clowndom. Morna Findlay spoke to producer Nigel Smith about his route to slapstick success.
| by morna findlay |
| photos courtesy of forged films |
| in edinburgh |

You’re going to your "local" Film Festival this year with your own film. How does that feel?
Good question! I don’t know yet, because Bobo hasn’t been publicly screened yet. There was a Press Screening this morning, but I didn’t go in - I want to wait and see it together with the other two Tartan Shorts, see them play to a "real" audience.

It's worth saying that I see Bobo as ‘our’ film. David Cairns (Director) has done an amazing job, and he’s been supported by an amazing cast and crew who really pulled out all the stops. I feel very lucky to have worked with them all, and really hope I get the chance to do so again in the not-too-distant future. We made this.

How has it been received by audiences so far?

It’s gone down very well with the small, invited audiences we’ve shown it to thus far but I’m looking forward to seeing it in a full cinema. I’m pretty confident they’re going to like it. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

It’s a very unusual film to have come out of Scotland, and in some ways was conceived in direct response to what we saw as the predominance of grimy urban miserablism. I don’t have a problem with social realism per se, but when it seems to comprise 90% of Scotland’s film production, surely something’s wrong? All credit is due to BBC Scotland and Scottish Screen for having the confidence and the vision to back us.

When did you decide you wanted to work in Film?
In my late teens I got involved with the Video Access Centre here in Edinburgh. But I didn’t feel comfortable with most of the people I met there at that time. They seemed terribly pretentious and luvvie to me. So I spent ten years working in record shops, travelling the world, became a performance artist…

A performance artist?
(Laughs). Yes – didn’t last long, and I wasn’t much good - then at the age of 29 I went to film school. I’m dogged by the sneaking suspicion that I’ve slowly become someone that my younger self would have despised!

 You’re now a pretentious luvvie?
(Laughs) No. I don’t ‘do’ media parties. I used to be the guy standing with a glass of wine in a corner. But I’ve got used to it now. I don’t mind now if people schmooze me, it’s just part of that game. But I won’t go to these events now unless I have a very specific reason for being there.

What’s it like to schmooze in the Scottish Film Industry? Doesn’t everybody know everybody?
It’s a small industry, and there’s probably two degrees of separation – if I don’t know someone, I’ll know someone who does.

Our Scottish film world is a very strange one in that the major source of development and production finance is held by a quasi-governmental body [Scottish Screen]. So most of us have contact with that organisation to one extent or another.

Where did you go to Film School?
I was in the very first year of the Film and TV degree run by Napier University in Edinburgh. Students there liked to call it the "Scottish Film School", but it never carried that title officially. The course there has improved in so many ways now, but when I was a student you either sank or swam: and I sank.

I expected some timetabled lecture input - which just wasn’t on offer. Staff then were more interested in using the facilities for their own filmmaking ends than coping with students.

Today’s students at Napier get a much better deal - more lecture input, better staff and facilities - but on the other hand, there are far more of them year on year. They really have to fight for attention, for equipment and edit time.

Do today’s students come to Napier armed with their own equipment and editing software?
Some of them do, and good for them! I think what students most lack is sustained critical input specific to their own work - and this is difficult to achieve when there’s so many of them.

Students must adjust their expectations of where they’ll find themselves in the industry on graduating – it’s unsettling how many of them think that developing an understanding of the industrial structures they’ll try to work within is unimportant.

US film schools turn out students who are very aware of and able to engage with the business structures they’ll confront, and I think that our system is failing our students in this respect.

Students also need very high levels of dedication to succeed - many just don’t have what it takes.

Is this what you had at 29 but not at 21? Dedication to succeed?
Yes I’ve had some terrible jobs in my time: jobs that physically depressed me. I arrived at the conclusion that whatever I was going to do with my life, I had to enjoy it, had to be able to keep learning, had to be prepared to devote my life to it.

Did you go to film school intending to Produce?
Hmmm… No. I think most students go to Film School wanting to be directors. I realised very early on that I wouldn’t make a good director. Maybe if I had persevered I could have been, but at the time I felt more comfortable with an organisational role.

Now, I feel confident and competent when dealing with production processes - but I still wouldn’t like to be on a set dealing with actors.

And I think it would be horrible to become famous without having the ego to deal with it. Who remembers the producer?

Yes even Steven Spielberg could walk down the street here unmolested.
Just maybe not during the Film Festival.

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