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netribution > features > interview with saul metzstein > page one

Saul Metzstein's partnership with Jack Lothian is a unique and enviable one for many of our readers. They sit around eating pizza and coming up with really poor movie ideas, films that they would want to see rather than ones they'd like to make. They must have done something right though because their first feature, Late Night Shopping, the only film to come out of Glasgow last year, is just out on general release.
The industry is obviously waiting with baited breath, especially as it's a comedy, either for a surprising hit or for the unsurprising failure before the first weekend is through. Astonishingly, Alexander Walker loved it, Jonathan Ross took it as lukewarm but found that a charming asset. The Mail obviously hated it "With its contrived, sitcommy plotting" (top grammar) whilst the Express lauded it as refreshing and proud. A good start for a film costing only 1.5m, a third of which came from recently lambasted Scottish Screen's lottery budget.

| by tom fogg |
| photos by tom fogg |
| in london |
     
 

How did you meet Jack Lothian?
Jack was writing a terrible novel, the worst ever, called 'Last Exit to Anniesland'. He didn't have his own computer so he'd baby sit for a friend of mine called Sam and simply use his, and Sam showed me some of the novel. Truly awful. Like a fifth grade Irvine Welsh rip off - garbage. It had practically no adjectives in it, Jack felt that he didn't need any, anyway it's a terrible piece of work. So Sam encouraged him to talk to me about writing film scripts because you don't have to use adjectives! Its truly a rotten book but the guy can definitely write dialogue so truly we were made for one another.

We've written about a hundred short scripts together, sometimes like two a day. We made a film about a fight between a psychotic Santa Claus and a monster that loves under a child's bed. Anyway, we made that and no one ever gave us money to make another short (laughs insanely) so we decided we'd better write features instead! It seemed easier to get money for a feature than for a short, mysterious.

Did you study film?
I studied architecture just because I like it. I was advised not to study film and told to just go and watch as many as possible and then you won't have to. It's also nice to have studied something that you aren't going to make a career out of.

Were you not encouraged to pursue architecture as a respectable trade with disciplines etc.?
My folks didn't have any particular feelings about it. My father is quite a famous modernist architect but he certainly never encouraged me to become one. My mother has a shop that sells children's clothes…and she never encouraged me to do that! (laughs)


I did study film in New York for a brief period, a couple of months only. They'd push you out to make films in small groups; shoot one day, edit the next and show it that evening. No theory involved, which was quite good. We had this very tough Israeli teacher that beat out of us those basic mistakes you make as a young filmmaker. Things like holding a shot for too long so the audience will Understand! It will be poignant. It's one thing audiences don't need, they can watch films and they are really good at it, I stopped holding shots rather quickly.

Like Sunset Beach!?
Exactly! Look at the genius of that shot! Look at the way he's holding that! (laughter)

You started off as a runner on Shallow Grave didn't you?
I was a terrible runner, I was just no good at it! (laughs loud) Shallow Grave was very interesting to work on because nothing was going on in the industry at the time and no one had any great expectations for it, it was made very cheaply and it was my first job on a proper film, so it was just a joy. It was really enjoyable to be involved whereas I was actually nowhere near any of the filming.

What did you work on after that?
I ran on Small Faces and I was a location assistant on Trainspotting, and I've worked on another film that no one has ever heard of but otherwise I've had a deeply sporadic career. And in that ten years I've really done very little! (laughs)

Are you an architect when you aren't making films?
No, architecture is like film in that you have to immerse yourself in it and you can't do it part time but I do occasionally write magazine articles about architecture. Not for the money, it's just to get it off my chest! (laughs)

How do you see the film scene in Glasgow at the moment?
It's not big enough to be a cottage industry but they make a lot of shorts in Glasgow, which is a good thing. Every one knows each other up there and it's not nearly so pressured - not at all like here. It's also really sporadic, Late Night Shopping was the only Scottish film made there last by year, one film a year isn't exactly an industry. But then the Glasgow Film Office initiated the thing in the first place.

How much did they put up?
I think 100,000. It was their idea to get a film made in Scotland out of season. They have great crews up there, much better than down here, because they are quite a small community up there if someone is no good at their job they won't get any work. In the winter they have to go and work elsewhere because the light is so terrible. Anyway, we decided to make a film at night so we wouldn't need any daylight - of course when the film was finally made it was June! (laughs)

Did you and Jack write this together, how do you work?
He writes while I sit there talking to him, crossing out the bad bits with a big black marker.

 
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