Starter Shorts

by | May 23, 2020 | Film

Here’s a sample of my early filmmaking adventures, starting from my time at the University of Stirling.

I consider all of these to have been “training” projects, though in reality that’s a process that never really stops. I think you can see a gradual improvement in my work below over time. These are by no means my best work, but they were a lot of fun to make and gave me a chance to get better at what I do.

Random Text (2013)

This film was written by Andrew Mitchell, a close friend and a frequent collaborator on film projects. Random Text was Andy’s first attempt at writing a short film, and he asked me to help put it together and co-direct. It was a fun project as it involved working with a lot of our friends.

The biggest challenge in making this film was that the film was unfinished when I moved to Japan in 2011. During that time, lead actor, Kirk Leary, also moved to England. When I popped back to Scotland to visit family and friends, we managed to get around not having our lead actor by replacing him with a double – filmed exclusively from behind. I reckon the final edit disguises this reasonably well!

This film was filmed on a Canon 60D, and you see from some of my camera work that I’m still getting to grips with it. There’s quite a few wobbly shots. The film was a lot of fun to make, and it was great to help Andy put this together.

Fatal Attractions (2012)

This one is probably my favourite of my “earlier” films.

Fatal Attractions is loosely based on conversations with university friends and relationship confessions. I considered what it would be like to take concept of treating someone as “disposable” literally, and this film was the end result.

Fatal Attractions is definitely one of the darkest films I’ve made, but it’s exactly the kind of dark humour that I get a real kick out of. I do wonder what kind of reception it would get if met by today’s more sensitive viewers.

The leads – Steven J Quinn, Kyle Turpie and Chloe Postlethwaite – are phenomenal and have really good chemistry. Steven’s deadpan delivery is hilarious in real life and I felt it really translated well here. It’s interesting to note that Steven spends most of his filmmaking time behind the camera, but I maintain that he’s an excellent actor.

There are quite a few technical issues here – a lot of soft focus, sound issues, flat lighting being flat, etc. Overall, though, I reckon this was a decent stepping stone. I’m still proud of the script, though film is also probably the reason Robbie “Steed” Davidson refers to me as “Patrick Bateman.”

The Morning After (2011)

The Morning After was written by Chris Brady and Hazel Macdonald with help from Sarah Daly of Hex Studios. I was looking to try directing a film that I hadn’t written, and I liked this concept a lot. I recruited Jon Finnegan – who I knew from Lawrie Brewster’s film, White Out – as well as Andy Mitchell, who would go on to work on most of my film projects going forward.

The film was shot in a day, though a technical issue meant we lost sound for the entire shoot. The whole film ended up being ADR-ed. It’s obviously very technically flawed – it was filmed on two different cameras, and the footage doesn’t match at all. It’s also probably in need of a decent trim. The set was intended to look like a traditional sitcom, but I’m not sure how successful we were

Not my best work, but great fun to work with everyone – particularly Jon Finnegan, who has boundless energy and incredible enthusiasm. He’s exactly the sort of personality you want on set.

Got Milk? (2008)

Got Milk? was made on my university course at the University of Stirling, working with friends to produce a short film project. I was very lucky to be working with friends on this – most notably Stephanie Salvona, who I’d known since high school (she’s the woman who gets the newspaper thrown in her face).

This film involved me running around in public with a pink dressing gown on. I’m always up for a laugh, so I didn’t find this to be much of an issue. I was working at Sainsbury’s in Kirkcaldy at the time, and I was surprised how easy it was to get permission to film in the Stirling store – they were extremely accommodating!

The film is a rare example of me in front of the camera. I used to do a wee bit of acting (I was even in the university’s drama society) but these days I’m mostly behind the scenes. It was a great laugh and our lecturers seemed to like it.

And, yes, I can confirm that the scream at the end is indeed my own.

The Passion of the Goose (2007)

My first “film”! I had gotten a Mini DV video camera from my parents as a present around the time I started university. I had just joined the student filmmaking society, AirTV, and was determined to make something. This film was the result.

The University campus is based around the Airthrey Loch and is home to all manner of wildlife. It was a common sight to see squirrels in the kitchens scavenging for food, though the most notable animal was a goose which made an obscene amount of noise. Said goose had achieved legendary status on campus, and this film was my attempt to frame him as a mythical, mass-murdering cult symbol.

The Passion of the Goose is almost entirely improvised and based around a (very) loose outline. It’s a threadbare excuse for a film, but it just about hangs together. It’s technically woeful, but it still gives me a laugh – particularly because it features most of my uni friends, and so feels like a time capsule of that time in our lives.

Well done in particular to Andrew Todd, who was an absolute hero for his role in this.

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