My National Film School graduation film was PASSING GLORY. I wrote and directed it and it was produced by my brother, Billy MacKinnon, the first of our collaborations.
Set in Glasgow, it described the relationship between an unemployed teenage girl and her communist grandmother who drove an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War. On the old woman’s death, the communist party and the conservative parental generation fall out shabbily, so the girl and her boyfriend hyjack the coffin and give the old lady a Viking funeral on Loch Lomond.
I’m proud to say that this was the first film role for Alan Cumming who was then studying drama in Glasgow. It won two awards, which helped, and Channel Four bought the film. The money went to the film school, which seemed a good way of thanking the school – for I myself was skint at the time.
When I left film school I spent two years co-writing a comedy with Shane Connaughton, called FRENCH KISSES, for Malcolm Craddock at Picture Palace Productions, a madcap love story between a French girl and a Scottish boy. I also wrote GREENYARDS for Jam Jar Films, based upon an incident during the highland clearances in 19th century Scotland. Both these films nearly got made, but did not in the end.
Being a first time director can be a hurdle to overcome with financiers. I decided not to get stuck in too much ambitious ‘development’ and to find a film to direct as soon as possible. With Malcolm Craddock of Picture Palace I directed A CLOSE SHAVE, one of Channel Four’s Four on four series. A man is getting shaved with a cut throat razor in a 50′s barber shop. He suddenly realises that the barber is the husband of the woman with whom he is having an affair. And the barber has the razor in his hands. Four minutes long, it was like doing a strip cartoon. The first cut was about fifteen minutes. The first thing to go was the tracking shot, then Xavier Russell (the editor) had to chip away until we lost another ten minutes. That was an interesting lesson.
Then I directed SOMEBODY’S WEE NOBODY for Jacobite Films, a fifteen minute film about teenage pregnancy shot on video, using a non-professional cast. They paid me £150, but that wasn’t the point -I was getting behind a camera. To our astonishment, the film won a Golden Bear at the Chicago Film Festival. I never saw the award of course.
Check out 20 year old Alan Cumming!