Schemers is the first feature-length movie to be made in Dundee, and follows the adventurous early years of music producer David McLean. Ahead of its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I was fortunate to sit down with writer/director McLean and leading actor Conor Berry to chat about their film.
What triggered the project and why did you decide to make it now?
Dave – Well it’s been a work in progress for a good few years…I’ve always fancied being a writer. I’d wrote the original script in 10 days but that was four years ago. Pals say to me ‘why don’t you do it? You’ve got loads of stories’ so when the band I manage (Placebo) had a bit of downtime, I thought this is the time to do it. We got the script, we got the money, and we just made it. We thought we’d make it about the early years because there was a good soundtrack for that time. It was a good period. It was exciting.
Scottish films have a tendency to be Highlands-based horror shows, or to take place within Edinburgh or Glasgow, or so it’s refreshing to have a Dundonian tale in Dave McLean’s autobiographical drama Schemers. Based on the teenage years of the first-time writer and director, the story follows David (Conor Berry) in 1979, the exciting coming-of-age phase of his life. When a nasty football injury forces him to reevaluate his career options, he seizes an opportunity in music promotion with pals Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keelan) but runs into trouble along the way.
Indie writer and directors Brittany Poulton and Daniel Savage come together for their feature debut Them That Follow, a religious thriller set deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Pastor Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins) is a revered snake-handler at the heart of the close-knit community’s church, but the story focuses predominantly on Mara (Alice Englert), his repressed yet beloved daughter. She’s engaged to marry local lad Garret (Lewis Pullman) but is carrying a controversial secret that forces her to question her faith.
Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje turns his hand to writing and directing for his feature debut Farming, a coming-of-age drama based on his own turbulent upbringing. Born to Yorùbá parents in Nigeria in the late 1960s, Enitan (Damson Idris) was fostered, or ‘farmed’ as it was referred to, by working-class mother Ingrid (Kate Beckinsale) and her husband Jack (Lee Ross) in Tilbury, England. After a difficult childhood, Eni lashes out in his teenage years and becomes embroiled in brutal gang culture.
A decade on from her feature debut, writer and director Nicole Palo revisits the topic of suicide in her faux romantic comedy flick Emma Peeters. The eponymous Emma (Monia Chokri) is a struggling actress living in Paris, making ends meet in retail while she pursues her lifelong dream to be a star. After being knocked back at yet another audition, she decides that enough is enough and that she will kill herself on her upcoming 35th birthday. Whilst making the necessary arrangements, she meets oddball funeral director Alex (Fabrice Adde) who offers to assist her in her suicidal mission.
Robert Budreau’s thriller has travelled the film festival circuit with the title Stockholm since its Tribeca debut last year but arrives in the UK under new guise The Captor. Loosely based on an article from The New Yorker in 1974 by Daniel Lang, it’s the retelling of the bank heist that caused the media to coin the phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’; the feelings of trust or affection in cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor. Ethan Hawke stars as said captor Kaj Hansson who attempts an armed robbery, with Noomi Rapace taking the part of the victim Bianca Lind.
Writer director Ninian Doff carries forward his filmmaking flair from music videos into his feature debut Boyz in the Wood, a coming-of-age comedy set in the Scottish Highlands. The story follows four teenagers as they embark on an orienteering trip, competing for the coveted Duke of Edinburgh award. Misfits miscreants Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are joined by do-gooder Ian (Samuel Bottomley) for the great adventure, but they soon run into trouble when they lose their map and encounter some eccentric, unwelcoming locals.