Stage and Screen - we talk to Bill Scott, one of Cornwall's newest feature-film directors.
PUBLISHED: 15:27 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 February 2013
In the February/March issue, we talk to Bill Scott, one of Cornwall's newest feature-film directors, who is perhaps more recognisable as the artist Director of the Miracle Theatre Touring Company. There is another string to Bill's bow, however, si...
Malcolm Twigg talks to Bill Scott, one of Cornwall's newest feature-film directors
To aficionados of Cornish theatre, the name of Bill Scott will probably be more recognisable as the Artistic Director of its premier touring theatre company, Miracle Theatre. There is another string to Bill's bow, however, since he is a rising star in the firmament of Cornish film-making, an industry which has taken the county by storm over recent years. "That is all down to Cornwall Film, the body set up six years ago with Objective One funding to develop the media industry in Cornwall," Bill tells me. "Go back ten years and you would be hard put to find a dozen film productions of any sort in Cornwall. At this year's Film Festival there were 150 productions, all made in Cornwall, and that is something that is quite extraordinary."
Bill's background is theatre, "although I made some films when I was at college. However, when I left I went straight into theatre, both writing and directing, and only rekindled my interest in film-making about 12 years ago when I went on a weekend course with Cornwall Media Resource. I found that there was some funding available from the Arts Council to make a Cornish language film so I made this short film for 1,000 based on the character of Dolly Pentreath, the last native Cornish speaker, coming back to modern-day Cornwall and discovering the state of the language now."
Since then, Bill has made a number of short films, including five film-based installations at the Eden Project where he also collaborated on the Mechanical Theatre. "You will never make any money out of short films, however," Bill says. "At best you'll build a reputation through film festivals and the like, although the internet does open up possibilities. People make short drama films to get the experience to be able to go on to bigger things - they are training grounds and the industry regards them as 'calling cards'.
"There is money in making corporate promotional films and, if I didn't have my work with Miracle Theatre, that is probably what I would be doing, but my interest lies in drama," he continues. That interest reached culmination at the Cornwall Film Festival last November when Bill's first full-length feature film, Dressing Granite, was the opening screening. Shot for an astonishingly low figure of 75,000 - "less than the catering budget for a medium-size British film," Bill points out - the film drew some enthusiastic comments and sees him set to produce further feature films in the future. "Although the one I am pushing at the moment is never going to be shot for 75,000," he says ruefully. "It's a family fantasy adventure and I'll be looking at raising about two or three million for that."
That's where the assistance of Cornwall Film will be crucial, although Bill will have to source funding elsewhere for anything of that stature. It's all in a day's work for a film producer/director - but the pity of it is that films made regionally will have precious little air time, even on British TV, which would seem to be the natural showcase. "Dressing Granite, for instance, will probably end up being shown on TV in somewhere like Germany or Italy," Bill told me. "British TV doesn't have a place for films where they haven't had a hand in the production process." The most realistic market for films made by independent film-makers like Bill lies in the field of DVDs for home viewing. But watch this space, because Cornish film-making is really taking off. -
Dressing Granite - a review
If this is what Film Director Bill Scott can do on a micro budget, then throw a few more thousands his way and watch Cornish film-making come alive. Dressing Granite has been around for some years as a stage play written by Pauline Sheppard, and now, under the direction of Bill Scott, it has been made into a full-length feature film.
It is a film about Cornish people, by Cornish people, with a theme as Cornish as could be - a story uncomfortably rooted in the modern day and an utterly convincing portrayal of life in the remote Cornish hinterland. This is Bill Scott's first feature-length production, shot in various locations in and around West Cornwall in March of last year. It was the opening screening at the 2007 Cornish Film Festival in November, where it received some public acclamation.
A film about two stonemasons and the impact of modern-day life on a traditional occupation, the theme is every bit as gritty as the title suggests, dealing with unfulfilled aspirations, the decline into senility, an unspoken love between father and son, and a burgeoning romance in the background. The film features Cornish actors, uses a specially written score by a Cornish composer and was beautifully shot entirely on location in various areas of West Cornwall. The audience to date has been largely on the arts circuit through the medium of the stage play, but the film deserves a much bigger audience than that.
Dealing with such potentially depressing subject matter as business failure and senile dementia, there was always a danger that it could wallow in self-pity. However, although it has its fair share of emotion, it avoids the mawkish and instead is a film that totally grips the imagination with the authenticity of the action and the stark topicality of the issues depicted... and it tugs at the heartstrings not a little.
Mainstream distributors would do well to note Dressing Granite because this is a film that puts no gloss on anything - this is life as it is lived: a totally rewarding and utterly absorbing film that both entertains and makes you think. Catch a showing of the film at The Acorn in Penzance at 8pm on Thursday 7 February ((01736) 363545, or at 7.30pm on Friday 29 February at the Tolmen Centre, Constantine (01326) 341353.
Dressing Granite is a co-production by Bedrock Films and Wild West Films and is now out on DVD from: www.dressinggranite.net.