How did you get the idea for Four Eyes?
DUNCAN: It’s a culmination of things. I worked doing sound recording for a company and I had a sound mixer. It wasn’t working so I had to go home, and then somebody broke into my house and stole it. So that was one thing…and another was that we got gypped out of £800 on the Internet. So there’s two things…we’ve been mugged if you want, but not literally.
WILMA: A big part of “Two Donuts” comes from the point of view of two thieves, and that’s a big part of it as well.
DUNCAN: Well I was really annoyed when I got that mixer stolen because I didn’t know who’d done this. So “Two Donuts” was from the point of view of two thieves who stole a camera, and they go round filming everything they do so they can have a laugh at it.
That’s a really good idea, that sounds really, really smart. So you had to use friends and family members in Four Eyes. So who’s the friends and who’s the family members then?
DUNCAN: Well, see the old man in the film? That’s Wilma’s dad. Big Al is (best character in the film to me – Graham) Wilma’s brother-in-law.
Is he? You’ve gotta shake his hand for me, cos he’s a new hero of mine, likes. I was through in Glasgow at Ibrox at a job interview just after the film festival and I was thinking to myself, “This is Big Al’s territory’ and I was just laughing away to myself. (Duncan laughs) You’ve scarred my psyche. My dad thought Big Al (my dad’s quote about Al: “He’s such a wee arse he’s totally believable” – Graham) was great as well.
DUNCAN: Gordon (Grant) works as a transport manager, so he’s in an environment where he’s very used to delegating, he’s very natural when it comes to it.
He was very natural, aye. I thought he made the film, he gave a really solid performance. It’s brilliant man. It’s funny, my brother Tony’s a taxi driver and I was just thinking (in the film Al, stoned out of his mind in one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen, insults a taxi driver and gets chucked out of the taxi – Graham) about the stories that Tony has told me.
WILMA: (Laughing) Gordon used to be a taxi driver as well.
DUNCAN: Aye, so he did, he was a taxi driver.
A wee bit of irony there then, eh?
DUNCAN: I think that, first of all, what you have to do is please your own audience, ie a Scottish audience. If you want to build your credibility then you’ve got to build it here. It’s like Bill Forsyth, he did quite a few really good movies, then he went to America and then…nothing.
They do American films better than Scottish folk. On that kind of note, last week I heard the first Scottish rapper, (Duncan laughs) MC Grant Sneddon from Bo’ness. “Yin twae yin twae!” (“One two one two” – Graham) in an American accent, “Check it oot yin time, Bo’ness in the hoose!” (Duncan laughs hard) I’ll have to get you a copy of that, you’ll love it. (in crap G-Sned pseudo-Scottish-American accent) “In all my years of pimpin’ I ain’t never met a wee slapper like you.” He’s talking about feeding this lassie jellies (temgesics, a barbiturate much abused by druggie scumbag types – Graham) to get to shag her and everything. But we’ll talk aboot that later on. We’ll get this done while there’s still tape left. Now. Four Eyes. You wrote it, directed it, edited it. Is that basically a financial necessity, cos you obviously know what you’re doing all round.
DUNCAN: It was a financial necessity cos one thing we didn’t have was any money at all.
What was the budget?
DUNCAN: (Smiling mock-coyly) Between £500 and £5000. We work in video production, so the equipment we’ve got has paid for itself over the years through doing jobs. We thought – why don’t we use it to make films? That’s the reason we got into video production, we wanted to make films, to do things like that. It’s one of those kinds of things where (the film) can lie on the computer for nine months, there’s no deadline on us, we’ve no restrictions. So if we make a film and look at the end of it and say, “That’s a load of shite,” we don’t have to show it to anybody. We can just go, “Well, that’s the learning process,” bin that, it’s a lot of work to bin, but just bin it and move on.
A lot of freedom there, eh?
DUNCAN: Oh, a lot of freedom, totally. See, you’ve been given a million pounds to make a film, that film’s got to be shown, whether it’s good or bad. What we feel is if you’re given a million pounds, that’s a million pounds of taxpayers’ money that‘s getting spent and if you make a crock of shit we’d feel guilty about that, I’d really feel guilty. (Object lesson in frugality and quality here for certain other Scottish state-funded ‘filmmakers’ – Graham) So from our point of view we’ve never really applied for any funding because we want to prove to ourselves that we can do it. What you don’t want to do is go in (to people providing potential funding) and say, “I want to make a film.” And they say to you, “What kind of film?” “Oh, I don’t really know what kind of way I want to go.” We want to go the kind of way we are going, it’s a very natural process. We want to try and stay with improvisation. Write out the storylines, write out the dialogue, but have a bit of improvisation so that when it comes to doing scenes we can see what kind of definition we’ve got, we shoot on high-def.
Do you like shooting on video?
DUNCAN: Yeah, yeah, cos a lot of times it really relaxes you and you can do things on the spur of the moment. See, if you’ve got 35mmm and you’re shooting, you can’t be as flexible, it’s a bit more restricted. We’ve shot 16mm, but we’re not that experienced in shooting film, and I’d hate to muck that up as well. High-definition is very much an accepted format, it’s used on many of these wee DV cams and stuff like that.
I mean, if you look at films like “Blair Witch Project,” folk have had 20 years to get used to the look of video and they’re used to watching themselves in wedding videos and that, it doesn’t really bother them. I was sitting watching Four Eyes and I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, it’s shot on video, it looks really cheesy,” but I’ve seen some brilliantly cheesy shot-on-video ones, cannibal films from America, (Duncan laughs) “Cannibal Campout” and all that, marvelous stuff, “555,” but your film didn’t look bad. Now. Correct me if I’m wrong, this is something that only really occurred to me after I watched Four Eyes, there’s no music in the film, is there?
DUNCAN: No, there’s none at all, and that was the first decision. I thought, “I want to just do atmospherics,” and I think putting music on it would have taken away from the real feeling of the film as well. In a normal thriller, they just put music in to make a transition between one scene and another to build an atmosphere or just to build certain aspects of it. Don’t get me wrong, we know quite a few bands and people who are in bands to get music from, but it was hard to get accent music free of charge. So the decision was, “No, I don’t want to use it, I just want to keep it natural.” And that’s the full thing.
Not using music does help because sometimes music can kind of knock you out of the film a wee bit, you’re aware that you’re being emotionally manipulated by stirring strings on the soundtrack and all that crap, you know what I mean? It was funny because I never missed it at all.
DUNCAN: Someone actually asked me, “Where did you get your music from?”
(Laughing) The voices in your head played it for you, pal…
DUNCAN: So I says, “So you saw the film, eh?” And she says yeah, and I said (chuckling), “There’s no music in the film at all!”
(Sarcastically in upper-class film person accent as Duncan laughs) It’s the music of the language, the mellifluous Scottish vernacular dahlink.
DUNCAN: (Laughing) Aye.
So what are your favorite Scottish films then?
DUNCAN: (Bill Forsyth comedy film) Mine is, eh, “That Sinking Feeling”.
That’s a good film. I haven’t seen it in years.
DUNCAN: Naw, I haven’t seen it in years either, but that one sticks in my head. I was looking at a report this morning on the Internet about how many Scottish films are made, solely from Scotland. In 2000 there was 12, but prior to that, every year there was three or four or one. So there isn’t all that many that I could really refer to.
Memories of growing up though…”Whisky Galore?” (Duncan laughs) And aw, what’s that other one…“Brigadoon” or something, eh? The first film I can ever remember seeing is from when I was three or four, and it’s called “The Ghost Goes West.” It’s about this Scottish castle that gets transported to Florida brick-by-brick along with a Scottish ghost. It’s weird that I can remember that. But “That Sinking Feeling” is great too, when John Gordon Sinclair turns up with his friends at the warehouse to steal sinks (hence the film title – Graham) and they’re all dressed in jeans and he’s in a black burglar outfit. (Duncan laughs) And that boy, “I tried to kill myself this morning. I put some cornflakes and milk in my mouth and held it shut.” (We both laugh) Magic, that’s just magic. (To Wilma) What’s your favorite then?
WILMA: That one as well, I was gonna say it (smiling) but he stole it.
DUNCAN: I know you’ve got “Trainspotting” and all that, “Trainspotting” was a very stylistic and very good film, but the subject matter was a bit too full on, I can’t think of anything else…
WILMA: “Kes” is one of my favorites, from Ken Loach. I think that was one of his first films, shot in the Yorkshire area.
(I go off on a rant that I can’t be bothered transcribing about hating junkies after mentioning “Sweet Sixteen” by Ken Loach, and how grim Scottish film is – Graham)
DUNCAN: But no, you’re right. I don’t want to make a film about drugs or about alcohol, cos you know what? They’ve been done, done to death. I mean, who wants to see a film about more drugs, more alcohol? Nah, that’s it.
Were your families quite pleased with the way your film turned out?
WILMA: I think they were.
DUNCAN: They were. There’s a woman in the film who plays the girl at the bus stop (expositional scene between Paul and a woman he meets on the street – Graham). And she’s a girl Wilma used to work with, she’s a nurse. And I said, “Listen, do you want to do this scene at the bus stop, because I need to get a point over where certain things have happened in the film and I’m gonna do it with dialogue.” She said, “Yeah that’s fine.” And she eventually came and saw the film and was like, “That’s really good, that’s brilliant,” and her mum and dad eventually saw it as well. And she said to Wilma, “To be honest, seeing with what we were doing that day, I thought it was gonna be a pile of shit.” (We laugh) It’s difficult for her because she doesn’t know what’s gonna come beforehand and afterwards. And all the equipment we had was two radio mikes and Wilma standing with a camera, that’s it, three of us. It was so minimal. So to a lot of people who are in the film, it didn’t feel like a film.
The interview continues in part three of FOUR EYES AND NO LUCK>>>