Following our recent first-look at new low budget Scottish comedy Electric Man, ReelScotland met with director/co-writer David Barras and co-writer Scott Mackay to discuss the film’s production and casting.
ReelScotland: How is the production process coming along?
David Barras: It’s going well and we hope to start shooting in September. We actually started pre-production last September thinking we could just ask a few folk for money, but entering a recession didn’t help.
We’ve held some auditions which went really well and we’ll be casting some characters from that. There were some real gems in there and we’ll be putting a few up on our YouTube channel.
We’ve just cast Scottish rock star Fish in the role of Uncle Jimmy and we’re very excited to have him in the film. We’re huge Marillion fans and when we met him to discuss the part we were sitting there in awe.
Scott Mackay: We’ll film over three or four weeks, with a lot of running around Edinburgh. The comic shop scenes will be filmed in Deadhead Comics. Our cinematographer, Rich Steel, is a good friend of Seamus McGarvey and worked with Keira Knightley on the domestic abuse adverts. There is one shot near the start that is set in New York.
David: There’s an incident in which one of the bad guys gets his hands on the comic and we then zoom into the panels of the comic book which are animated, similar to the scene in Kick-Ass with Nic Cage’s character, but all conceived before Kick-Ass came out.
Incidentally, last year we were looking at villains for the film and came up with a character called Scarlet Mist, then found out Mark Millar had created Red Mist.
Scott: Mark Millar has us bugged!
ReelScotland: How do you feel about Mark Millar bringing out his own Scottish superhero movie?
David: We’ve spoken to Mark about that and his film is more realistic and darker, not humorous at all. It’s not about superpowers and it sounds like a Scottish vigilante movie. We’re hoping it won’t be in direct competition with us, but in many ways, the more the merrier.
ReelScotland: What can you tell us about the plot, described as “The Maltese Falcon meets Clerks”
Scott: It’s about two comic book store workers in Edinburgh, Jazz and Wolf, who discover the first issue of rare comic Electric Man in their shop. They then find that some bad guys are also after it and the film becomes a caper/thriller movie, with a bit of romance in there and a lot of comedy thrown in.
Because it’s about comics, initially you might think that it would only have a male audience. But because it’s not about superheroes, and there are relationships and the characters change over the course of the film, with story arcs for each of the characters, we hope it might reach a wider audience. There are some strong female roles in there.
David: It’s a comedy with a thriller plot. Unlike Clerks, in which not much happens, our script has a driving through line for all the main characters as well as having individual story arcs within it and there’s something everyone’s trying to get their hands on.
The comic is the Maltese Falcon, or the MacGuffin, of the film.
ReelScotland: Is the dialogue as fruity as Clerks?
David: That route has worked well for Mark Millar in Kick-Ass, and it might have been more realistic for guys the age of Jazz and Wolf to swear, but the comedy comes more from the characters, like in Fawlty Towers. We decided it didn’t advance the plot at all and have tried to make it funny without the swearing.
There is some violence in there and some action, but nothing that will raise it to a 15 certificate, though it might be a 12.
ReelScotland: How did you develop the script for Electric Man?
Scott: The original draft of the script has been around since the early 90s, after the idea for a sitcom pilot came to me one night when I was in college – I wrote it in bed over three days. It did the rounds for a few years, with the BBC interested in commissioning it at one stage, but that sadly fell through. That was in 1995.
David: Originally the story centred on a copy of Action Comics #1, the most expensive comic in the world. Scott gave me the script and we re-wrote it together, with a few TV companies optioning it over the years.
I ended up writing a low budget Scottish horror screenplay which was optioned by Skyline, the makers of Hamish Macbeth, and won Euroscript, but after two years nothing had happened with that and it was dropped.
Then Carol McGregor, Ewan’s mum, optioned the script and we had a director attached and interest from Film Four, but that fell through.
So I’ve spent 15 years trying to get something made, but it wasn’t until the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival, when I listened to Shane Meadows tell people to just get out there and make something, that I phoned Scott and said “let’s do it!”.
ReelScotland: What was the next step?
David: Firstly we rewrote the script and removed the Action Comics/Superman plot entirely.
Scott: It’s exactly the same plot, but the previous version was focused a lot more on the two main characters and had more slapstick humour in it. The original was pretty mainstream but the new script is probably even more so, with a bigger focus on the characters lives outside the shop.
Because the script was written 15 years ago, the biggest change was going back through it and adding mobile phones to it!
David: We thought it would be quite easy but we came up with lots of names that were already taken – you just put two words together into Google and you find them!
We then had to create a bible for the character of Electric Man, detailing his backstory, attributes, alter ego and costume, and we’ve also got a complete first issue origin comic which we’ll be putting on sale.
The story of Electric Man is that he’s a welder on the Empire State Building in the 1930s. He’s working up there as an airship comes in to land on a platform, but it hits the side of the building and he grabs the rope to help it dock. Just at that moment it’s struck by lightning and he becomes Electric Man.
Scott: The origin I wrote for the character will be told in a short comic, with some of the adverts you’d have found around that time, alongside some newer adverts for people to perhaps invest in, and we’ll sell it for a few pounds to try and raise funds.
David: The comic is drawn by Graham Manley, who worked on Near Myths back in the 1980s, and we’re delighted to have him on board for the project.
ReelScotland: Any plans for a sequel?
Scott: We have: how about The Amazing Adventures of Jazz and Wolf or Electric Man Boogaloo?
ReelScotland: How did you go about raising funds?
David: We have the cameras already, so all we need to pay for are the actors, catering and lights. We did consider approaching the UK Film Council but their cinema development fund is currently on hold.
Scott: We have some more potential investors to meet to try and raise our £50,000 budget and we’re popping up on more corners of the Internet, so people are hearing about us.
We’re still looking for support, and anyone who does donate will have their name added to the DVD or receive other benefits such as becoming an extra in the film.
Thanks to David and Scott for their time – visit the Electric Man website for more information on supporting the project. We’ll be covering the film in more detail over the coming months – keep an eye on our Twitter feed for the latest updates.