One of the films nominated for this year’s Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival was a quirky comedy about a serious subject, Graham Hughes’ A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide.
Paul F Cockburn: Is A Practical Guide your first feature-length film?
Graham Hughes: It’s my first good one! I made in a film back in 2010-11 called The Big Slick, which was a case of grabbing a camera, getting a bunch of mates and just filming stuff. It’s really rough round the edges; but I’m still quite proud of it
So you think of it as a learning curve?
That was kind of how I saw it; I wouldn’t feel right approaching professionals to make a film without having first shown that I can do it. It made sense to me to practice with something, and just make sure I had the ability and wherewithal to make a film from start to finish. When we did Practical Guide, I felt ready to ask professionals.
Was it quite a tight shoot?
Yeah, we shot a total of 12 days; the first block was nine days, from one Saturday to the following Sunday, doing 12 hour days; and then back to work – as an editor – on the Monday. Then we did another weekend after that, Saturday and Sunday.
How long did the post-production take?
That took a long time. We had a lot of dedicated people working on it, but everyone had their own commitments, so just assembling the sort team, getting the right people, took a lot of patience. It was worth the wait; everyone did a great job. Fortunately I saved money by editing it myself.
Did you already know most of the cast?
We cast one of the writers, Graeme McGeagh, as the lead; he’s only ever acted in stuff that we’ve made together, but I think he’s a talent—and was the right guy for the part. The main roles were filled by professional actors with whom we had a casting process.
Then, of course, there’s my mum and my gran… and I pop in and the other co-writer pops in and a guy called Alan Robertson, who I’ve been working with for years, I actually don’t know for sure what he does for a living, but he’s always helped us out. Our thinking for this is that we didn’t have much money.
So, for example, the role I had – of another patient – was just two lines. We were shooting in Stirling. It would feel, in my opinion, unfair to bring a professional actor all the way to Stirling to do two lines, not least because of the travel expenses.
Do you hope to get a distribution deal at some point, even on DVD/Blu-Ray?
Releasing a film takes a lot of money; and our films maybe not the most commercial. I think it’d be a hard sell, but that’s certainly not going to stop us trying.
Although you must have considered it early on, are you worried about negative reactions from having the word “suicide” in the title?
In a weird way, I think it’s our greatest asset. At Edinburgh, when you looked at the catalogue, there’s 156 features – it’s just overwhelming. Especially when it’s a lot of first-time filmmakers, so you won’t have seen anything they’ve done before, and there are no reviews if they’re premieres. Fortunately, we have a title that stands out, to put it politely.
A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide is being shown on Thursday 4 September as part of this year’s Deep Fried Film Festival, at venues in Coatbridge, Cumbernauld, Romano Bridge and Kilmarnock. Visit www.deepfriedfilm.org.uk for more information.