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.
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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.