"FLAMINGO" was the film that stemmed from winning The Skinny Short Film Award for my previous film, "CAUSTIC GULP" in August 2015. The prize consisted of £3000 worth of camera equipment courtesy of Olympus, to make a new film in the intervening months and to have said film be presented at the Glasgow Short Film Festival.
I had originally written "FLAMINGO" back in the winter of 2014 as something completely different. It was initially more of a dark comedy. I even attempted to shoot the film in January 2015. I shot one scene, the climax. It was awful. Much to my annoyance and apprehension I put the script in a drawer (folder in my laptop) and the following month I started work on Caustic Gulp (a script I wrote the night before I flew out to Florida on holiday and subsequently went on to shoot it while there).
Fortunately the little oddity caught the attention of the judges of The Skinny Short Film Award competition.
After winning The Skinny Short Film Award, I underwent a spate of intense anxiety and depression. I was in a complicated headspace due to an unexpected personal matter. I found myself ridden with anguish/alienation and only had a few months to shoot/cut a brand new film. So I found myself digging out the original script for Flamingo which I ended up retooling considerably, omitting a lot of the humour and completely rewriting our protagonist and her background. Huge scenes were removed and altered and I feel a lot of how I felt at that time bled into the finished film.
Production began on October 29th in a Glasgow Country Park on a wet day where I made one of my actors (Kristopher Curran – Lumberjack) wield an axe and hack tree carcasses for hours on end. I felt completely dead after we wrapped up on that day and I failed to realise that this was only the beginning of what turned out to be one of the most stressful and agonising shoots I had ever endured.
We were shooting every weekend during one of the roughest winters that Scotland had seen for years. Gale force winds, torrential downpour, ice cold temperatures. Not only was the weather against us but so was the light. The script was page after page of scenes set entirely during the day – which posed an issue considering we would only get 5-6 hours of daylight a day. I felt at the beginning, those first few weekends, I was being a pain in many of the throats of the actors because I would be dragging them out of their beds at 6am in the cold dark mornings to shoot, without any compensation.
But as we continued to shoot we became more of a depraved family of outcasts trying to get this film finished. Being the only crew member (aside from my co-producer Mhairi Henderson and Make-Up Artist Rachel Gallagher) I was feeling the strain of this shoot. The stress of every aspect of the shoot and prep of each weekend. The frustration of having to wait until the weekend to shoot while suffering a full time job. Everything that could go wrong, did. But we banded together and said fuck you to the obstacles, even if we were bruised and mangled from doing so.
A week before Christmas I sat slumped on the floor of a dance studio in the city centre of Glasgow. My eyes stinging, bones aching and brain dying from 14 hours of relentless shooting after cramming two full day shoots into one, as this was our last chance to shoot with our leading lady (Eileen Williams – Fern) before she had to fly back to France.
5 days later – I end up breaking my hand. The bittersweet irony of tackling post-production on a film about amputation - with one hand. Though I do believe this was a blessing in disguise as if it weren’t for my injury I would never had been signed off from full time employment and had had the time to stitch together the film the way it deserved. I locked myself away over Christmas and started to piece the film together like Dr. Frankenstein. I would rarely sleep and live on endless cups of coffee and gorge myself on late night pizza, when I’d remember to eat.
I was at the London Short Film Festival for a screening of Caustic Gulp when I had received the news that Flamingo was accepted to play in competition at the Glasgow Short Film Festival.
But it wasn’t until the premiere of the film in March at the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, that I truly saw how all those hours and all that money that I put into this film (leaving me massively skint), were completely and utterly worth it. The film packed the gut wrenching punch that I hoped for. The anguish, alienation and anxiety that I felt over those months spilled into the film and bled into the audience. Such a visceral experience in fact that the film induced panic attacks and caused some audience members to faint.
The glee I felt as I stepped over fainted viewers as I left the screening room to palpitate into a beer has yet to be matched. I honestly feel Flamingo is my strongest film to date and evidently so did the press and the jury of the Glasgow Short Film Festival as they awarded me Special Mention for having “a clear cinematic vision and style”.
The Skinny hailed the film "Ballardian" in it's portrayal of psychosexual body-horror. Read the full article and interview with myself here