John McKay says that he’s “always wanted to make an indie movie in Scotland”, and it looks like that aspiration is coming true: set in Glasgow, starring Doctor Who star Karen Gillan, and funded through contributions from fans, Not Another Happy Ending begins shooting in the middle of next month and sounds very promising. We spoke to McKay on the phone earlier today to find out what you can expect from the indie rom-com.
“It’s about a young, quirky novelist – Jane, who’s played by Karen Gillan – who has a kind of love-hate relationship with her publisher, a guy named Tom, who is very newly being played by a hot French actor called Stanley Weber,” he explains. The script was first sent to him by producer Claire Mundell and writer David Solomons two years ago, and it caught his eye because “it just seemed like a very untypical subject and tone for a Scottish film”.
His philosophy on filmmaking is encouraging: “I think, from my experience, the more you let the actors have fun, the more fun the audience is going to have”, and so are his plans for presenting the Scottish city of Glasgow. “One of the many differences [between Edinburgh and Glasgow] is that Edinburgh announces itself as a kind of opera set: you stand in the middle of it and see all that grandeur, whereas Glasgow is more of a town of secrets.”
“Glasgow is a really beautiful, really surprising city […] When you walk along the street, you have to look out and look at the rooftops to see the secret, baroque beauty of Glasgow, or you have to duck up a side alley to find the most fantastic bar, library, or theatre ever. In the movie, I think what we want to do is hang out in one or two of Glasgow’s secret places.”
I prompt him to share his favourite, and he tells me “I really love the back alleys around Merchant City, where we’re going to be shooting. Around about Ingram Street and Candleriggs, there are just the most amazing bits of old and new Glasgow; old Glasgow falling down and new Glasgow being chucked up. It’s got the most amazing energetic vibe.”
John McKay’s favourite Scottish film is Local Hero, a popular choice amongst locals and outsiders alike, and he attributes that to writer-director Bill Forsyth’s ability to make “these really charming, smart movies that Scots people like, but other people could really get behind as well”, which might explains his enthusiasm for Not Another Happy Ending, which he described as “[feeling] much more like the kind of film I like coming out of America or France”.
It’s not his first foray with Karen Gillan either; while she might be better known for her role as Amy Pond in aforementioned sci-fi Doctor Who, for which she finished shooting her final episodes earlier this year, she also played Jean Shrimpton in McKay’s fashion biopic, We’ll Take Manhattan. The film premièred on BBC Two earlier this year, and it’s their experience that led to her casting in Not Another Happy Ending.
“I had a blast with Karen on We’ll Take Manhattan,” he says. “She played Shrimpton very well, but Shrimpton, in the way I portrayed her, is quite a quiet, intense, introverted person, and when I got to know Karen, I got to know that’s not really her at all: she was acting that. Actually, Karen is a very bubbly, vibrant, energetic, funny, slightly clumsy person, and I realised that the script I had for Not Another Happy Ending was a great fit for her.”
Karen’s been a big supporter of the project ever since: we spoke to her briefly at Doctor Who Convention earlier this year and heard her express optimism towards a Scottish film that “isn’t about drug use or fighting the English”, and McKay tells us that last week’s rehearsals between Karen and the recently cast Stanley were “fantastic”: “they were really funny and charming together; they were hot stuff.”
Between now and the start of shooting in mid-July, though, the production team have a lot to do: they’re still looking for financial contributions from fans through crowdfunding website Indiegogo, on which they’re rapidly approaching the deadline of their campaign; and they’re looking for “new, fresh, unsigned bands” from Scotland to send over demos to be considered for the film’s soundtrack. If you can help with either, you should check out their campaign page here.