The Fan Carpet’s Paul Risker Has A Conversation With Scott Graham About His Third Feature Film RUN
Director Scott Graham’s third feature Run, concludes a thematic trilogy of films following Shell and Iona that have focused on the conflict between a parent and their child, and the place they call home. Setting his feature debut, Shell, in the remote Scottish Highlands and Iona in The Hebrides, his third feature returns to the mainland, to an Aberdeenshire fishing town in the Scottish north east.
Run centres on former ‘boy racer’ Finnie (Mark Stanley), who is frustrated by his failure to leave the small Scottish fishing port he calls home, with his wife Katie (Amy Manson). One night he takes his teenage sons car for a joy ride, and contemplates finally escaping the town, accompanied by his teenage son’s girlfriend .
In conversation with The Fan Carpet, Graham reflected on the evolution of Run from documentary to drama, his desire to represent the north east of Scotland, the influence of author Raymond Carver and conveying an hopeful message that doesn’t look to an unrealistic future.
What compelled you to believe in this film and to tell this story at this particular point in time?
Run has been around almost as long as I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker. I was living in Glasgow and I’d gone home [Aberdeen] to research a documentary I’d wanted to make on boy and girl racers; on the car culture. I was talking to them about the music they liked and at that point it was rap and hip hop artists – people like Eminem. I remember hearing this story about one of the dads shutting himself in his garage to listen to his Springsteen record, and making the connection between the generations – the way one after another looks to music, and in this case to America for a voice to express how they’re feeling.
These are young guys and I assume their parents weren’t much different, and didn’t find it particularly easy to talk about their emotions. But music was doing it for them and I just began to learn something about where I’m from, and I looked at the town and found a different perspective.
There aren’t that many stories being told up there [the north east of Scotland], and you almost have to look to American cinema to find characters and places that represent this part of the world. I remember watching the first hour of The Deerhunter and thinking it was so much like my old town, and why weren’t there more films being made about the north east. And for various reasons, it was important for me to go there.
I just began to see the film as a drama rather than a documentary, and we made it as a short. It was my first short film and the plan was to go back and to dig down into it a lot more. For various reasons Shell was a good choice for my first feature and that led to Iona. But at times when I thought about whether I would ever get to make another film, I just had this mantra, “I’ve got to go back and make this racing film.” If it all had to stop after that, then that was fine.
The music of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan emerges from their human experiences, and similarly storytelling in cinema, such as what happened for you with Run, could contextualise a film as a form of talking therapy.
It’s not necessary for every writer, but in my case it was a turning point for me being told to write about where I’m from, or what I know – to write from some experience. Once you start to do that, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to find yourself working out things from your own life. It just seems to happen and it’s almost that it needs to come out. Actors work in much the same way where they access something internal, something that they just need to work out. It’s not always pain, it can be joy, but I also think it’s not just storytellers. The reason that we seek out art and films is to learn something more about one another and therefore ourselves, and you could argue it’s what makes us human, or it’s at least one of the things that does.
And it’s also the reason why Run is quite a specific and small story. As I was working on it, I liked to think of this story as the everyday. It’s a relatively small moment, but it’s quite a significant moment in this man’s life. It’s like the epic in the everyday and from one perspective you could say not a lot happens compared to other stories. So, I had to trust that it would still be interesting to people because fortunately for people and storytellers like me, we are interested in these small but significant moments. We are interested in each other, and thank God because it means that our stories have an audience.
The stories I appreciate are those in which the filmmaker trusts that the moments will coalesce to mean something, even if not a lot seems to happen for much of the film. This can be extremely rewarding because such an approach places an emphasis on the audience to bring a part of themselves to the experience.
Aside from Springsteen and wanting to tell a story about where I’m from, the other key influence was Raymond Carver’s writing. He’d quite often finish a story and you didn’t necessarily know what you were meant to take from it, or know precisely what the writer wanted you to take from it, but you loved it all the more for that. It’s the possibilities that this writing offers you and it’s about what’s not said – it’s about what’s being said between the lines and not just by the characters in terms of the dialogue, but by the writer himself.
Carver was a big influence on my writing because it’s truthful and I don’t think it’s an invention – I recognise the world when someone like Carver writes about it. I find myself drawn to characters that are clearly feeling a great deal of emotion, but they don’t know how to express it, and they find some other way to. It’s almost like you’re reading or watching a mystery, the pieces of a puzzle that you’re putting together, and although it’s not technically a mystery, it takes on that feeling. If there is enough there to sustain your interest, I find those kinds of films and stories rewarding.
Run can be described as a hopeful film, yet there is an uncertainty that offsets any optimism for the future with a lingering question of doubt. The story is built around a cycle of yearning or frustration for something more that transitions to contentment, before perhaps the cycle is repeated.
I’d a sense pretty early on that the film would end with Finnie and Katie walking along that long road together. And yes, we do end with him turning to her and smiling as the fish lorry is going by, but I don’t think that you can really know what’s ahead of them.
Walking with someone along a road is a good metaphor for being in a relationship and even for being alive. The best you can do is walk that road together, and sometimes walk it alone, but keep walking. I’m trying to not offer up an unrealistic future for them or too much hope. I have to say that I find a lot of hope in that a lot of the young men and women that fell in love young, got pregnant in my home town are actually still together, or are friends. Love can survive thwarted dreams and life not quite turning out how you thought it would. But I’m not necessarily trying to shout that, I’m just saying at least they’re walking down the road together, and I’m leaving the rest to the audience, to individual interpretation.
Written by Paul Risker
Run is available now on DVD & VOD from Verve Pictures