Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian talks about his first feature film God Help the Girl | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian talks about his first feature film God Help the Girl

22 August 2014

Eccentric and charming characters and scenarios have been coming alive for three minutes at a time through Belle and Sebastian’s wistful pop songs since the Glasgow band released their first album in 1996.

Fifteen years later, Stuart Murdoch found that there was a narrative web unconsciously spun throughout his latest album called “God Help the Girl”.

He joined up the dots and the end product is a musical full length feature film hitting cinemas in the UK, US and beyond this autumn and The Fan Carpet's Maria Evrenos was in attendance at a special interview for his debut offering.

“It was almost like a subliminal thing,” Stuart Murdoch says. “The songs were the skeleton upon which he hung everything else around. I was thinking, if you can see what’s happening in the songs, that is already 30 or 40 minutes of a movie, I just had to write the rest.“

Writing a script and especially writing dialogue was a new experience for him. “What i did was I sat down and I had these three characters, and I just let them talk. Page after page, there was no plot. We had pages like this scattered all across the floor of the hotel in Los Angeles, trying to make sense of it all.”

At first the producers were not convinced his story was strong enough, he says. “So I wrote a new treatment for the film and it was much darker. It was kind of based upon my experiences and people I knew’s experiences of bad stuff happening. All the elements of health, mental health, spirituality, and music as a kind of rescue thing, that came in to it.”

The story of “God help the girl” revolves around three more or less troubled young adults in Scotland spending a summer forming a pop band. “I was using parts of my own experience of course, you have to, and people I knew way in the past. At the same time I’m painting a picture of an ideal summer, one that I never really experienced.”

“If there is one strand of the film that is the closest to me, it’s James’ little soap box moments when he’s talking about music. When you first get a group together you’re under pressure from different people to do different things and you have to be very stubborn. James shows that stubbornness. His unwillingness to pander towards London, or television or the outside world basically. There is something admirable in that because if you set your stool out and you don’t give in, it can go both ways; You’re sad and forgotten or if you keep on, you can succeed.”

Stuart Murdoch seems to still possess a lot of that idealism and bravery from his youth, believing in his creative instincts and daring to try something new. “Even when I was making this film I remember an acquaintance of mine saying, ‘Oh yeah, you’re like making a film… I’ll be rubbish!’ Some Scottish dude said. ‘I’ll be shit, why are you doing it?’”

But Stuart Murdoch laughs it off sympathetically. “Honestly, and that’s what it was like when I was trying to get bands together too. People saying ‘Why would you bother? All the great music has already been made.’ That line from the film is absolutely true. Somebody said that to me.”

It feels like Stuart Murdoch’s joy for what he does creates an impenetrable shield that nobody could tarnish. Instead of letting the negative comments put him down he channels it into a constructive force. “If it makes you angry, that’s good, you use it to fuel your own thing.”

Another thing that he didn’t let get in his way of directing a film is the fact that he is colour-blind. He says: “When it came to grading the film, thank god, the director of photography [Giles Nuttgens] was here. That is the one time when I was sitting there going, ‘Eeh, I don’t know Giles, what do you see?’” Being colour-blind most commonly means that you can’t differentiate between some colour hues and most often not between red and green.

But making a movie for Stuart Murdoch was all about getting out of his comfort zone and trying something new and exciting. “I had a lot of fun,” he says. “It was the first break I’ve ever had from the band for ten years. When I started writing the script, those couple of months, I was riding my bicycle all the time and taking notes and that was just the best thing ever. I hope I get to do that again.”

Reassuringly though, it doesn’t mean that “Belle and Sebastian” is a thing of the past. Some band members even appear in the film. And now their ninth album is coming out and a tour will follow. “On a personal level there is a kind of Yin and Yang with film and music. I find myself 10-12 years into a band, in pop music which is kind of a young man’s game. So to be able to flip over and do film is like a breath of fresh air.”

God Help the Girl Film Page | God Help the Girl Review