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Claire Mundell on funding Not Another Happy Ending
Editor's Note: When this interview took place in 2012, actor Emun Elliot was due to play the male lead, a role eventually taken by Stanley Weber.
"When I read David Solomon's script I thought that it was like Bill Forsyth meets Woody Allen, two of my all-time heroes, and it just happens to be set in Glasgow. It isn't ramming Glasgow down my throat, it's saying this is Glasgow and it's cool."
My discussion with film producer Claire Mundell about her latest project, Glasgow-set Not Another Happy Ending, has been a varied one, taking in the past, present and future of Scottish film and ending up with a vision which it's hard not to feel enthused by.
A veteran of the TV and film industry, her career stretching back to the days of STV's What's Up Doc?, Mundell's CV also includes the BBC's Shoebox Zoo and BAFTA Scotland-winning Crying with Laughter. Mundell recently hit the headlines thanks to her open views on the state of Scottish filmmaking, which she claims includes too much "miserablism".
"I think in Scotland we get very hot under the collar under the way we're represented on screen," say Mundell. "When it comes to Glasgow there's one view that's imposed on us externally, the sort of Rab C Nesbitt image, but we encourage it by commissioning it over and over again. I'm not saying the other side doesn't exist but I don't see the side of Glasgow I recognise, the upbeat, contemporary, witty, European, dynamic and creative side, represented anywhere."
Thankfully, Mundell isn't suggesting we suddenly start churning out feelgood films to rectify years of imbalance.
"I like all kinds of films, from dark to light," she continues. "What I object to with regards to Scottish cinema is only seeing one particular representation. I'm not quite sure why that's happened, a perception becomes a reality if you fuel it and I think we've become stuck in a spin cycle, maybe by accident rather than design, where the more we've made those films the more the market has come to expect of us.
"I thought Donkeys was a return to the kind of gentle humour and caustic wit which can define Scottish cinema."
Mundell is referring to the winner of Best Film at the 2011 BAFTA Scotland, one which used humour to tackle its dark subject matter.
"I think we should investigated every aspect of our society but let's not forget we have good looking, middle class people here as well," adds Mundell. "Let's celebrate and reflect all aspects of our culture. Around the world there's a great affection for Scottish humour and talent and I think we should be less shy of celebrating that.
"The reason I'm a film producer is because of Bill Forsyth. I watched his films and was inspired by how he told stories that were culturally specific to the world I knew and grew up in and he made them funny and accessible to an audience outside Scotland. I thought if he could do it then it must be possible."
"Funny" and "accessible" are two words that could be applied to Not Another Happy Ending, the team behind if keen to focus on the fact that this really isn't the sort of film that gets made in Scotland just now. So what's it all about?
"It's the story of an independent book publisher played by Emun Elliot, who only has one author who makes him money, Karen Gillan. He took her on when nobody else would, he was the only person in Scotland who'd take her material because she writes a particularly bleak form of miserablist form of fiction. It just so happens that she sells and her debut novel does well and wins awards and meets a new boyfriend.
"She has one more book to give him as part of the deal but when she hits the second last chapter of the second book she gets crippling writers block and can't finish it. The publisher thinks it's because she's become too damn happy and he needs to make her miserable so that she can finish the book. So he sets out to do that before realising that the reason she can't finish the book is that when she does she won't see him again and he realises he's in love with her.
"It bears a lot of hallmarks of classic Woody Allen, educated young people falling in love mixed with the gentle humour of Bill Forsyth and I'll gladly take all my female friends and my husband to see it."
Karen Gillan worked with director John McKay on We'll Take Manhattan
Like all independent films, the main stumbling block has been budget, something which could have seen it transplanted to America.
"At one time in the project's evolution, John McKay, David and I did discuss whether we should take this great script, charming, upbeat, witty, fun and put it in New York or Chicago because it would probably get financed quicker. I think that's true but I feel passionately that, where possible, I want to make a film in the way the writer envisioned it. Because I am from Glasgow and I think it is time to break the stereotype and open things out a bit, we decided to stick to our guns and make it here.
"It's a charming romantic indie comedy and very often in that type of film the city is a character and it is in Not Another Happy Ending to some extent, but it's not a character in the same pained, kind of chippy way, it's in a celebratory way."
One thing in the film's favour is its cast, comprised of two fresh faces that are doing very well on the global stage.
"We've got Karen Gillan, one of our hottest stars of the moment, in all sorts of ways, and she just happens to be Scottish," says Mundell. "Emun Elliot is her co-star and he's from Edinburgh. He's in Prometheus this year and is one of our and we want to get both of them for this project.
"Karen and Emun are perfect for the parts and we have to make that happen. Karen has the qualities of a young Diane Keaton. Charming and a fantastic actor, completely instinctive and quite comically clumsy. What you see is what you get with Karen and it's very telling that outside of her and Kelly Macdonald you'd struggle to find a Scottish actress with a UK and international profile and I think that's linked to the type of films we've made here for some time, there have been more parts for young men than women."
With the actors on board, the next step is to finalise the funding, which is coming from a range of sources. However, with around £50,000 of the budget needed to pay the cast and crew, secure locations, and complete the edit, the clock is ticking.
This has led to the launch of a new IndieGoGo campaign which is asking fans of Gillan and Elliot to help pay for the film, with rewards including messages from the pair and set visits.
"It's gathering momentum. I think the crowdfunding aspect is a really interesting add-on to the picture."
"We want to be filming for the end of May. We've got Gary Lewis, Anna Chancellor and Jessica Brown-Findlay and I'm excited to be working with John McKay. He made a relationship with Karen during the filming of We'll Take Manhattan and she loves the script."