Now, at first glance you wouldn’t think Campbeltown has much in common with Cannes, (apart from alliteration) but there are more similarities than you might think; we’re both on the coast, we both have palm trees and now we both have our very own Film Festival! The first ever Scottish Comedy Film Festival (SCOFF) takes place in the newly renovated Campbeltown Picture House (CPH) from the 11th to the 13th of May so I decided to have a wee chat with Ailsa MacKenzie, from CPH, to find out what’s what.
EC: Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself? What your role is etc?
AM: I’ve been working on the Centenary Project (to renovate and restore the Picture House) with Campbeltown Community Business Ltd for about three years, initially when the Picture House was closed, on the Victoria Hall screenings. I’m Heritage Activities Co-ordinator – our activities have included working on the CPH archive, which has now been recorded, catalogued and lodged with the national collections at the Moving Image Archive, the production of a book and film about the restoration, a community filmmaking group and producing a film festival.
EC: How did the Film Festival come about?
AM: In the initial planning and research stages of the Centenary Project it became apparent that there was a desire to hold a film festival – this was incorporated in the funding proposals and final plans. Now that the cinema has a second screen along with all of the other improved facilities, it’s possible to hold a weekend film festival with a varied programme. We hope that SCOFF will become part of the annual calendars of events in Kintyre and film festivals in Scotland.
EC: Why did you decide on a Comedy Film Festival?
AM: I wanted to do something different, unique to Kintyre and Campbeltown – there is only one other comedy film festival in the UK and very few in the world, so I hope we can put SCOFF on the map. Comedy is the earliest genre in film. The Lumiere Brothers included a comedy film in their first ever public screening in 1895. There is a rich archive of comedy film to draw on, alongside Scotland’s amazing comedy heritage – we’re very good at being funny! – and the comedy film genre continues to develop, so there’s always new material too. I hope that SCOFF will provide a platform for Scottish comedy and film as well as bringing the best comedy from around the world to Scotland. Comedy is universal – we all like to laugh, and there really is something for everyone in the festival.
EC: How did you narrow down what performances/screenings you wanted to show? There must be so many to choose from!
AM: Our overall vision this year is to present things that are a bit unusual or less well known, to unearth something or offer something new to Kintyre – it’s a real coup for us to screen the moment when Harry Lauder and Charlie Chaplin got together on film. And everyone knows Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, but not necessarily That Sinking Feeling, which was Forsyth’s directorial debut, made for peanuts and I believe still the lowest budget feature film that got a full release. We’re showing it in HD transfer with the restored soundtrack – on release, it was felt that the Glasgwegian accents were too strong and they were overdubbed! When we held the SCOFF launch event earlier this year, we asked audience members what they’d like to see, and of course Ealing comedy featured, so we’ve programmed The Man in the White Suit, from the studio’s resident Scottish director, Alexander Mackendrick. Again, his other films are better known – Whisky Galore! and The Ladykillers – but this is a real gem too. The live performances all have a film link – not many people know that Dave Johns, the star of I, Daniel Blake has been a stand up comedian for 30 years; his one man live show I, Fillum Star where he shares the story of his crazy ride on the red carpet and his ‘overnight’ success seems like a perfect fit, and Dave is also going to share his ‘Desert Island Films’ with us. And The Spontaneous Players are some of the best improvisers in the UK, they’ll create a brand new Harry Potter adventure on the spot from a title suggested by the audience – great fun for Potterheads!
EC: What can visitors expect from SCOFF?
AM: A laugh for sure, but maybe something they haven’t seen before – we’re screening some international films, Toni Erdmann, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Divine Order – I’d really encourage people to maybe take a risk and try them because they’re all wonderful! Some top live performance – Dave has been selling out big venues all over the UK, so it’s really special that he’s coming to Campbeltown. Also, the opportunity to join in – there’s Singalong Moana and we’re running two free workshops, one on animation and one on comedy film if people want to get hands on.
EC: Will there be anything for families/kids?
AM: Lots, including The Wind in the Willows, Singalong Moana, Hunt for the Wilderpeople (which everyone should watch, it’s a joy) and Spontaneous Potter. I think that families and young people will also enjoy Bunkered! it will be a really lovely event for all ages. The free workshops are open to everyone aged 8 and upwards, and we’re also partnering with Into Film and offering two free screenings for our local schools on the Friday morning, Bugsy Malone and Thor: Ragnarok.
EC: What performance or screening are you most looking forward to (if you’re allowed to say!)?
AM: Ooooh, that’s a tough one because I’m looking forward to everything! I think
Bunkered! Big Screen Comedy from the Archives – as well as the Chaplin-Lauder film and some other brilliant comedy film moments, we’ll be joined by world class singer (and BBC
presenter) Jamie MacDougall and Scottish Opera’s Derek Clark performing live – that’s going to be a really special event. I’m also looking forward to The Wind in the Willows, an encore screening recorded live from the London Palladium, it was one of my favourite childhood books and these theatre screenings are so well done, it’s often better than being at the original performance!
EC: What makes Campbeltown Picture House special as a venue?
AM: This remarkable building is an internationally significant cinema, not only restored to its initial beauty, but made so much better with new and improved facilities. It really is world class but nothing like a faceless multiplex – its kept all of its character and charm. So we’ve got all of the history and beautiful architecture, but it’s technically brilliant too.
EC: And finally, what’s your favourite thing about working in the Picture House?
AM: I absolutely love the building and its history, the fact that it has always been part of and supported by the local community and that it simply could not and would not exist anywhere else apart from Campbeltown.
EC: It all sounds absolutely fantastic! Now I just need to decide what to go and see…
Full listings and tickets are available on the Campbeltown Picture House website.