Angry Young Men: The new Scottish gangland comedy made on a shoestring budget
It has been six years in the making, with a budget of just a few thousand pounds, a cast with next to no previous acting experience and a self-taught filmmaker.
But when Paul Morris heads down the red carpet at the Glasgow Film Festival next month he will have realised an ambition of following in the footsteps of his cinematic heroes.
When the 29-year-old was plotting how to get a filmmaking career off the ground while working in the NHS, he drew inspiration from the DIY approach which launched the careers of Oscar-winning directors Peter Jackson and Christopher Nolan.
The Lanarkshire filmmaker - who has written, directed and stars in Angry Young Men, Scotland’s new big-screen comedy - made it with the help of his friends, supporters recruited via social media appeals and performers from local youth theatre groups.
Now they are set to bask in the limelight of a world premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival with the “surreal coming-of-age tale” set in the world of Scottish gang culture, shot on the streets of Hamilton.
Despite being set in a fictional “barren gangland town”, Morris’s debut has also drawn inspiration from classic Scottish comedies by Bill Forsyth, such as That Sinking Feeling and Gregory’s Girl, the films of Wes Anderson and the long-running sitcom Only Fools and Horses.It has been compared to The Wild Bunch and the films of John Carpenter by the film festival, which has hailed Angry Young Men as a “boldly-ambitious micro-budget debut feature” ahead of its premiere on 9 March.
Morris, who was brought up in Hamilton, recalled: “My dad was a real film buff and would pick certain things out for us, but they weren’t really esoteric.
"We watched a lot of comedy – the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Richard Pryor and films like The Big Lebowski and The Royal Tenenbaums.
"I’d go to the local Blockbuster or Hamilton Library, stock up on DVDs for the weekend and binge them with my brother.
"I didn’t really know what I was going to do when I left school - I felt the university route wasn’t for me. I did a lot of soul-searching, thinking about what my real passion was and what I was drawn to.
"I first started writing sketches and filming them myself when I was around 21. I began working on bigger scripts and got together with all my old mates that I used to make daft videos with on our phones. We made short films and sketches together all over Hamilton between 2013 and 2016."I would have liked to have had some kind of mentor or someone to take me under their wing, but didn’t have that at all.
“I just listened to DVD commentaries and devoured YouTube interviews with people who had reached a really high level to take as much in as I could and teach myself.
"I decided I wanted to try to do something big and ambitious to introduce myself. I knew it would take a lot of time, but I thought that a feature film would get a bit of interest.”
Morris initially worked on his screenplay in 2016 in the evenings and weekends away from his IT job in the NHS, then began getting up up in the early hours for daily writing sessions from 4-8am.
Morris said: “I wanted to be fresh, get a psychological edge and give the script the best of me, rather than be shattered at the end of the night. It wanted to get serious about it and get it over the finishing line. It was almost a personal challenge, as I wasn’t an early riser. It was actually a really enjoyable experience. I just had to go to my bed really early.”
He has drawn inspiration from the making of That Sinking Feeling, Bill Forsyth’s feature film debut, which had a budget of just £5000, about a group of teenagers plotting to steal stainless steal sinks from a warehouse.
Morris said: "My day would always say that Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero was the best film that was ever made. I gave it a pass for a long time, but later on realised that he was right. He’s a giant to me now.
"There are interesting parallels with my film and how he made That Sinking Feeling. He went to a local theatre group to cast all the kids in it and made it on a shoestring budget.
"He was also dealing with poverty – there was darkness beneath the surface, but he didn’t make you dwell on it, which I thought was fascinating.”
Angry Young Men focuses on the events in a fictional housing estate when the money-making enterprises of the young members of the “Bramble Gang” are threatened by the arrival of the balaclava-clad “Campbell Group”.
Morris said: "The main thing I had in mind writing the film was that all the locations would be free if we could get up early enough and be cheeky with it.
"I didn’t know this in the early days, but when you’re filming anything you need to let the police know. They turned up a couple of times to see what was going on.
"Later on, we were filming a chase scene in a car when a couple of boys were wearing balaclavas and a shopkeeper phoned the police as they kept driving past.
"All my kit was built up over several years and probably cost about £4500. I think the props and costumes cost between £500 and £1000.
"No-one got paid anything at all – I just had to sell it to people by saying there would hopefully be a good product at the end of it. Everyone involved just took a gamble, but I’m really glad they did.
"I enjoyed every stage of it. It’s what I want to do for a living now – it might sound a bit soft, but I just love it.”