New Town Killers
Dark take on the new town
article from The Scotsman
Published Date: 12 April 2008
By Linda Summerhayes
IT'S early evening but a bleary eyed Richard Jobson is having breakfast. The film director is well and truly on night shift, making his latest movie, a dark, high-octane thriller called New Town Killers.
Starring Hollywood heart-throb Dougray Scott, it is set to be Richard's most commercial movie to date. Despite his fatigue, he cannot help but become animated when talking about it.
"It's pretty dark," he nods. "It's about two forms of social invisibility. On the one hand you have kids who have fallen off the social radar then the other end of the spectrum of social invisibility are these hedge fund managers who control our economy."
Essentially, the film is a game of cat and mouse – two young private bankers, Alistair (Scott) and Jamie, (played by Monarch of the Glen star Alastair Mackenzie) get their kicks by playing a game of hide and seek with desperate people from the margins of society.
They are hunting teenager Sean Kelly – energetically portrayed by James Anthony Pearson – who lives with his sister on an Edinburgh housing estate.
"The Alistair character is so nihilistic, his view of the world is just a game," says Richard. "He sets people up to hunt them down. Dougray is playing him with an incredible charm and luxuriousness that you kind of like him until you really see what he does."
Just this week, arts body Scottish Screen awarded Jobson almost £400,000 towards New Town Killers, boosting its budget to £1 million.
While the cash pot is small compared to that of mainstream blockbusters, it's a significant sum, especially when you consider that Richard is used to working with budgets closer to £400,000.
"Scottish Screen really helped me out on this one, which was great, and we've been picked up by Warner Brothers, so it's all looking really good," he adds.
Jobson displays uncharacteristic nerves when asked if his film will be a hit. He explains that much of the extra cash is being spent ramping up the action with a series of rooftop chase scenes.
'I want it to look like a proper big movie'
During the last week, the cast and crew have been enduring sub-zero temperatures on the top of former bank buildings on St Andrew Square.
Richard's most adventurous scene is inspired by parkour techniques – where athletes use their physical prowess to overcome obstacles – and sees Pearson negotiating Market Street rooftops. At one point, he falls on to a canopy before narrowly avoiding being hit by a car.
It's exciting stuff and difficult to execute – especially in icy weather conditions. It's a challenge to capture on film, but Richard is in his element.
"It is really exciting," says the 47-year-old. "I wanted it to look really stylish, like you're watching a proper big movie, even though it features kids from a housing estate.
"I think I am doing something that is potentially commercial which is where I think I'm headed anyway.
"I feel I've done all my arty stuff and now I can go on and use all the things I've learned to do technically and try and apply them to a bigger palette."
While Richard's ideas might be getting bigger and bolder, one thing that he has not tired of is Edinburgh – the city he returns to repeatedly to film and where his movies 16 Years of Alcohol and A Woman in Winter are set.
He particularly misses living here. The father-of-two gave up the Royal Mile flat he owned for 15 years when it became too small and he's currently looking for a new city home in the West End.
While he's living in the New Town during this filming session, the man who remains a subversive at heart says he doesn't feel entirely comfortable with the location.
"I couldn't stay in the New Town permanently – I'd feel like too much of a hypocrite," says Jobson, who made his name as the 16-year-old lead singer with the punk band The Skids.
"But I do like the Old Town/New Town split in Edinburgh," he adds. "The title New Town Killers won't mean anything to someone in New York or Tokyo but it means a lot to me.
"It's like there's an infrared beam going round the New Town – that's how I used to feel as a kid when I was hanging out. If people like me walked into that world, you almost set off an alarm bell, so I've used that idea in the film."
Richard, however, does admit to encouraging Dougray, a fellow Fifer, and his wife Claire Forlani to experience city centre life in the New Town.
"Dougray really wanted to come back to the east of Scotland to make a film, but that might have been so he could go and see Hibs, I don't know," quips Richard.
He adds: "Both Dougray and I are from central Fife so I think we share a common sense of humour and there's a lot of laughter on set.
"Alastair Mackenzie is also a very funny guy, so we've been having a blast.
"It's undoubtedly the best experience I've had as a writer-director – the sheer fun I'm having making it – although the scenes we're dealing with are dark."
Jobson's inspiration for his film noir comes from his involvement with the charity Circle which supports vulnerable children and families in some of Edinburgh's most impoverished areas.
He agreed to become a charity patron three years ago after the Prime Minister's wife, Sarah Brown, saw Jobson's film 16 Years of Alcohol and asked him to get involved.
He is now expecting Sarah and Gordon Brown to attend his premiere of New Town Killers when it is released early next year.
He adds: "I'm a very privileged person to get the opportunity to not only make films, but to do that in my favourite city – the most beautiful city in the world."