Issue 167
May/June 2011

The Artwork Logo

September 20, 2020

Budget filming makes the Grade

A TALE of two sisters is one way to describe a new Scottish feature film directed by the Edinburgh based artist and filmmaker David Hutchison.

Graders is a mystery chiller set mainly in a seafood factory in the Highlands. The film revolves around the story of two Polish sisters who work in the factory, one of the sisters goes missing and the other one sets out on a quest to find her.

However, as with any chiller movie worth watching, there are various twists and strange goings on as events unfold. Hutchison's background as a sculptor comes through in the villainous character of Dr Balm who collects anatomical models.

Balm's prized possession is a modelled head of the Italian painter Morandi that has an interchangeable brain. Without giving too much of the plot away, the model brain plays a crucial part in the outcome of the film.

Graders, Hutchison's debut feature film was shot on location in Assynt (where he comes from originally). Buckie and Edinburgh over three months from November 2010.

Interestingly, the film started out as a 30-minute comedy script for the BBC, which he submitted as part of his MA in screenwriting. Realising that the script was not funny enough he set it aside only going back to it when he decided to write a feature screenplay in his favourite genre of horror for his final term at Screen Academy.

Hutchison later pitched Graders to a panel at Edinburgh Film Festival and the feedback from there and the Glasgow-based film production company Black Camel encouraged him to try and get the film made.

He discovered that Scottish Screen would only invest in it if it had a budget of over £30,000. He thinks the reasons for this are valid, saying "for everyone to be paid Equity and BECTU rates that would be a minimum for six actors and six crew on a ten day shoot". However, as a first time feature director, it was unlikely that he would find backing to the tune of £30,000; therefore, it was apparent that he would have to look for an alternative method of financing the film.

So, with advise from Black Camel producers Arabella Croft and Kieran Parker, Hutchison looked into how other low budget films had been made. For example, the highly successful Blair Witch Project was made on weekends and holidays with cast and crew doubling up.

Eventually, using his own savings, he was able to make the film on a micro-budget by utilising procedures such as deferred payment agreement whereby, if the film were financially successful, everyone involved would share the profit. He also made use of film making social network sites such as Shooting People, Talent Circle and CallPro to find cast and crew. He was particularly keen to have the sisters played by real Polish actors and was able to achieve this through these networks.

The soundtrack, which can lend much atmosphere to a film, is an interesting mix of traditional and contemporary music. Both Hutchison's mother and aunt have composed original pieces for the film and have also played some of the music.

There are traditional Polish and Hungarian songs with more modern electronic music by Edinburgh bands Ferral and Brainz in Jarz. Willie Buchan, who plays in Ferral (and formerly the punk band The Exploited), worked on the sound effects. It also features Italian Opera and a Gaelic song about Dr Who by singer Eilidh McKenzie.

In these days of austerity in the arts it is encouraging that artists are out there taking the initiative. Some of Hutchinson's favourite films such as Cat People and Seventh Victim were produced in the 1940's when money was scarce, he states, " Graders is more in the vein of these chillers and the horror is suggested rather than shown.

The film is produced by Eyedoll Productions, for more info visit -


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