Arrival of the Mack

Scarlett Mack

I’ve interviewed Scarlett Mack once before. Sadly the interview never came into publication, which now makes me very envious of student journalism. But with a little luck, I managed to squeeze an interview in with her during this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Scarlett had starred in a Scottish film Blackbird, which was premiering at the up-and-coming festival late last month. On The Box spend a very entertaining ten minutes speaking with her about independent cinema in Scotland, Blackbird and the pleasures of playing a rebellious teenager.

Tell us a bit about Blackbird and what’s it about?
It’s really about a cultural side of Scotland I guess. Whether it’s today’s generation, or our parent’s generation, or even our grandparent’s generation, and how they all view it with their own look. I guess it’s also about the possibility of Scottish culture being lost and how that would impact us, and also what Scottish culture means to everybody, which is quite a big thing for Scotland. It’s also a very modern look of the potential demise at local Scottish communities.

Would you say this is a film targeted more at the north of Scotland, or can people in the south see the appeal too?
Well it was filmed in the Isle Of Whitform which is near Dumfries & Galloway, and there are a lot of villages there which are examples of this. You wouldn’t want to paint them in a negative light because they are beautiful little places. But they struggle, it’s very difficult for small communities to compete with big cities. They don’t have the same transport systems, same funding, or the same industries like they used to.

They’re essentially fishing villages, and can’t compete against the huge corporations that control a lot of the industries. So while that does sound very dark and dreary, it’s not. It’s about the coping strategies of generations and the refusal to count out modernisation. Which is very interesting to look at because to an extent, you need to modernise and move with the current times, but not to let corporations in and corrupt village life.

How did you come across the project?
They were casting around performing art schools across the UK and I was involved with the Conservatoire at the time. They might have known that people might have been interested in the project, and went round the country looking for people. Hundreds of us auditioned, and it was such a huge thing for us. I and Andy (Ruadhan in the film) went through at least four rounds before we got the part. I was in my first year when we shot the film, and thankfully the head of the Conservatoire let me out, which was brilliant.

Tell us a bit about the character you play and the role she has in the film?
I play Amy who’s a rebellious teenager and is basically trying to annoy her dad. She’s come back from Glasgow to this village and is very frustrated being there and is very eager to get away. Her dad’s upset with her having dropped out of uni and he feels let down by her, but she’s annoyed at him because he doesn’t understand the situation, and by teaming up with Ruadhan, this annoys her dad even more. It was great fun to film as well as hard to film, as we had to do a lot in a relatively short amount of time. For that, the crew were amazing because of the short amount of time they had to make the film, as well as keeping us all in high spirits.

This film is very much an all round Scottish film. With next year being such a crucial year for Scotland (Commonwealth Games, Independence Referendum etc), do you think we are seeing a resurgence of Scottish filmmaking?
I really hope so because there is so much talent up here. Behind and in front of the camera. We’ve got the locations as well as the people, but we just need the money. We need to get people up here to invest in Scottish film, to keep it going, and keep the standard high. If we put out rubbish, we deserve what we get, but if we make films that represent us and not Hollywood films. It’s important that young people understand what Scottish films are and how they represent our cultural past.

With investment now coming into Scotland via big Hollywood blockbusters, do you think this will help in the long run with Scottish film?
Oh Definitely! What would be great would be to use those big blockbuster films to help gain attraction to the smaller films. It’s a bit weird saying this, but its like having one big fish swimming in the water, and then having a lot of little fishes alongside it for support. That’s really what it should be like. You learn a lot from the big productions that take place in Scotland. To have that money and exposure, we can learn a lot from it and if we could get a portion of their budget to make our own films, that would be fantastic.