History of the film
The history of Air/fix is a bit like war itself; long periods of inactivity sprinkled with moments of intense action and tragedy...
Making a low budget drama is a challenge.
The sensible approach is to make a two hander situated in one location, but writer/director Gerard Lohan wanted to push the envelope and so Air/fix had 11 actors and took place in a house, a WWII Lancaster bomber and a German nightfighter.
With very little funding available in Scotland (and what little there is extremely difficult to access); it looked like Air/fix would never be made.
But the infection spread by writer/director Robert Rodriguez in his book "Rebel Without a Crew", where he insists that "Creativity, not money, is used to solve problems." is difficult to resist. It was a question of "put up or shut up".
The film could be made if the will was there. The will was certainly there, but where there should have been money, there was a vacuum. But nature abhors a vacuum and thanks to the generosity of Alistair Scott, CEO of 2020 Productions, Air/fix found itself with some initial funding and an experienced crew.
Richard Steel (Director of Photography) , Gus McPake (Sound) and Aaron Boucher (Jib) offered their services for free and Richard also offered the production his house as the location for the family scenes. A date was fixed for the shoot and after dragging in friends to act and students to crew, the domestic scenes were shot over a weekend. With half the film in the can, the production stalled.
Richard's partner had been hospitalised after an accident so it was agreed to put the film on hold until she was fit again.
It would take nearly three years.
In 2011, it looked like the production could gear itself up again. Planning started for the bomber scenes and dates were proposed.
On the verge of starting production, Richard was tragically killed in a car crash.
The production team were devastated.
After a long time reflecting, it was decided to finish the film in tribute to Richard.
The legendary Director of Photography John Brown volunteered to pick up the reins.
Both Richard and John gave the benefit of their time and their wisdom to the students who were working on the production. The students said they learned more in a couple of hours working with Richard and John than in a whole month of lectures.
So the film was belatedly back on course.
The original conceit was that the bomber and nightfighter scenes were to be staged in the conservatory (which looks a little like a Lancaster cockpit) and the kitchen for the German nightfighter. These were supposed to be the memories the old man superimposed on the house.
In the circumstances, it was no longer possible to finish the filming in Richard's house and it was decided instead to shoot in a large black space.
The intense, claustrophobic, freezing conditions in a bomber cockpit are told by close ups on the faces of the crew.
To make the look authentic, it was decided that the sequence needed real WWII flying kit.
This proved harder to obtain than expected and an expensive costume hire was on the cards.
Had it not been for the generosity of NMS Museum of Flight and the ingenuity of Belinda Love and Sylvia Cockburn and a joke shop, the budget for the costumes would have exceeded the total cost of the first half of the film.
As it was, the genuine WWII helmets (one of which was hot off a Ewan Macgregor documentary) were supplemented by a £6.50 joke shop flying helmet and some careful framing.
When Jewel and Esk College kindly offered their auditorium for the shoot, the production was back on track and the air scenes were completed over a long weekend.
Post production turned out to be littered with countless difficulties and set backs.
With no budget and no spare cash, it was only perseverance and patience that brought the team to the finishing line.
So relatively complicated, ambitious films can be shot for food.
If Scotland wishes for a vibrant film industry of its own and if Scotland wants its voice heard around the world, it would do well to discover how it can tap the ambitions of film-makers who don't wait for funding before they express themselves.
And then they would do well to create an infrastructure to nurture long term development.
As well as being submitted to short film festivals, Air/fix will be used as the basis for teaching packs in schools as it deals with social and historical issues and will provide a stimulus for discussion and research.
So, from first to last Air/fix has taken around 4 years of setbacks and and doggedness to complete.
Almost as long as the war itself.